Study Guide

Sound of Da Police Technique

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  • Music

    One of KRS-One's musical signatures is his integration of Caribbean/Jamaican sounds into his hardcore rap style. Raised in Brooklyn by a Jamaican mother and then transplanted to the Bronx as a homeless youth, KRS often raps in a Jamaican accent. In "Sound of Da Police," both his (semi put-on) accent and his Caribbean musical inspirations come through. As hip-hop scholar Wayne Marshall observes, Boogie Down Productions played a significant role in the popularization of a distinctly Caribbean sound within hip-hop. Although hip-hop had gotten its start in the Bronx among a mixture of African-American youth including a significant West Indian population, the Jamaican/reggae sound was not yet "cool" in the mid-1970s (partially due to anti-immigrant sentiments even within the black community). "That BDP's expression could at once be so Bronx and hip-hop, and yet so Jamaican and reggae bears witness to the degree to which Jamaican music and culture had become part of the texture of New York life by the mid-1980s," Marshall wrote in 2005.

    "Sound of Da Police" shouts out to the minimal, beat-driven style of the earliest hip-hop to come out of the Bronx on the turntables of DJ Kool Herc and the like. DJ Showbiz employs classic samples from Tyrone Washington's 1971 track "Submission," Grand Funk Railroad's 1969 "Inside Looking Out" and Sly and the Family Stone's 1969 "Sing a Simple Song." "Sound of Da Police" has since been sampled by dozens of other artists, most notably Jay-Z's 2001 track "The Takeover."

  • Calling Card

    "To me being hardcore is when you hit the core of your audience hard. To me, R. Kelly is hardcore," KRS-One told Vibe in 1995. This is one of a pretty much countless stream of quirky wisdoms and often contradictory worldviews from KRS-One, AKA The Teacher, whose name stands for Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone. After five years and six popular albums with Boogie Down Productions, "Sound of Da Police" became The Teacher's signature song, hitting the mid-1990s hard.

    For KRS-One, Return of the Boom Bap was essentially a comeback album. He had been the object of criticism in the early 1990s because of his shift towards soap-boxing and away from making music. Return was his first solo album album, and it was an unexpected critical and commercial success. KRS had moved towards more hard-line politics, but it didn't undermine his creative drive—many feel it enhanced it, as it marked a move away from crass, youthful "gangsta" lyrics and into KRS' bent for sharp critique. "Sound of Da Police" was the second of two singles released from the album and is now a hip-hop classic. These days, despite all antics and thanks to ten more solo albums and nearly a dozen successful collaborations, KRS-One is considered nothing less than "one of the founding figures of modern hip-hop" (Stephen Thomas Erlewin, Old School Rap and Hip-Hop, 48). "Sound of Da Police" an important and still party-worthy example of hip-hop's ability to link great beats with strong political statements.

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