KRS-One, born Lawrence Krisna Parker, is an indomitable figure in the world of hip-hop. Known as one of the genre’s strongest pillars, he’s been schooling MCs with his lyrical prowess since the mid-’80s with his first group, Boogie Down Productions. His body of work is a veritable blueprint for the foundation of hip-hop, firing from albums such as Return of the Boom Bap, KRS-One, I Got Next and The Sneak Attack.
His invincible bars, with their intelligent rhythmic patterns and introspective socio-political dialogue, can be witnessed on tracks such as “Sound of Da Police,” “Rappaz R. N. Dainja” and “Mad Crew.” Songs with key collaborations like “Free Mumia” with Channel Live and “Blowe” with Redman further exemplify his status as one of the game’s authoritative figures. Through raw storytelling, KRS-One has conjured imagery touching on political injustice, street violence, and cultural liberation.
Yet, it’s not just his lyrical content that has cemented his reputation. KRS-One’s charismatic delivery helped define the raw, unabashed ethos of hip-hop – and tracks like “Ova Here,” “Black Cop,” and “Higher Level” serve to illustrate this fact. Equally appreciated for his piercing commentary and hypnotic beats, KRS-One has been pivotal in redefining the boundaries of hip-hop’s lyrical content and instrumental backdrop.
From the sharp criticism of “Outta Here” to the heartwarming sincerity of “A Friend”, to the classic braggadocio in “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know,” KRS-One has consistently pushed lyrical boundaries, paving the way for a new generation of rappers. There’s no doubt about it; the lyrical genius of KRS-One has left an indelible mark on hip-hop. So let’s get into it. From the raw to the refined, here are the Top 25 KRS-One Songs Ranked from Worst to Best.
25. Return of the Boom Bap
“Return of the Boom Bap,” the titular track off KRS-One’s 1993 solo debut project, is a revelation of old-school aesthetics meeting conscious lyricism. One word: monumental! This joint ain’t mumble rap, but pure, unadulterated, syllable-slinging hip-hop. Showcasing the Teacha’s sharp flow along with his knack for tackling social issues, this record be the bomb. KRS-One asserts his ethos of ‘knowledge reigns supreme’ with a ferocity few can match. But, not gonna front, the production on this one doesn’t always hit. It feels a bit stripped down compared to other joints on the album.
24. Ova Here
A straight up diss track aimed squarely at Nelly and his “bubblegum” rap antics. The song sees KRS lashing out in classic boom-bap style, dropping knowledge bombs left and right. With his boisterous delivery and punchy wordplay, the Blastmaster schools his opponent on the true essence of hip-hop. But truth be told, while the message is powerful, the beat is undeniably basic, lacking that sonic innovation we love about KRS. Plus, the whole beef did seem like an old head taking shots at a new school player doing his thing. Still, it’s decent – just not top tier KRS.
23. Knock Em Out
This track blends classic boom-bap beats with KRS’s raw and philosophical flow, serving up a lesson in Hip-Hop 101. But let’s keep it 100 – it ain’t got the same level of recognition or influence as his trailblazing tracks with Boogie Down Productions. Still, “Knock ‘Em Out” remains a dope cut that shows KRS-One’s commitment to keep hip-hop’s original spirit alive. It’s a nice homage to the park jams and basement parties where it all began, you feel me?
22. The Beginning
Flipping back to the genesis, KRS rides on the rhythm with that unmistakable New York swagger, laying down his philosophical payloads with precision. The boom-bap beat is colder than a Far Rockaway winter, perfectly capturing the gritty glory of the golden age. Sure, it ain’t “Sound of Da Police” or “MCs Act Like They Don’t Know,” but “The Beginning” bangs with the best of them. A street corner sermon that’s worth a revisit.
21. Mad Crew
Easily be viewed as an appendix to KRS-One’s philosophical treatise, this track from the ’93 album “Return of the Boom Bap,” sees him spitting multi-syllabic lines over minimalistic soundscapes, weaving complex narratives about the streets. The beat forces you to focus on KRS’s lyrics, each bar hitting like a one-two punch of wisdom and raw reality. Though the song might seem like a B-side in his discography, it’s a testament to the Bronx legend’s depth as an MC. Maybe it’s the minimalist style that failed to grab the mainstream’s attention, but the hip-hop purists know the drill.
20. Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
Coming in at number 20, we got KRS-One’s “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop”. Now, whilst it still packs that vintage Boogie Down Productions heat, KRS comes correct on the bars, spitting insightful lyrics that reflect the struggles of the streets. It ain’t his most iconic work, no doubt. It lacks the razor-sharp focus of his stronger joints, and the production feels somewhat dated. But one thing’s for sure: KRS-One’s passion for hip-hop and commitment to keepin’ it real shines through. His flow ebbs and flows with the beat, proving why he’s revered as “The Teacher” in the game. Even on a lower-tier song like this, KRS-One’s cultural significance in the hip-hop sphere can’t be denied.
19. Raw Hip Hop
A joint off the ’97 album “I Got Next.” Now, this track never quite blazed up the charts, but it’s a gem in its own right, representing that true boogie down, raw-as-concrete, battle-tested essence of hip-hop. KRS-One, the Teacha, takes us on a journey lyrically, laying down bars that highlight the real soul of hip-hop beyond the glitz and glamour. His performance on the mic is fierce and unfiltered, spittin’ wisdom about the streets, the struggle, and the spirit of the game. But real talk, while KRS-One stays fire throughout, the production doesn’t quite hit the mark as much, sounding a bit dated and lackluster.
18. Out For Fame
This ain’t his strongest output. Don’t get it twisted, it ain’t whack, it’s just that this philosophy-dropping titan set such a high bar for himself. The lyricism, as expected, is top-tier, an articulate manifesto against the fame-hungry clones in the rap game. The production, however, feels a little too polished for KRS’s raw delivery. Lyrically, he’s schooling cats out here but musically, it’s not quite as provocative as his earlier work. We respect “Out For Fame” for its message, but when ranked alongside KRS-One’s anthems, it doesn’t hold its own.
17. Free Mumia (feat. Channel Live)
Off the 1995 “KRS-One” album is a righteously raw and politically-charged cut. KRS-One, the Teacha, and Channel Live go hard, no holding back, demanding justice for controversial figure, Mumia Abu-Jamal. Hate it or love it, one can’t deny the visceral impact of its call to action—it speaks to the infuriating realities of systemic injustice and wrongful incarceration. Some might argue the track is too on-the-nose. But truth is, it’s the signature KRS! The man didn’t just make music; he staged revolutions with his rhymes. Yet, the beat lacks the captivating magnetism KRS is notorious for.
16. Wannabemceez (feat. Mad Lion)
He came out swinging on ‘Wannabemceez’, riding shotgun with Mad Lion, dropping knowledge, and exposing posers in the game. This joint off ‘KRS-One’, his 1995 self-titled album, might seem tucked away in the annals of his discography, but it embodies the raw essence of Kris Parker – pure, uncensored hip-hop, with a side of street sermon. The production, a smooth potion of low-riding beats and jazz samples, serves a tasty backdrop for KRS’s lyrical assault on pretentious rappers. It ain’t KRS at his peak, nah, but we gotta give it props for the culture-check it delivers. Rare are the tracks that instigate and educate simultaneously. “Wannabemceez” does just that. Don’t sleep on it.
15. Can You Dance
This track be a deep cut from KRS-One’s catalog, somewhat overlooked in the grand scheme of things, but don’t get it twisted – it’s a gem. The Teacha throws us a curveball here; he gets us moving with a catchy hook and relentless beats while still blessing us with the knowledge. But real talk, this ain’t top-tier KRS material. The execution was tight, sure, but it doesn’t quite carry the weight of his hallmark tracks. It’s a hype joint for sure, but lacking the lyrical depth he’s revered for. If KRS’s discography was a family, “Can You Dance” is the fun uncle who’s got moves, but ain’t really got much to say at the dinner table.
