Rating: 3 out of 5 Potholes
Though not materializing until the twilight of both rapper’s careers, KRS-One and Buckshot had intended to work together from as far back as 1993, and while KRS describes Survival Skills as “the straight up and down MC’in project” that the two had always wanted to make, it would be somewhat unfair to suggest that the album sounds entirely labored as a result.
“Survival Skills” opens the album, setting the tone for much of it with dark, bouncing synths and sparse drums as KRS-One and Buckshot approach with a distinct aggression. A scathing attack on Auto-Tune follows with “‘Robot” (which actually pre-dates Jay-Z’s like-minded “D.O.A.” single), combining utter disdain for the much reviled musical trend and genuine humor in Buckshot’s brutally honest exchange with, yes, that’s right: a robot. There is a surprising collaboration with Mary J. Blige on ‘The Way I Live”, supported by a typically triumphant Black Milk beat, but even so, the flow between these first few tracks is almost seamless. Unfortunately, this eventually becomes a little jarring, as while there is nothing particularly awful to be found here (apart from the cover, that is), it turns out that there is also very little which dramatically stands out or breaks free from the album’s general sound.
The lyrical content also adds to such repetitiveness, and in true KRS-One fashion, the constant complaining of Hip-Hop’s ills becomes tedious; so much so in fact, that Buckshot, a rapper slightly less known for his preaching, becomes dragged into the frenzy of moaning that dominates the album. Despite this, however, both artists must be commended for the undoubtable sense of passion that they display, even if it would have been far more successful in moderation.
Though the album falls short in its lack of variation, it must be said that the title is not completely unnecessary, and instead testament to the fact that the duo can make a pretty contemporary piece of work in 2009 without it being a complete disaster. Survival Skills might not stay long in the memory of even those who are initially impressed. But it is, at the very least, proof that KRS-One and Buckshot still have something to say.