Right up until the moment KRS-One took the stage I was sceptical it was even going to transpire. The gig that local hip hop heads had crossed their fingers for since Criminal Minded dropped in 1987 was actually. f**king. happening. The "Teacha" had literally made it to our shores, after causing a wave of disappointment when he cruised by earlier in the year en route to a series of performances in Australia. So it was a happy day when KRS-One released a promo video saying he would indeed be re-boarding ship to perform two shows in New Zealand.
However, it wasn't all to be smooth sailing, and last minute venue changes blamed on licensing issues saw this highly-anticipated show moved from the Cloud, to the Studio on K Road, and suddenly hit full capacity. A shrewd move considering the promoter had announced footage shot at the two shows would be used for an upcoming music video.
Included in a stream of warm up acts for the show was Hed Lok, a trio comprised of New Zealand's most recognised hip hop artists, Che Fu, King Kapisi and Teremoana Rapley. During their tightly choreographed set the three perform tracks from each of their albums to a youthful and receptive crowd. Also invited to join the trio were old school comrades Manuel Bundy, DLT and Slave, but the real surprise and definite highlight had to be Hype the Native from Dam Native joining the stage to '97 classic The Horified One with Rapley.
Not long after Hed Lok's departure, three members of Ngati Whatua dressed in traditional feathered cloaks appear on stage wielding a conch. The shell is blown and the group welcome KRS-One with a karakia. KRS comes bouncing on stage dressed in black and wearing a red ulafala necklace, a fitting adornment for someone with such huge mana. Without hesitation the Teacha gets straight to business and insists the volume be wound all the way up. He then proceeds to test the audience with a medley of iconic tracks spanning across his epic career.
What unfolds over the next 90 minutes can only be described as a lesson from the rap pioneer. KRS-One, backed only by a DJ, owns the stage with his colossal presence and takes the enthusiastic audience on a journey through sound and time, always punctuated by his place in the history of hip hop. With such a wealth of material behind him he blasts through favourites including, of course, the Blondie-sampled Step into a World, where he urges b-boys and girls to step onto the stage to breakdance for the duration of the track.
His set is entertaining, diverse and interspersed with freestyle flows and tricks up his sleeve. He raps over classical music, performs spoken word and confirms, yes, he will be holding a free seminar at the museum the next day. One thing he never does is show signs of fading while administering his dope MC skills. When he finally does disappear from sight and it seems he is done for the night, a deluge of pushing from the crowd indicates KRS-One is indeed stomping around on the floor, while performing Buckshot collaboration Robot solo. At that point it is virtually impossible not to get caught up in the storm of consciousness KRS brings.
Who: KRS-One with Hed Lok
Where: Studio, Auckland
When: Saturday 21 April