Honorable Mentions: Beastie Boys “Paul Revere,” Run-DMC “Peter Piper,” Biz Markie “Make the Music With Your Mouth Biz”
As dope as the beat to Run-DMC’s “Peter Piper” may be, that “Little Bo Peep” shit is dead. There’s no fronting on Rick Rubin’s trippy reverse-snares on “Paul Revere,” but “Here’s a little story”…“a little horsey”—seriously? Marley Marl’s drums on “Make the Music With Your Mouth Biz”? Hard as hell. But every other record—especially anything made in Queens—was rendered irrelevant as soon as Ced Gee and Scott La Rock unleashed the debut single from Boogie Down Productions, a B-Boy Records 12” single called “South Bronx.”
And so, “due to the fact that no one else out there knew what time it was,” KRS One did in fact attack, and in doing so set off an epic musical conflict known as “The Bridge Wars.” The beat sounded like an Uzi spraying up your block, and the lyrics were a lyrical drive-by shooting. “You got dropped off MCA ’cause the rhymes you wrote was wack.” (Ouch!) MC Shan’s major label debut, (“Feed the World,”)[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Edw_rot0RfM] did in fact turn into a one-and-done scenario. The truth hurts, especially when it’s being rubbed in your face on the hottest diss record in the streets.
It was not an unprovoked attack. MC Shan forced BDP’s hand with a song called “The Bridge,” which may or may not have asserted that hip-hop “got its start out in Queensbridge.” Whatever the case, KRS begged to differ: “If you pop that junk up in the Bronx you might not live.”
Crossfading between Blastmaster and teacher mode, KRS wove a lengthy hip-hop history lesson into the song’s second verse, shouting out DJs Coke La Rock, Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash—as well as B-Boy posses like the Nine Lives Crew, the Cypress Crew, and Rock Steady—evoking memories of jams in Cedar Park and Bronx River powered by electricity jacked from lamp posts. Before long KRS brought it back to the battle: “As odd as it looked, as wild as it seemed/I didn’t hear a peep from a place called Queens.”
KRS was always more than a rapper—right from the start he was a renegade teacher and scholar, a satirist, polemicist and most of all, a Blastmaster. As such, his lyrics were tools of war, which he kept sharpened to a lethal edge. “South Bronx” was the most lethal diss record in hip-hop up to that point, setting off not a battle but an interborough war, paving the way for joints like “The Bridge Is Over” and all that followed, from “Bitch in Yoo” to “Hit Em Up” to “Who Shot Ya,” from “Ether” to “The Takeover.” But you know what they say: the first cut is the deepest. —RK