Self Destruction

KRS-One, et. al., 1988

The song opens with a sample of a speech by Malcolm X. Who was Malcolm X? Why do you think KRS-One included this excerpt of his words?

KRS-One criticizes the stereotype that "all ghetto kids want to do is sell drugs and rob each other." How has he worked to counter that stereotype in his career? How does the song "Self Destruction" challenge that stereotype?

Who is this song addressed to? What are the rappers trying to get across to these audiences?

The rappers critique "black on black crime" as "self destruction." What do they mean by "black on black crime"?

In recent years, public discussion of "black on black crime" has been criticized as a diversion from police violence and other issues of systemic racism. What has happened since the release of "Self Destruction" that has caused some people's perceptions of "black on black crime" to change?

"Self Destruction" performed by The Stop the Violence Movement. Available on Spotify and YouTube.

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KRS-One (short for Kris Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone) was born Lawrence Parker in 1965 and is known as Krisna or Kris among friends. He left his family in Brooklyn at a young age to chase his dream of becoming an emcee, and he quickly found himself in a homeless shelter, where he met Scott "La Rock" Sterling (1962–87). Sterling worked as a social worker at the shelter while spinning records at night. La Rock and KRS-One formed a duo, calling themselves BDP (for Boogie Down Productions). In 1987 La Rock was murdered, and KRS-One continued BDP with other collaborators.

Stop the Violence Self Destruction album cover

"Self Destruction" album cover.

That same year, violence erupted at BDP concerts, and the following year a fan was killed. In response, KRS-One started Stop the Violence Movement, an organization that advocated for peace. To further the group's cause, he lectured at universities and wrote numerous op-eds. He said, "World peace is the issue. I want to be remembered as the first ghetto kid to jump up for world peace, because the stereotype is that all ghetto kids want to do is sell drugs and rob each other" (National Urban League, p. 31).

Composed and performed by some of the best-known rappers in East Coast hip-hop, "Self Destruction" was created to spread the message of Stop the Violence Movement. KRS-One wrote the opening rap, and other segments were written and performed by M.C. Delite, Kool Moe Dee, M.C. Lyte, Daddy-O & Wise, D-Nice, Ms. Melodie, Doug E. Fresh, Just-Ice, Heavy D, Fruit-Kwan, and Chuck D & Flavor Flav.

The release of the music video was coordinated with a rally in Harlem. With a group of high school students, the rappers and others associated with Stop the Violence marched from the Apollo Theater to the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building. The marchers carried a coffin to symbolize the violence they repudiated, and once they reached their destination they held a press conference and gave the first public screening of the music video.

To further promote the movement and raise public awareness, in 1989 a documentary about Stop the Violence Movement and the music video for "Self Destruction" was released. Entitled Overcoming Self-Destruction—the Making of the Self Destruction Video, the hour-long film includes interviews with the organization's artists and concludes with the full music video.



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