Release Date: Sep 15, 2009
Record label: Duck Down
With old-school legend KRS-One teaming with Boot Camp Clik member Buckshot, you can expect high-caliber rhymes and an anti-sellout attitude, but Survival Skills is a diverse, welcome surprise. The radio-friendly, and more importantly, radio-worthy single "The Way I Live" with Mary J Blige is a slicker package than usual from this revolutionary duo, but the polished production is actually from Black Milk, an underground tastemaker who provides a beat right in line with the ambitious spirit of the album. The guest list is an unexpected mix of Slug, K'naan, Pharoahe Monch, Sean Price, and reggae singer Bounty Killer, while production is ably handled by the likes of Nottz, 9th Wonder, Ill Mind, and Mobb Deep's Havoc.
Since he first came on the scene, KRS-One has consistently critiqued pop culture, not even sparing his fellow rappers. But unlike most of what has passed for commentary in mainstream rap, he doesn’t not boast in order to put others down. Instead, he calls out those who are not using the tool he believes it to be: a vehicle for raw, intelligent honesty, for street-level reportage, and for education.
KRS-One realizes that you can't sell records through "edutainment" alone these days and has toned down his Teacher-isms accordingly. In fact, this might be the most relevant he's been since 1997's I Got Next. His wordplay remains clever and topical, especially on the anti-Auto-Tune anthem Robot, while his sanctimoniousness has been toned down to more tolerable levels.
It’s no surprise to longtime fans that KRS-One and Buckshot are luminaries in the field of rap. Both artists are enjoying long careers in an industry known for short stints in the public eye, creative burn out, and fickle audiences. Since the 1980s and the days of his group Boogie Down Productions, KRS-One has consistently churned out his “edutainment” brand of boom bap hip-hop, propelled by KRS-One’s commanding presence, sometimes controversial and seemingly conflicting “philosophies”, and intense lyricism.
They're both New York rap veterans, but beyond that, KRS-One and Buckshot don't have a lot in common. KRS' gun-talk credentials are straight, but he's spent most of the past two decades in uplifting political rant mode; Buck has specialized in snarling, guttural street shit since day one. KRS raps in an overactive, splenetic blurt, like he can't bear to sit down for more than a minute; Buck's one of the best ever at the ominous, low-key simmer.