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Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded (Deluxe Edition)

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Artist: Boogie Down Productions

Album: Criminal Minded (Deluxe Edition)

Label: B-Boy

Review date: Jun. 25, 2008

Born amidst the turbulence of the South Bronx in the 1970s, hip-hop came of age in an era of racial re-segregation, rampant arson and de-escalating turf warfare. The environment––similar to a combat-ravaged slum––fostered the nascent culture’s development over the next decade. Its adolescence was marked by a much different tone: advancement. By the ’80s, city officials began to talk of uptown resurgence, and as the community south of Fordham Road took steps toward “renewal,” so did its most renowned art form.

But just as gentrification can quickly morph from necessary to decadent, industry players took their eyes off one prize and honed in on another. By 1987, hip-hop had digressed from a culture to a product. Boogie Down Productions’ Criminal Minded represented an elemental shift for hip-hop and proposed a conflicted blueprint for the genre’s next decade.

Kris Parker (KRS-One) met social worker Scott Sterling (Scott La Rock) while homeless and staying at a group home on 166th and Boston Road. A few weeks later they ran into each other at Ced Gee’s (Ultramagnetic MCs) pad, which reportedly housed the sole SP-12 sampler in the borough. Recognizing a joint affinity for hip-hop, the two eventually formed a crew, later recruiting “The Human TR-808,” D-Nice. Christening themselves Boogie Down Productions on the premise they would only produce beats, the name would stick even after the realization of KRS’ true calling.

The group’s catapult into the limelight stemmed from a beef with Queensbridge-repping Mr. Magic, Marley Marl and MC Shan of Juice Crew fame, prompting the landmark singles “South Bronx” and “The Bridge is Over,” both included on the debut. Forgoing the provocative battle stance, for the LP the crew looked to educate by detailing ghetto violence and offering seminars on the art of emceeing. KRS outlines his lesson plan on the "Soul Power"-laced “Poetry”: “Call it a lecture, a visual picture / Sort of a poetic and rhythm-like mixture.” The rhyme in “Elementary”––"I don't battle with rhymes, I battle with guns / Knowledge reigns supreme over nearly everyone"––encapsulates the dichotomy, as the second line represents his name (K.R.S.O.N.E.) in acronym. The Blastmaster was re-anointing himself as a teacher.

It was harder to find the didacticism in the corner narratives. “Remix For P Is Free” appropriately lifts Michigan and Smiley’s “Diseases,” telling the tale of a prostitute who turns it out for white tops. On the riddim-gaited “9mm Goes Bang,” KRS authors a meditated murder (and inadvertently fashioned gangsta rap). La Rock’s melding of roots-reggae and thick snares would prove equally visionary. As revelatory as those tracks are, the album culminates with the title cut. Opening with KRS echoing, "We’ll take the wackest song and make it better" a cappella in the “Hey Jude” melody, Scott programs a stomping drum kick that sounds like the basis for the word “boom-bap.”

On "A Word From Our Sponsor," KRS-One rapped, "Consume a new era." Not only was BDP on the front line of documenting hood mentality, they infused the culture with an ethical code and, along with Public Enemy, helped fuel a renewed Black radicalism. La Rock’s slaying in the Bronx before the release of BDP's other classic By All Means Necessary only legitimized KRS’s words and made him ever mindful of his role as ghetto spokesman. A line from that record, famously sampled by N.W.A., cemented his philosophy: “It’s not about a salary/ It’s all about reality.

Traffic Entertainment, fast becoming the premier hip-hop reissue label, has added a ton of bonus material to the original album including fledgling single “Advance,” the original Red Alert "The Bridge Is Over" 12", a WBAU interview with (the other) Dr. Dre at the Bridge wars’ height and the last song produced by Scott La Rock, "Essays On BDPism." Incidentally, the AC/DC-aping "Dope Beat" was mislabeled "Hope Beat" on the original vinyl of Criminal Minded. An apt transmogrification.

By Jake O'Connell

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