Parker was born and raised in the Bronx, New York, US, eventually moving out on his own at 16 to pursue a career as an MC. During this time he lived in a homeless shelter and was endowed with the nickname Krishna by his fellow residents due to his interest in the Hare Krishna faith. Parker shortly after met youth counselor Scott Sterling (DJ Scott La Rock) and formed the hip-hop group Boogie Down Productions in 1985.
With BDP he helped originate early forms of conscious rap and gangsta-hip hop. Also alongside groups like Public Enemy, he was one of the few rap artist that emphasized political issues and the gravity of social dynamics at hand.
2 years after the group’s formation they released their landmark debut “Criminal Minded”. Sterling was tragically shot and killed the same year as the album’s release, which marked an undeniably dramatic alteration in the band’s sound and style.
The line up of BDP shifted constantly with KRS-One being the only consistent member. The aggressive tones and violent themes that plagued the group’s first album were replaced by soul-tinted beats and more socially conscious lyrics. As BDP continued to release albums they became progressively more political and much of the pent up angst underlying “Criminal Minded” resurfaced, reaching an all time high for the 1992 release “Sex and Violence”.
Though BDP lasted only 5 more years after the death of Sterling, they produced an additional 4 albums and went on to influence a plethora of important rap artists like Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Redman, and Aesop Rock.
KRS-One’s studio debut “Return of the Boom Bap” came out in 1993 through Jive Records. The album reached No. 37 on the Billboard 200 and No. 5 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart and received very positive reviews amongst critics. His self-titled follow up did even better on the charts rising to No. 19 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums. This release also featured several prominent hip-hop artists of the time such as Method Man, Rakim, Mr. Magic, Jeru, The Damaja, and MC Shan. Krs-One was at the top of his game in 1997. This year he released his 3rd studio album “I Got Next” to rave reviews and widespread commercial acceptance. It became his best selling album to date peaking to No. 3 on the Billboard 200.
KRS-One went on a brief hiatus after this release, but made up for the time away with a consistent release of albums throughout the 2000s: “The Sneak Attack” (2001), “Spiritual Minded” (2002), “The Mixtape” (2002), “Kristyles (2003), “Keep Right” (2004), “Life” (2006) and “Adventures in Emceein” (2008). Also this decade KRS-One released several compilation albums such as 2000’s “A Retrospective” and 2003’s “D.I.G.I.T.A.L.”. A couple collaborative and live albums were also thrown into the mix.
He entered the next decade releasing “Back to the L.A.B. (Lyrical Ass Beating)” and followed that up with a throw back to his early hip hop days on the album “The BDP Album”. “Just Like That” and the EP “Never Forget” came out a year later.
In addition to his hip-hop career, KRS-One is also a political activist and social movement organizer. He created the “Stop the Violence Movement” in 1988/1989 in order to raise awareness of violence in the black and hip-hop communities (specifically it was a response to the death of his friend and former band mate Scott Sterling).
KRS-One has also written a book entitled “The Gospel of Hip Hop”, which is intended to be an alternative to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The 600 page text is considered the blue print for the rap religion.