This joint right here, it’s got its moments, narrating the mental mayhem that can come from kickin’ it in the streets. The beat feels a little offbeat for the Teacha, seems like he’s tryna keep pace with the new school, which ain’t necessarily his lane. Lyrically, KRS is still on point, dropping knowledge about the streets’ unforgiving nature. But the wannabe gangsta backdrop? That ain’t classic KRS, fam. We’re talking about a master of the craft caught in a misstep, tryna ‘get with the times’. It ain’t a total miss, but compared to the rest of his discography, it’s a tad underwhelming. Respect for the Teacha, but this one ain’t his strongest.
13. Black Cop
A raw anthem with some of the hardest, in-your-face lyrics in hip-hop history. A cutting social commentary, the track is a scathing indictment of police brutality in Black communities. Using his microphone like a gavel, KRS-One calls out sell-out officers, riding the beat with a ferocity that’s nothing short of revolutionary. But let’s not get it twisted – while the message is serious as a heart attack, the beat is pure head-nod territory. KRS-One’s delivery here is bold and unapologetic – a definitive example of his woke lyricism. But let’s be honest, it ain’t his best work and sits comfortable at number 19 on our list. His genius is so profound that even when he’s not at his peak, he still schools most.
12. Higher Level
Off the ’93 album “Return of the Boom Bap”, this deep cut epitomizes Kris’s conscious rap style. The beat, thick with that dusty boom-bap flavor, lays the groundwork for the Teacha to drop wisdom-filled bars. He’s tackling spirituality, socio-political realities, and self-empowerment, reminding us that hip-hop is more than just beats and rhymes. Yet, while the song packs intellectual rigor, it falls short on being a sonic delight. It’s a track more revered for its lyrical depth than its replayability, a testament to KRS-One’s determination to push hip-hop to a higher level, even when it ain’t the popular route.
11. Blowe (feat. Redman)
“Blowe” comes in hot at #11, showcasing the lyrical prowess of KRS-One alongside Redman, one of the illest lyricists to ever put words to wax. The track, off the “I Got Next” album, is a display of raw, uncut hip-hop, with both emcees going for the jugular over a beat that breathes fire. KRS-One holds his own alongside the Funk Doc, proving that when it comes to lyricism, he got next, indeed. However, the back-and-forth could’ve used more nuance. While Redman’s wild style and KRS’s unfettered flow were in full effect, the synergy was slightly off. It’s as though the two heavyweight champions went for the knockout too soon. But even then, they pack a powerful punch that’s hard to knock.
10. Mortal Thought
“Mortal Thought,” the KRS-One joint off his debut ‘Return of the Boom Bap,’ a modern day sage dishing out knowledge through bars. The beat, a stripped down, no-frills head nodder, lets the words shine bright, painting vivid metaphors about societal conditions, self-reflection, and the power of thought. Some might argue it’s lackluster compared to KRS-One’s major anthems, but “Mortal Thought” is a hip-hop purist’s delight, embodying the raw essence of the craft. It’s a truth sermon, a wake-up call weaved into rhymes, delivered by The Blastmaster himself.
From the album “Sneak Attack”, it delivers a powerful message of peace and understanding that’s quintessential KRS. The Boogie Down Productions legend wields his lyricism like a samurai sword, slicing through societal noise with precision and incisiveness. The beat? A laid-back, bass-heavy groove that lets KRS’s commanding voice take center stage. Do I wish there was a bit more of the raw, boom-bap energy that KRS is known for? Sure, but even without it, “Hush” is proof that even when he’s not at his absolute best, KRS-One’s flow still leaves many of his peers in the dust.
8. I Can’t Wake Up
A 1993 gem off KRS-One’s first solo album, “Return of the Boom Bap.” Now, don’t get it twisted: it’s a smooth cut, no doubt. It’s got that classic Boom Bap sound, layered with some trippy dream sequences that keep you hooked. Still, when you stack it against the rest of KRS-One’s double-diamond discography, it just doesn’t punch as hard. With his knack for channeling raw street narratives and masterful storytelling, KRS-One has set a high bar for himself. This track, while solid, doesn’t quite taste those heights.
