KRS-One's desire to institutionalize the living, breathing energy of hip-hop permeates The Sneak Attack at every turn, and it is abusive in its consistency. With the Temple, KRS has aligned himself with, if not the powers that be (check those Koch Records accounting books), then old-guard principles he once rebelled against. By playing the roles of brother, teacher, preacher, and, ultimately, deity, it seems he's not only trying to convince others of his significance but himself as well. And it's not like the beats save him—the stripped-down production by KRS and brother Kenny Parker elicit neither profound minimalist allegory nor even nostalgia. So The Sneak Attack exposes an aging icon who's been outwitted by hip-hop's evolution.

He didn’t forget all about the library like he told his old man now.
photo: Benoit Peverelli
He didn’t forget all about the library like he told his old man now.


The Sneak Attack

And yet, one can't help but listen. KRS-One's most prodigious possession is his voice, a sometimes lumbering but always booming bullhorn that has not changed in the 15 years he's rapped on wax. Even today, KRS's timbre cuts swaths through the icy glare of Jigga's jewelry and the Babylonian chatter of baby rappers like Ja Rule who can't even pronounce "Edutainment." Indeed, because he's lived hip-hop in all its forms, KRS understands that a real MC is a communicator, whether the communication is a call to action, a hand-clap party rhyme, a scathing dis in the heat of battle, or, his specialty, a self-aggrandizing ego stroke ("I'm the teacher but you still can't see, because while you respect Tupac, Tupac respected me," he yells in "Attendance"). And for a man who's long been criticized as contradictory, that is his greatest contradiction today: being a man who so obviously has lost perspective but remains the eternal essence of the MC.

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