The Kazimier
7th August 2015

Reviewed by Tom Calderbank

Let’s start by saying what you probably already know or can guess: this was an INCREDIBLE gig, and you should have been there. Everyone here overstood how truly blessed we were to welcome the legendary KRS-One to Liverpool for his city debut. This was a Hip Hop masterclass, from one of the greats of the genre.

It was also a lesson in history, philosophy, physics/metaphysics, psychology, street poetry and humanity. Completely dazzling.

For those who don’t know about our man Kris, here’s a crash course, which I’m shamelessly ripping from the Kaz’s press release. Lazy, I know, but it absolutely nails it, and sums up why Nerve sent me here.

“From the Boogie Down Bronx: Mr Big Joe Krash, Teacha, The Blastmaster himself, finally making his Liverpool debut – KRS ONE. Undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the history of hip-hop and a true pioneer of the genre, KRS came up in the late 80’s, as part of Boogie Down Productions with D-Nice and DJ Scott La Rock.

In 1987, the trio dropped seminal LP Criminal Minded, one of the first albums to deal with ‘gangsta’ and street themes, that would mark and influence future gangsta rap and hardcore hiphop artists.

After the tragic murder of Scott La Rock in ’89, KRS saw a marked shift in the lyrical content of his songs, moving away from the violent themes that marked his earlier work and towards the ‘edutainment’ social commentary style that he would become most famous for: spitting lyrics that cast a caustic and critical eye on American society and dealing more closely with themes like Afro-centrism, religion, politics and repression.

Fifteen plus albums later and KRS-One still continues to be one of the most outspoken and important figures in hip-hop, whether its being at the forefront of leading discussion on social and political issues, challenging the listener to confront and think about the ails of modern society or dropping stone-cold, head-nod classics, his position as one of the greats of the genre is set in stone. A real one-off, don’t miss out on seeing a genuine hip-hop legend in Liverpool’s Spiritual Home of Hip-Hop.”

Yeah. What they said.

I was gratified to see a long queue waiting to get in. Is right. It’s only manners that the Scouse branch of the Hip Hop nation turned out in force. 500 tickets sold. I’ve never SEEN the mighty, mighty Kaz so rammed, and that’s saying something. Once inside, the atmosphere was beyond electric.

DJ Premier was mixing up a storm, old skool, and from the skool they demolished to build the old skool. Grabbed a pint and headed into ‘rat alley’ with me mates, for a cig and a cool down – it’s seriously hot in the spot tonight.

Then it was time.

Premier played a couple of intro tunes from Gang Starr (RIP Guru), MOP, Nas, Snoop and Dre. Fitting, as Dre’s new album ‘Compton’ is released this very day. Chris was backstage dropping in the occasional line: “Turn the music up!” and “Crack that steel!”. Then he hits the stage.

The stage didn’t know what hit it.

He comes on to ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop’ and stakes his claim to his title. A dope emcee is a dope emcee, indeed. He tells us that we’re going freestyle, that Scott la Rock is with us, and that The Real Hip Hop Is Over Here. He starts counting down from 10, then launches into ‘Can’t Wake Up (I’m A Blunt)’ from 1993’s ‘Return of the Boom Bap’. As he starts rapping “I’m a blunt getting smoked and I can’t wake up”, I’m hit again by the true spirit of the real Hip Hop. The excitement and energy that one emcee and one DJ can generate is a thing of wonder.

Throughout the show, he’s the culture itself, talking about the culture itself.

He launches into a personal favourite, ‘Out of Here’. “This is the realness, you can feel this.” Tune and a half. THEN, earlier than I’d expected, he unleashes ‘Sound Of Da Police’. The place, as they say, goes wild. For me, this is what it was like when I saw Dillinger singing ‘Cocaine (Running Around My Brain)’ at The Picket, with Jayne Casey dancing on the bar. A real ‘I Was There’ moment. How many times have you heard and appreciated this song? An absolute, no-contest classic, performed magnificently. As he says, emphatically: “It’s about JUSTICE”. Well, we know all about the search for that in this town….

Then it’s ‘Invaders’, a song about Mexican people really owning the bits of America that were stolen from them. His shout that “No human being is illegal,” is particularly moving and spot on in the light of the current plight of the migrants in Calais and elsewhere.

‘MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know’ takes me right back.

