Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

KRS-One’s New Album Offers Revolutionary Ideas for the Time “Between Da Protests”

KRS-One has been rapping since 1987 — three decades of expressing radical Black politics and not selling out. His new album Between Da Protests is a manifesto for Black Lives Matter.

Daniel Werst

March 31, 2021
Facebook Twitter Share
Two images: On the left, a black and white cover of KRS-one's new album "Between Da Protests," on the right a black and white headshot of the rapper.

Many self-described progressives, and even socialists such as AOC, are currently telling us to trust the Biden Administration. But in Between Da Protests, KRS-One directly attacks the two major capitalist parties in the United States. The album includes denunciations of police racism, boasts on his own rap skill, Black pride, and comments on raising consciousness. No surprise: KRS’ well-known “Sound of Da Police,” written after the Rodney King uprising in 1992, famously called the cops “overseers.”

Between Da Protests rises above the norms of pop culture and even KRS’ previous work with incisive, combative arguments. They come through unique, bumping songs. Rage is joined to a sober political analysis. Listen to this album.

The third track urges, “Don’t Fall For It … The whole system’s a set-up.” This song strikes at the core of the U.S. political system: “The Reps and the Dems are the same. This one’s shootin’ us up, that one’s lockin’ us up … No justice, but in four years they hypin’ us again.”

The album is effective because KRS investigates modes of hypocrisy in the official responses to the George Floyd uprising and places problems before listeners. The album points to a court system that has let off police for murdering Black people for decades. Police departments and prosecutors cover up these murders. No one can criticize “violence” unless they demand real action against these police crimes — including the logical next step of disarming and abolishing the police.

KRS offers a sophisticated examination of the contested ideological process. He attacks what he sees as bad-faith pretense by the major news and music corporations who embrace Black Lives Matter in words, but only in order to coopt, defuse, and defeat the movement.

He sharpens this analysis by asking about the class position of the people who control intellectual production and political organizations. A pivotal track depicts how capitalist politicians win hegemony over people of color through arrogant ideological maneuvers:

Watch them. Watch them.

They all tell lie.

Run up in their office with that boom bye bye.

Social injustice, they the reason why.

Hit these corporate thieves with that boom bye bye.

Now you want to come and act like you my guy.

These lines imply that social conflicts cannot be solved with words but must be solved by independent organizing of the oppressed.

Discussion of the brazen manipulation by bourgeois politicians and journalists fills the album. KRS explains that the system isn’t broken — it’s doing what it is built to do. Therefore he advocates revolution. Moderation in order to request a kinder, gentler and more just system does not work. And forceful, definite, and combative positions — far from being unrealistic by preventing negotiated reforms — are necessary to politically awaken, orient, and unite increasing layers of oppressed and working-class people.

“Don’t Fall For It” puts this argument in terms that echo James Baldwin and Malcolm X:


Yo, me, I’m not a fake dude, I’m’a keep it real real.

They see through it all, that ‘America needs to heal’ deal.

America ain’t really sick, this is what it really is:

Gunshots and cages for Black and Brown little kids.

Now they actin’ like they not the cause of how we live.

Do not tell me what you gonna do, I can see what you did

KRS goes on to ask if the interests of the Black working class are represented. He concludes that within U.S. capitalism, “democracy’s a joke” with an entrenched “white law monopoly.” He points to the ratcheting up of exploitation, poverty, and austerity, and says that the abuse of Black workers is fundamental to the capitalist economy — like, for example, the majority Black warehouse workers currently fighting to unionize at Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama.

What is to be done? KRS calls for Black self-determination. A critical understanding of the oppressors’ manipulative tactics is needed to prepare oppressed and working-class people for revolutionary action: “Yeah we all know it but nothing ever changes. They part of the system that puts us in cages. Time to break out, every race, all ages.”

The album offers an oblique attack against tendencies that depoliticize and weaken the oppressed — tendencies represented by the bureaucracies of the social movements. KRS asks what needs to be done to help the popular masses to raise their own level of perception of how the system operates. In his rap, the Democratic Party is nothing but a bourgeois “Range Rover” making minor adjustments while rolling the state forward in the same direction as before. Trying to “tempt me with the Maybach or the Bentley” stands for buying off rappers, either directly (to abandon social struggles) or insidiously (to twist literary production from social criticism into “soft porn” that encourages people not to think seriously about reality).

Discussing Black power, KRS contrasts militant analysis with “fantasy” and “crap” which can be propagated by commercialized music or accommodationist political leaders. The two dialectical poles for this album are organizing for an effective form of Black power and “all the lies” that the ruling class must reproduce in order to survive. This calls for anti-capitalist Black revolutionary politics. Socialists should pay attention to strategies for effectively applying what Marx called “the weapon of criticism” to the living social system. Attacking the hypocrisies, developing working-class action against racism, and establishing a movement independent of all the capitalists is what the socialist strategy should be. And this album points right in that direction.

Facebook Twitter Share

Daniel Werst

Daniel is a teacher, former carpenter, and long-term socialist living in Indianapolis.

Guest Posts

Strikers at Rich Foods in the Los Angeles area pose with picket signs

Factory Workers Strike against Poverty Pay, Abuse by Management at Rich Products Plant in L.A. Area

Since November 3, the group of well over 100 strikers has been on the picket line at the Rich Products-owned Jon Donaire Desserts plant, demanding better wages, improved retirement benefits, and changes to the company’s abusive, punitive point system, which provides workers with only three days of sick leave per year.

Edgar Reyes

November 28, 2021
A burning building in Minnesota at night. A protester walks by with a flag.

Our Revolutionary Movement in the Twilight of Empire

The uncontested hegemony of U.S. imperialism on the world stage is slowly faltering. The United States needs a coherent revolutionary organization today — united around common answers to the most fundamental questions of the period.

Coco Smyth

November 27, 2021

Algorithms of Exploitation: Class Struggle in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence, the pride of the modern tech industry, is built on the misery of the people that make it possible in the first place.

Ryan Stanton

November 11, 2021

1,000 West Virginia Hospital Workers Are Going on Strike Today

Hospital workers in West Virginia are set to join the more than 20,000 U.S. workers currently on strike.

Mike Elk

November 3, 2021

MOST RECENT

France’s Openly Racist Presidential Candidate Makes It Official

Éric Zemmour officially declared his candidacy in next spring’s French presidential elections, in an online video replete with open racism and xenophobia aimed at “saving France.”

Scott Cooper

November 30, 2021

The IMF Is a Weapon Against Women — They Have the Power to Fight Against It

The International Monetary Fund, based in Washington, has a very particular gender perspective. The adjustment plans it negotiates with the governments of debtor countries fall on the backs of working people, and it is women from the poorest households who are most affected. These effects are universal across the globe. This article uses Argentina to make the case.

Andrea D'Atri

November 30, 2021
Three French soldiers deployed to Operation Barkhane in the Sahel

Another Attack on Protesters by French Troops in Africa, This Time Killing Three

Demonstrators demanding the departure of French troops from Operation Barkhane in the African Sahel region blocked a French army convoy last Saturday, and the soldiers and Nigerian police opened fire, killing three and injuring 17, 10 of them seriously.

Augustin Tagèl

November 30, 2021

Help Left Voice Get Louder: Support Independent Revolutionary Socialist Journalism

This Giving Tuesday, donate to Left Voice!

Left Voice

November 30, 2021