Change; it's something none of us can control; yet most fear and resist. This is especially true in today's world of Hip-Hop. As much as the industry grows and expands, the more things stay the same. Record companies are no longer out to find new and innovative artists, and instead focus on duplicating a "popular" sound to gain big profits. It seems that as a whole the Hip-Hop industry is becoming less and less innovative and more and more predictable. However, while most sit back and watch Hip Hop deteriorate, there are a few unique emcees who cannot stand around and watch what they built crumble to death. Krs One has always been one of the few unique emcees who posses the ability to not only entertain but help teach, promote and expand the Hip-Hop culture. And while most emcees are concerned with only personal gains, Krs proves that Hip Hop is about more than yourself, and this is never more evident than on Krs' tenth album "Spiritual Minded".
Krs One has done more for the Hip-Hop culture than any artist has in its short history. Quite possibly the greatest emcee to touch a mic, Krs has always strived to keep the culture alive. He has never been one to stick to the "industry script", and "Spiritual Minded" is a prime example. With 10 albums spawning well over a decade, Krs has touched on everything imaginable under the sun. However, Krs takes an even newer, bolder approach on "Spiritual Minded". This historic tenth album features not that boom bap of old but a sound for the future. The album is heavily influenced by gospel and soul music, and is without a doubt one of the maturest sounds ever to come out.
Now I know what you are thinking, gospel rap? However, don't let the title fool you, "Spiritual Minded" is a lot more than a corny attempt to glorify God and his actions. It is a beautiful album that delves into the spiritual and emotional side of Krs One. Every track is heartfelt, emotional and filled with a message. "Take Your Tyme" is a dedication to all the women in the world struggling to survive. Krs sends out a great message telling women to wait for the right man and not to abuse their body. "Lord Live Within My Heart" is a nicely laced self produced track full of spirit and soul, which showcases the roll of God in Krs' life.
Two of the most emotional and heartfelt tracks on "Spiritual Minded" are the superb "Goodbye" and "Tears". Both of these tracks are magnificent pieces of art that exemplify what "Spiritual Minded" is about. "Goodbye" is a spectacular, melodic track dedicated to everyone lost in the struggle. Krs reminisces about every great figure that has passed in his lifetime. Along with a great message, the production stands out over everything else. Its smooth sound combined with a beautiful saxophone soloist in the backdrop give it a tender, unfeigned experience. However, if one thought "Goodbye" was sincere, the September 11th dedicated "Tears" improves upon that. After everything the world has went through Krs had to drop his thoughts on this ever so controversial time. The track is a beautiful masterpiece of insightful song writing and production. Its full of rich soul that just touches the heart, and is the type of track every listener can appreciate.
While most of "Spiritual Minded" follows the same path, we do witness some of that raw Hip-Hop Krs has always blessed us with. "South Bronx 2002" may not live up to its predecessor's standards but is still vintage Krs at his finest. "Never Give Up" initially may come off as awkward thanks to the Cantonese chorus in the hook, which is translated as "Eighteenth paw can destroy the dragon, show his heroic, man with honor and a hero; big hero". But Domingo's solid production and Krs One's original concept makes it one of the more unique efforts on the album. However, on "The Conscious Rapper" is where we witness Krs at his best. The "teacha" sends out a direct message to all the critics, and tells them what it's like to be a conscious rapper these days and the struggles involved.
While "Spiritual Minded" may be one of the deepest, most insightful albums to come out in recent memory, it does feature some major problems. The main cause of concern comes with the production area of the album and some of the tracks accompanying hooks. Tracks such as "Trust", "Ain't Ready", "God Is Spirit" and "Dayz Ahead" all feature some lurid, uncharacteristic production. Krs has always had the privilege of working with some of the great minds in the production area over the years. However, most of the production on "Spiritual Minded" is done by relative unknowns and is more stripped down and simple than usual. Most of the beats are either hit or miss, which may turn many heads away. Even when the production end does meet up, many of the hooks on "Spiritual Minded" are horribly constructed as seen on the previous mentioned tracks as well as "The Struggle Continues" and "Come To The Temple" featuring Smooth B, Rampage and Fat Joe. "Come To The Temple" epitomizes the problems with "Spiritual Minded". Production wise the track is very solid and each guest, especially Fat Joe blazes the mic. However, its accompanying hook is put together horrendously and takes away from the songs overall feel.
Unfortunately, "Spiritual Minded" is gong to be heavily criticized by many closed minded Hip Hop fans and those expecting the same old story out of this album. While most of the production is below average and many of the hooks are questionable, one cannot overlook the overall picture of "Spiritual Minded". This album is one of the few that delivers a great message; with each track being as deep and insightful as the next. "Spiritual Minded" is definitely not for the average Hip-Hop listener in today's market. Those who are fascinated with the tiresome tales of the streets, women, ice and cars will shrug this album off as "corny". Only those who can appreciate a more open-minded approach to what a Hip-Hop album can sound like, and have a passionate love for conscious rap, will be able to draw close to "Spiritual Minded".
"Spiritual Minded" is without a doubt one of the most mature albums to come out in recent memory and is a welcomed change from the typical rap these days. There are no standout verses or beats on the album; it's just an average album on that level. But underneath its exterior is a deep, conceptual album that can only be described as beautiful. And while many will try and slay Krs for this latest attempt, can you really blame someone for embracing God? Where would Hip Hop be today if it weren't for artists like Krs One, who went out and pushed the envelop, producing new and original sounds. Do we really want to hear the same sounds over and over again? Unfortunately, no matter how sad it may be, the answer is probably yes. However, there will always be those not satisfied with conformity and Krs will always be that light at the end of the tunnel.