As an acronym, KRS-ONE stands for “Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone.”
As an artist, KRS-ONE is the Godfather of rap music. He began rapping where rap was born, in the Bronx in New York City.
His booming voice and philosophical way of thinking have permeated nearly every song since then, whether the hip-hopper knows it or not.
As such, we wanted to celebrate the life and legacy of KRS here by sharing his greatest 24 quotes of all time. What does the emcee have to say about life, love, the craft, or the business of music?
That’s the inquiry we’re diving into now. So, without further ado, let’s go!
1. “I am a poet, and I speak poetically.”
2. “You can never be too old for hip-hop.”
3. “I kind of backed into rap music. I thought I was going to do comic books or graphic art.”
4. “Graffiti art brings you back to your human skills—your spirit and what your being is really about.”
5. “Hip-hop is a worldwide culture. We have permeated every urban environment.”
6. “Hip hop is a human skill, and the practice of real hip hop should remind us of our humanity.”
7. “Original hip hop manipulated technologies of all sorts; it was not manipulated by the technology itself.”
8. “The Temple of Hip-Hop makes sure that we don’t just approach hip-hop just through music or through rap. We approach the totality of hip-hop.”
9. “Hip Hop is an idea. It is the pursuit of one’s authentic being through the arts. It is not a physical thing; it is an attitude—even an aptitude.”
10. “I don’t sell millions of records. As a matter of fact, I’m not even interested in selling millions of records. I enjoy MCing. I make a decent amount of money. I can feed my kids. I keep a roof over my head. I don’t have to sell a million records to maintain my lifestyle.”
11. “When you know the law, you’re above the law. When you break the law, you’re under the law.”
12. “The only time you had blacks, whites, and Latinos jamming together was in hip-hop. It’s an unsung history.”
13. “I was born in Hip Hop. That’s all I ever needed.”
14. “Self-management and self-control are the keys to advanced knowledge, and both are difficult to learn without a sense of your own cultural identity.”
15. “Rap is something you live; hip hop is something you do.”
16. “I’m not a fan of public school at all; I think it’s one of the greatest catastrophes of American history.”
17. “Illiteracy causes violence. If you don’t have enough words in your vocabulary, you can’t even seek your way out of a situation.”
18. “High respect goes out to our mothers, our single mothers. This is why today the real community uplifts femininity and holds womanhood above, not equal to, masculinity.”
19. “Only love is consistent because only love is unconditional.”
20. “Ask any rapper or singer what artist they are an expert on. What artist are they looking to emulate, and really, what artist is the one person they are an expert on? You see, if you want any kind of longevity, if you want any kind of legacy, you need to know what ancestral line you are from.”
21. “When you know your self-worth, and you read and you ask questions and you study and you travel, you become free.”
22. “Hate reveals itself for what it really is—evil! It cannot see clearly, so it exposes itself at every turn, and those that truly love can see it.”
23. “There is no forgiveness, justice, or healing on any level when hate is involved.”
24. “When I wake up in the morning, do I think I’m a role model? Yes. I’m not trying to have a pristine image, because a real role model shows you to the good and ugly.”
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Coachella Crossroads/Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians