Keep Right (Grit)

Mr. Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone isn't just any indie-label rapper. This 1986 new-school graduate has become certifiably old-school as he nears his 20th anniversary as a professional MC. Having renounced the criminal path after his DJ, Scott La Rock, was senselessly murdered 17 years ago, KRS has blazed the trail of conscious hip-hop for longer than some of 50 Cent's fans have been alive.

As Keep Right proves, KRS-One is one of the few survivors of hip-hop's golden age still worth listening to today. Sure, he's often didactic and self-referential (frequently sampling his own work), but so was James Brown. KRS won't ever let you forget that he is hip-hop, yet Keep Right -- his strongest album in a decade -- seems like more of a continuation than a comeback. True, his 13th release has a lot of generic song titles, but their choruses lend themselves well to the call-and-response chants of live performance -- obviously his bread-and-butter these days.

Yet the speed at which Keep Right accelerates (23 songs in 51 minutes) makes the album seem somewhat rushed. The knowledge is still omnipresent, but the lessons are delivered in quick sound bites. Evidently more comfortable being an underground icon than a mainstream commodity, the Blastmaster nevertheless rolls with the new better than most MCs of his day have, and not only is he still spittin', he's still relevant.