We’ve welcomed many superstars through BIMM Manchester’s doors, and we were thrilled to add one of the originators of hip-hop to that list. 

An icon who transcended his genre, KRS-One has one of the most recognisable voices in modern music and has created some of the most admired rhymes in hip-hop.  He has released a staggering 19 albums since releasing “Criminal Minded”, as part of Boogie Down Productions.

You can imagine how excited the BIMM Manchester students were when the hip-hop legend sat down with them for an informal talk — but no-one was more excited than Music Journalism student (and long-time hip-hop fan) Joe Read, who hosted the session and interviewed KRS-One himself!

Joe began by quizzing KRS on how he managed to maintain a consistent quality in his artistic output over so many years. Joe received a heartfelt answer:

“You have to love it and breath it with a passion, whether you get paid or not. It’s like asking a person how do you keep breathing? How do you keep eating? What else was I supposed to do? My approach to MC-ing is the same as breathing; I couldn’t live without it. This form of self-expression completes who I am as a person.”

KRS, who exploded to fame after weathering hard formative years in The Bronx, shared some sage advice on motivation with students:

“Poverty can be the foundation of creativity. With no money, you have to improvise, make things work. Creativity pours out of you when you are struggling. Growing up in poverty for me was a blessing, so don’t let anything stop you. You should challenge yourself because the creativity is crazy when you are desperate.”

Joe then asked KRS to cast his mind back to 1987 and his first LP, “Criminal Minded,” and the backlash that followed its release. He remembered the time vividly:

“It was the first album with two black men on the sleeve with guns – and America went mental. Around the same time, Public Enemy came out, talking about Muslims, and their audience was predominantly white males. This opened our eyes to what hip hop truly was: races, classes, even genders — hip hop transcended that. 

“Hip-hop transcends political strife and social unrest, and we figured this out in 1987. It was a cultural movement bringing people together for a higher consciousness.”

 KRS spoke passionately about technology, and the impact it has on his beloved art of MC-ing:

“Art is based on human interaction – and with MC-ing, if you are true to the art, you write with your hands. Are you going to allow technology to take away your humanity? If you allow it to take away your humanity, you are taking your art away. 

“Technology can record, enhance, empower but it cannot create, this is the most important thing for this generation to understand: never give up organic intelligence, artificial intelligence will not create art. 

“I give my soul, as opposed to a computer programme. Art is human”.

KRS’s last album, “Now Hear This,” was independently released. Joe knew the BIMM music business students would be interested to hear KRS-One’s thoughts on the industry — and he didn’t disappoint, speaking frankly about the pros and cons of record deals with major labels:

“I went independent, almost because I had to… you are going to have to comprise yourself a little [in the music industry], and after 30 years I did that, and I did have a wonderful time doing so. And yes I would do it again in the same way.

“Major distribution has helped me, but I can say now to go against it as it has helped me: I rail against the system, but I have been a part of the system. Today I put out only what I want, and I deal with my fans.”

After such an in-depth and fascinating session, those students who were new to KRS-One and his music certainly became fans afterwards.

Music Production student Patrick Jackson loved being able to meet one of the giants of hip-hop:

“It was really philosophical; his overall presence was overwhelming. It was really interesting to hear his thoughts on technology and how it doesn’t necessarily make you a better artist. It was a real eye-opener from someone with so much experience.” 

For fellow student Nat James, it was a moment he’ll remember forever:

“Connections were made. I can’t believe that I just got to freestyle with one of my idols – it was epic! I got to hear about his journey. I asked him about starting out, beginning writing and heard about his journey from the man himself. My mind is blown!”

This was the first time a BIMM student had hosted a session. Even though many would have been overawed, Joe was a credit to himself and BIMM, asking well-researched questions and conducting the Q&A with admirable professionalism. We can’t wait for more student-led sessions in the future!

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