In 1987, before mustached track bike hipster dicks, before Vice Magazine, Disney's dick in Times Square, and national tragedies, New York City was still a rough place, even rougher if you were young, black, and talented. The BDP crew knew this all too well, and when BDP member, Derrick "D Nice" Jones, was harassed and bullied by some toughs from the Highbridge projects in the South Bronx, he brought his most reasonable and respected neighborhood friend, Scott Monroe Sterling aka DJ Scott La Rock to help him smooth over the situation. It is unclear as to exactly what was said that night of August 27th, 1987, but as D Nice's Jeep Cherokee left Highbridge, it was sprayed with gunfire, and Scott La Rock was hit. When he arrived at Lincoln hospital he was conscious and was quite lucid, his friends and family had no reason to believe that he wouldn't survive the ordeal. However, DJ Scott La Rock was pronounced dead within an hour of the shooting, he died at the hospital, but did he have to? I don't want to open a can of worms as to the racial implications and disparity of treatment in medical facilities, I wish to avoid conspiracy theories, conjecture, and "what if" scenarios. Let's just leave it that it was a tragedy that probably needed not occur, a tragedy that truly robbed the world of a vibrant and creative performer on the verge of true greatness. I know I am not alone in wondering what Scott La Rock would have achieved had not a bullet and an avalanche of shitty decisions intervened so.
So what about the album that was left behind? Criminal Minded is a classic of proto hip hop and a perfect snapshot of life in the South Bronx at the end of the '80s. Criminal Minded can also boast a number of firsts, firsts that are now staples in hip hop and gangsta rap; it was the first rap record to feature the mebers brandishing firearms on the cover, the first to adopt a Jamaican toast-style delivery, the first to carry a first person crime narrative, and the first to carry any real beef/boast numbers with "South Bronx" and "The Bridge is Over" which were levelled directly at Queens based rappers Juice Crew. KRS One's voice is crisp, his delivery forceful and deliberate. The beats are simple and samples minimal. The end result is a primitive, early piece of hip hop history that alludes at bigger things to come, but still remains highly enjoyable two decades later. In my opinion, BDP's masterpiece was By Any Means Necessary, but it would have never come to be if not for Scott La Rock and Criminal Minded.