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Boogie Down Productions’ ‘By All Means Necessary’ Remembered 25 Years Later

Jive/RCA Records

‘By All Means Necessary,’ the second album from the Boogie Down Productions crew, was a step up in consciousness for a young emcee named KRS-One.

The 10-track album was released on May 31, 1988, almost a year after the tragic murder of the rapper’s groupmate DJ-producer Scott La Rock, who died on Aug. 27, 1987.

The title and cover art for the LP was inspired by a poster of the late activist Malcolm X, which read “By Any Means Necessary.” In the photo, X similarly holds up a gun while peering out of a window.

Prior to their sophomore effort, Boogie Down Production’s debut opus, ‘Criminal Minded,’ was noted for its portrayal of violence that surrounded the rappers in their neighborhood of the South Bronx, N.Y.

But on the follow-up project, KRS-One’s rhymes took a critical jab at the happenings in his environment. This was directly stated on track three, ‘Stop The Violence.’ “We gotta put our heads together and stop the violence / ‘Cause real bad boys move in silence / When you’re in a club, you come to chill out / Not watch someone’s blood just spill out,” he raps.

He also called out the government’s control over the crack epidemic and how it trickled down to the way the people in his community ultimately lived. “Cocaine business controls America / Ganja business controls America / KRS-One come to start some hysteria / Illegal business controls America,” he spits on ‘Illegal Business.’

Other social commentary he took on was safe sex as AIDS became a growing health concern among the younger generation. ”Jimmy is Jimmy, no matter what / So take care of Jimmy ’cause you know what’s up / ‘Cause now in winter AIDS attacks / So run out and get your Jimmy Hats,” KRS-One delivers.

The boom bap sound of ‘By All Means Necessary’ involved a wide range of soul samples from the 1960s to the early 1980s including Smokey Robinson and the Miracles on ‘Part-Time Suckers’ and  Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids on ‘Illegal Business.’ KRS-One also brings his Jamaican accent to wax, switching back and forth from his native New York speech at various points throughout the album.

‘By All Means Necessary’ is recognized by many hip-hop heads as an essential record. It is also noted as one of the first concept rap albums indulging in politics — a style that was emulated by many emcees after 1988.

Watch Boogie Down Productions’ ‘My Philosophy’ Video

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