Balancing good and bad

I’ve got some nerve reviewing new releases by Sticky Fingaz and KRS-One in the same piece. After all, the two only have three very distant things in common. Both are legendary for the trends they helped to pioneer in hip hop — consciousness and grime. Both are no longer with their original labels — Def Jam and Jive — both of which are now industry powerhouses. And both now find the bulk of their respect in hip hop’s underground, which is about the only place where heads still show an affinity for hip-hop history.

Other than the aforementioned, KRS-One and Sticky are polar opposites. To coin a Christian phrase, one is rooted in the spirit and culture, while the other is rooted in the world. And both have just released the most focused albums of their careers.

KRS-One’s 10th album, The Sneak Attack, boasts some heavy preaching over the Teacha’s trademark hollow production. He remains contemplative throughout the CD, effectively calling our collective conscience to the carpet. Instead of chasing the business of rap music, he holds the culture of hip hop in a frustrated embrace.

Kudos to Kris for returning to hip hop’s most profound elements to show the world how we used to get down. On “The Mind,” he uses driving, old-school beats and samples to deliver what is arguably his most preachy and poignant message: “First thing we must do is make up our (mind)/Then we must go and really clear our (mind)/Erase the doubt and the fear from our (mind)/Share our (mind)/Speak our (mind).” It’s a declaration few can stand, but many need to hear. And while many skip the interview snippets and proclamation of National Hip-Hop Week (and Month), as well as the public service announcements for the Temple of Hip-Hop, those of you praying for balance in the culture will certainly appreciate the music.

Sticky, on the other hand, is the yang to KRS-One’s yin. On Black Trash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones, Sticky weaves the story of a troubled Jones, whose life plays out through the course of the recording. Sticky is masterful in creating a concept album that commands attention with great writing and some engaging acting. A few of the beats are suspect, but the ghetto soap-opera that is Jones’ life will keep you from skipping anything. Unlike the majority of hardcore hip-hop albums, there is a genuine sense of creativity that shines on Black Trash. For seminal moments, check “Money Talks” and “State vs. Kirk Jones,” utilizing Canibus, Redman, Rah Digga, Scarred 4 Life, Lord Superb and Guess Who as characters in an amazing courtroom drama.

Whether embracing happiness or hardship, you can’t make this kind of music if it’s not in your heart. KRS and Sticky Fingaz remind us of what hip hop was like when the genre was sincere and hungry. Get fed.

E-mail Khary Kimani Turner at [email protected].

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