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Stop the Violence

In Santa Cruz, KRS-One proves that live rap rules

By Todd S. Inoue

IT'S A TUMULTUOUS time for rap music--and even more so for fans. Following the deaths of 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G., many rap artists (Snoop Doggy Dogg and Nas, in particular), fearing for their own safety, are canceling tours.

KRS-One must have missed the memo. The pioneering rapper from Boogie Down Productions steps anywhere he wants without fear. He did so at Palookaville in Santa Cruz last Sunday, delivering a stunning show that broke down many misconceptions--the most prominent of which was that live rap shows are lame and/or violent.

After the Mo'Fessionals and Mother Superior turned in impressive sets, KRS-One entered with sidemen Willie D. and DJ Josh. "We're going to start with a history lesson tonight," KRS stated. "We're going to go back to 1988 and work all the way up to today." DJ Josh then unleashed the familiar beat and piano loop from "The Bridge Is Over," and it was indeed 1988 again: hands in the air, crowd participation, brutal lyrics over big beats.

"I'm Still #1" segued into "Black Cop" before slipping toward "South Bronx," "Criminal Minded," "Spark Mad Ism" and "MC's Act Like They Don't Know." Summing up his method, KRS-One told the crowd, "Wack emcees always want to battle; intelligent emcees wonder about space travel."

And Santa Cruz responded. Despite KRS-One's crowd-baiting proclamations that the audience "wasn't ready," the rapper eventually concurred that the seaside community was down with hip-hop.

The biggest message at Palookaville was that everyone is hip-hop. During another freestyle, KRS-One rocked a rhyme about white graffiti artists, Latin breakdancers and Asian hip-hoppers. With that thought in mind, when DJ Josh threw on "Stop the Violence" at encore time, the entire audience--whites, blacks, Latins, Asians, women and men--bonded once more.

"Stop the Violence" reminded everyone that acceptance is the only way hip-hop culture is going to survive. With Biggie Smalls' death weighing heavily on the brains, "Stop the Violence" and KRS-One couldn't have come through at a more appropriate time.

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