It's not enough to have Brooklyn's Buckshot and the Bronx's KRS-One swap verses for an entire 14-track set. No, the leaders of two of the greatest East Coast hip-hop movements ever ― Boot Camp Clik and Boogie Down Productions ― had to recruit an all-star supporting cast. Talent abounds on both the beats (Black Milk, Moss, Marco Polo) and the rhymes (Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, Slug, K'naan). When was the last time Mary J. Blige ("The Way I Live") appeared on an indie rap record? The presence of 14 guest vocalists makes Survival Skills sound like a compilation, and a Buck/KRS collab would have been twice as relevant a decade ago (ditto for Kris's 2007 link-up with Marley Marl). Yet both veterans wield their unmistakable voices, spraying wisdom on fatherhood ("Think of All Things"), individuality ("Robot") and the upper-class/lower-class divide ("Hear No Evil"). On "Clean Up Crew," the duo turn a borderline corny concept into a banger by flipping a closet full of sanitary metaphors in an effort to scrub the rap game clean of its sticky film of whack juice. Even Heltah Skeltah's Rock sweeps in with a nice little TheFresh Prince of Bel Air allusion: "I clean house like Jeffery." Throughout, the ethereal boom of KRS's "my word is gospel" enunciation is balanced nicely by Buck's more subtly intricate rhyme patterns. The result: an album that's hard but not ignorant.
Did you ever critique each other's rhymes? You probably can't tell KRS-One to go rewrite his verse.
Buckshot: No, I would say that to Kris in a heartbeat, but I didn't have to. I've been with a lot of good rappers and known rappers and said, "We gotta do something else." What we did do was say, "That ain't working. Get that whole song out of here." We had two songs we threw out. One of them wasn't whack; it just wasn't fitting the concept of the show. And that's what the whole KRS-One/Buckshot album is based around; it's based all around one show. If you could sit in the crowd, you will hear the show that you want to watch.
So you'll be touring in support of this album?
That's what's the whole thing is about. Me and Kris are show-hungry. We love doing shows. Travelling is a different thing but when we get onstage, that all makes up for it.
What's the most important skill one needs to survive in hip-hop in 2009?
Everything is taking a transition. In hip-hop today you need patience, discipline and obedience. Those are the three elements. You gotta keep yourself around people that are smarter than you and better than you at what you want to do. That's what will make you become better. (Duck Down)