Rap is moving so fast these days that some of the wizened twentysomething pioneers of the genre seem to want to put on the brakes. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It lends a well-deserved sense of tradition to hip-hop, and on Return of the Boom Bap, the sixth studio album in seven years from Boogie Down Productions, rapper KRS-One wears his past proudly, like a series of battle scars. He brandishes his musical history as a way of establishing primacy and rocks like an exiled king who’s returned to take back his castle. Produced largely by DJ Premier of Gang Starr, Boom Bap quotes heavily from BDP’s first two LPs, recorded in large part when Scott LaRock, KRS-One’s partner and DJ, was still alive. “KRS-One Attacks,” for example, contains a loop from “Criminal Minded,” the title track from BDP’s 1987 debut album, and the title of the song comes from the lyrics to “South Bronx,” one of the group’s first big singles. “P Is Still Free” is a monstrously funky sequel to the 1986 anticrack jam “P Is Free,” pointing out the fact that sex for drugs remains a relevant equation seven years later.
Throughout Boom Bap, KRS-One’s voice is hoarse, as though he were so driven that he had to shout the entire album in one session without resting. When it comes to rhyming skills, he still has few rivals. His raps combine cultural literacy, wild imagination and absurd wit with mad street flavor. KRS expresses ideas with such exuberance that the zany logic of some of his assertions goes down like candy-coated pills.
After having fallen off a bit in the beat department on his last two albums, KRS-One has emerged with renewed vigor and a confident sense of his past on Return of the Boom Bap. It’s a mighty B-boy stance.