The “survival skills” in question are of course surviving in this game known as hip-hop, or at least the financial and commercial game. Both KRS and Buckshot talk about how you really need not only skills, but the knowledge on how to survive in a wicked marketplace, or you’ll end up in someone’s mental cut-out bin before you know it.
At first I wasn’t sure what to expect with this album. I’m a huge fan of both of these MC’s, but what I liked about it was that their input is equally balanced. I call them “elder statesmen” because that’s what they are, and you hear age and real life experiences in their voices, especially in tracks like “Clean Up Crew”, “Connection”, “Thing Of All The Things” (the latter featuring K’naan) and “Amazin'”. KRS is no longer the guy who had Scott La Rock next to him, but you hear someone who has the battle scars, seen the verbal and literal feuds, and isn’t afraid to attack even while he is preaching peace. Then you have Buckshot, whose days as a “Shorty” made him someone to watch and listen to in the mid-90’s. Today, his swagger and sly attitude is still heard in his lyrics, and he’s more confident in his singing that doesn’t go overboard nor is it destroyed by bad sound effects or filters. In fact, “Robot” is a middle finger to Auto-Tune and more specifically to artists who choose to show their lack of talent and skills over a messed up voice effect that had been done, and better, by the likes of Kraftwerk, Afrika Bambaataa, and Roger Troutman. These guys aren’t so much angry as they are pissed at how the music has been molded into something else. One may argue that newer audiences mean a new approach to the music, but these scholars are saying that artists and fans need to take it back to the essence, because not many people today have it or know what it is. When Slug of Atmosphere joints them in “We Made It”, one can only imagine Slug being approved as someone with substance and skills.
A few people on various online boards have said that the cover art is corny and should have never been approved. It might be that, but I also interpret it as two guys who are not afraid to brave the elements. They aren’t just guys who rhyme lazily just because it sounds good with funky beats. To say this is yet another return to the boom bap would be too easy, for fans who know and respect hip-hop will tell you that “the real” has always been amongst us. Yet it’s perhaps not a coincidence that this was released at a time of the music’s uncertainty. What this album becomes is a guidebook full of lessons and tips on how to keep the traditions alive and vibrant. The dawn is not here yet.