Then Kris says he’s going to take us to a higher level, and begins rapping over Vivaldi. He’s taking us to a higher level, here taking in the history of Hip Hop. 73: Cool Herc, 74: Africa Bambataa, 75: Crazy Legs, 76: Grandmaster Flash, 77: The term ‘Hip Hop’ is coined, 78: Cold Crush, 79: Sugar Hill Gang, 80: Mercedes, 81: Funky 4 plus 1, 82: Wild Style, 83: Run DMC, 85: Roxanne Shanti, 86: KRS 1….

Incredible that he’s been killing mics for getting on 30 years. Then he goes back to the beginning, to the source, with ‘South Bronx’ from his incendiary debut album ‘Criminal Minded’, copies of which some of the audience brandished in the air like the weapon it is.

The next tune declares “They declared a War on Drugs and drugs won.” Then he gives ‘biters’ the bum’s rush and shows real self-awareness – and the clichés of the genre - with his line that “Every emcee checks the mic with ‘1, 2’, ending the tune saying it himself. Then, like a Hip Hop Time Machine, he brings it raw from ‘86 with ‘J-I-M-M-Y.’ Finally he gets his jacket off, with his t-shirt saying: 'Knowledge Reigns Supreme’. He freestyles effortlessly with the audience. A lovely moment came when he singled out a guy from the crowd wearing a Scott la Rock t-shirt, and signed his back, saying: “That’s my best friend, right there”.

In an ideal world, every lighter in the place would have sparked into life.

Then he did something amazing. Over a soul-shaking bassline, he spoke about his ‘future me’, waiting in the hotel at 3, looking back on his earlier him now on stage. There is no time or space, they’re an illusion. There’s no space between us, only air, and there’s all sorts of things going on in the air. Look at how you move through air like you move through water. Creating ripples. We all have electromagnetic force fields, sending out waves in the world. We attract what we think. Think positive thoughts and good things will come. Walk with sad or hateful thoughts and you’ll attract that shit. Opportunity or disaster depends largely on your perception. Then he tells us that he’s watching his 3 am self, who has now joined him on stage, next to the mic stand. That was the moment my mind went inside down and upside out.

When he told us that “Donald Trump is a devil”, you didn’t doubt it.

Coming to the end of his time with us, he said that this was the most intimate audience he’s played to on this current European tour. “This is like my living room.” He ended his amazing show with ‘Black Cop’. The roar of the crowd as he left was heartfelt and filled with love.

I liked that Premier brought the sound level down during the verses, so you could do that rare thing in live Hip Hop – actually hear what the bloody emcee is saying. And this was a man you needed to hear.

This was Hip Hop as cosmic intelligence, and Kris is an ascended Master.

Tonight, KRS-One showed just why he holds his place in the pantheon of the greats.


One final word about the venue. The Kazimier.

We’re gonna reeeeaaaally miss it, man…

The Kaz has brought us a feast, an embarrassment of riches, during its all too brief butterfly stay. My God, any other city in the world would give its eye teeth for a place like this. And we’re just throwing it away.

“It’s brilliant, so let’s fuck it off.” Very Liverpool.

As if to underline and cement its importance to the city, just tomorrow – right after hosting KRS 1, for crying out loud - they’re putting on the 12 hour ‘FESTEVOL, Part 2’, with the cream of our musical talent. 20 bands, and much, much more.

I like what the Kaz crew say, though: like George Harrison, they overstand that ‘all things must pass’. It was only ever here to meet a need for a moment in time. The KAZ was a TAZ, a Temporary Autonomous Zone.

If there’s the need (there is), and the will (there might be), then another iconic venue will rise and take its place. For we Liverpolitans, who’ve seen so many beloved venues bite the dust, the imminent loss of The Kaz is still a bitter pill to swallow. I’d just like to say to all involved in running the venue, a big phat THANK YOU.

But hang on, I forgot to check me nostalgia watch: ITS NOT DEAD YET!!!

My plea to you, dear reader: if you’ve never been, you’ve got until the end of this year, after which you will only be able to look on enviously as folks wax lyrical and misty eyed whenever the name of The Kaz is mentioned, in the same breath as The Cavern or Eric’s. Any gig will do, as their booking policy is impeccable.

Here’s a hot tip for you, true Nerve crew: next Friday, 14th August, at The Kaz, Babadub will be launching their tasty debut album ‘The Restoration’. Bargain of the year at £3 in.

Hope to see you there, sweaty and smiling on the octagonal dance floor, dancing in the maw of Eternity….

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