1988 was a challenging, but defining year for KRS-ONE and Boogie Down Productions.
The group's DJ and mentor Scott "Scott La Rock" Sterling was murdered in August 1987, they had just left B Boy Records, who released their debut album Criminal Minded, and the musical direction of the group was unclear. In April 1988, BDP released their second full-length album, By All Means Necessary, which was a play on civil rights activist Malcolm X's popular speech "By Any Means Necessary."
By All Means Necessary continued the usage of the sample-based production that was featured on Criminal Minded, but the production and sound quality were much more sophisticated than their debut.
"My Philosophy" is the perfect single to introduce a more socially engaged KRS-ONE.
BDP member and sound engineer Ivan "DJ Doc" Rodriguez explained the improvement in sound quality to Rock The Bells.
“The quality of the sound on B Boy Records was so low fi because the owner of B Boy (or whoever handled the B Boy account at Power Play Studios) would prefer to record onto used tape," he said. "Where a new tape might cost $175, a used tape may have been $80. 'Criminal Minded' was done on used tape. Also, we worked in the A room, and because of their budget, the quality of equipment in that room produced the sound that you heard on those recordings. I did the best with what was given to me. If you listen to Criminal Minded and By All Means Necessary it’s like night and day because we used new tape and recorded on an SSL board as opposed to an analog console."
The lead single from By All Means Necessary was "My Philosophy," an impactful song that still resonates. The KRS-ONE produced track with its clever interpolation of "Sister Sanctified" by Stanley Turrentine was a perfect fit for KRS' dissertation on Hip-Hop at the time. His "My Philosophy" performance is still celebrated as one of his best, with enduring bars like: "Some MC's be talkin' and talkin'/tryin' to show how Black people are walkin'/but I don't walk this way to portray and reinforce stereotypes of today/like all my brothers eat chicken and watermelon/talk broken English and drug sellin'/see I'm tellin' and teachin' pure facts/ the way some act in rap is kinda wack/and it lacks creativity and intelligence/but they dont care 'cus their companies sellin' it."
"My Philosophy" is a 5-minute and 36-second master class on poetic lyricism, and the perfect single to introduce a more socially engaged KRS-ONE.
"My Philosophy" also marked the first video from KRS and Boogie Down Productions. The black-and-white video's introduction contains a portrait of Scott La Rock with his children and cuts to BDP member and KISS 98 DJ Red Alert's children playing with Scott's children. The powerful scene then cuts to KRS reciting an acapella portion of the song's first verse before the beat drops.
The custom BDP leather gear and scenes of KRS performing before a live audience make for one of the year's best videos which was a favorite on the newly formed Yo! MTV Raps program. By All Means Necessary marked a change in the lyrical output of KRS, with his content taking on a more socio-political and later spiritual tone.
"Jimmy", "I'm Still #1," "Stop The Violence" and "Part Time Suckers" would cement By All Means... as one of 1988's many classic releases.