7. The MC
With a bouncing beat and an infectious chorus, “The MC” is a love letter to the game of hip-hop. The Teacha delicately breaks down the difference between the MC and the rapper, schooling cats on the essence of the art form. While the joint doesn’t pack the same punch as some of his classic cuts, it’s a reminder that even on an off day, KRS-One’s bars are sharper than most. It’s a solid track, just not the most essential in his discography.
6. KRS-One Attacks
This joint right here, it ain’t for the faint-hearted. KRS-One rips the mic with his signature Boogie Down bravura – assertive, unyielding, straight in your face. It’s a textbook example of the mastery of the Teacha, educating about the art of war in the concrete jungle, fortified with raw, unprocessed Boom Bap beats that hit you in the chest like a battering ram. Yet, it’s not KRS’s best lyrical offering. Some lines feel derivative, and the flow, though powerful, lacks that explosive creativity found in his top-tier joints. So while it doesn’t reach the zenith of KRS’s output, it’s still a solid representation of his undeniably potent, confrontational style.
5. Outta Here
“Outta Here,” the opening salvo from KRS-One’s debut solo venture ‘Return of the Boom Bap,’ ain’t nothing to sleep on, fam. The Teacha schools us with an autobiographical journey, tracing his path from homeless shelter to hip-hop stardom. The individualistic beat provided by DJ Premier sets the perfect backdrop for KRS’s smooth storytelling. But don’t get it twisted! There’s an edge to this track – a blending of lyricism laced with braggadocio. KRS ain’t shy about his place in the game, and rightly so! “Outta Here” might not be the first KRS track that pops in your head, but forget the mainstream noise.
4. A Friend
An underappreciated gem in the KRS-One catalogue, as here knowledge is dropping as abundantly as the boom bap beats backing his flow, KRS-One taps into the essence of hip-hop storytelling, spinning a narrative about friendship that’s universal. While it might not shake the room like his standout tracks, the lyrical dexterity and miles-deep wisdom is no less present. You gotta appreciate KRS-One’s ability to take a step back from the mic, showing the vulnerability that many hardcore hip-hop artists often miss. The song might lack the typical braggadocio punch, but it’s a testament to KRS-One’s range – the dude can flip the script from powerful to poignant without missing a beat.
3. Step into a World (Rapture’s Delight)
Stepping out on a ledge when he decided to sample Blondie’s “Rapture,” but homie straight up took it to another level. Peep the way he flips the script by infusing that old school hip-hop flavor into that New Wave joint. KRS-One delivers some stone-cold bars too – dude’s got lyrics sharper than a box cutter. And that hook? Straight infectious. No ifs or buts about it, this joint is a testament to KRS-One’s ingenious way of remixing the old to create the new.
2. MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know
This gem was a formidable trendsetter for the 90’s, cementing KRS-One as a veritable titan of the hip-hop world. KRS-One and DJ Premier link up here, causing sonic earthquakes with their iconic skill clash. Premier’s thumping drums and mournful piano loop give a perfect canvas for KRS-One to paint his verbal pictures, schooling us on hip-hop’s ethos. But honestly, it’s not KRS-One at his zenith. There’s a certain roughness, a stripped-down approach to his word play that doesn’t quite go the full mile. Still, “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know” represents a rapper unafraid to confront industry fakery. Not the dopest from his arsenal, but respect due.
1. Sound of da Police
KRS-One is straight up spittin’ protest poetry on this joint, all while tapping into the rebellious core of hip-hop. The track’s got a relentlessly energetic, siren-sampled beat that drills into your ear drums. KRS’s biting commentary on law enforcement is as timely as it was when it dropped in ’93. No candy coating here, just harsh realities. But let’s be honest, it’s far from his best. The lyrical flow ain’t as tight as his other joints, a little jagged to the ear. Still, “Sound of da Police” remains a critical part of KRS-One’s canon and a bracing commentary on the police state. If you’re down with hip-hop’s activist side, this track can’t be ignored.