Since his instant classic verse off “Make ‘Em Pay” on Moment of Truth, the seminal fifth album from the iconic outfit Gang Starr, Krumb Snatcha’s represented Massachusetts hip-hop at an international level. That track earned him a coveted “Hip-Hop Quotable” designation from the Source magazine, even as Krumb was incarcerated at the time, and had been shot several times three years prior.
In the decades since, Lawrence native Krumb has maintained a mysterious and enlightened reputation. Notably, the legendary DJ Premier released his third album, Respect All Fear None, on D&D Records in 2002. Complementing Krumb’s rhymes, production from an all-star line-up including The Alchemist and Premier himself helped the project earn critical acclaim.
After dropping three more albums, Krumb temporarily retired from hip-hop in 2012, telling fans, “I have decided to honor my commitment to the youth.” Still, he slayed a verse on the 2017 track “Nomads” with M-Dot, and more recently resurfaced with Iron Will Ninja School, which Krumb released on his own Mind Power Ent. label (he also has something in the works with Da Beatminerz).
I spoke with Krumb about his latest project, Unreleased, which features 15 years worth of never-heard-before bangers, as well as his work with young people and the issue of police brutality, which he has specifically addressed in his music since the ’90s.
Did hip-hop come to you at an early age? How important is creativity as an outlet for the youth?
I’ve always been involved with the culture since around nine years old. My sister’s father was a DJ and played UTFO’s “Roxanne, Roxanne,” and that is when I started to write rhymes. As for the youth, hip-hop—and the arts—is the most enriching avenue to understanding, healing, and coming together as people. Being able to share your story and relate to others who come from a similar place is extremely powerful.
How has your life experience impacted your art? Tell us about the martial arts-themed Iron Will Ninja Shinobi project.
Every album I have released, I am putting my life’s story for that given time. It’s a way of self-expression, and I do it not only for myself but for others who are facing similar struggles. Right before I put out Shinobi, I was working with kids at a martial arts camp for seven years after “retiring” from hip-hop. Following the passing of my mentor, Guru [in 2010], I felt a strong urge to come back and continue the legacy, so I made the album Shinobi for martial arts/hip-hop fans alike.
What does it mean to be considered a legend from the Boston scene?
It’s humbling. A lot of artists get burnt out and don’t last long in this industry. It takes a lot out of a person when you are pouring everything you have into your art and don’t get the proper recognition. It takes an iron will. It’s the love of hip-hop music and the culture and the art of expression through music which keeps me going. The Boston hip-hop scene has brought so many great talents, most of which do not get recognized. Being from the Boston area means building bridges with other like-minded artists and keeping the movement alive.
What has your inclusion in the Gang Starr Foundation meant to you as a person, an MC, and as an artist ultimately getting validation from some classic peers?
It was, and still is, a great honor to have been chosen by these hip-hop pioneers to take me under their belt and grow alongside them.
You’ve gotten production from some absolute legends. Do you have a preferred production style or sound you go far?
I usually listen to a plethora of beats from different producers, and go with what feels right. It all depends on the direction of the album, and what demographic I am trying to reach.
From early personal struggles to early professional recognition, you’ve probably learned a great deal of both academic and off-the-record knowledge. How important is the value of education?
I believe education is first and foremost, and I don’t believe there is good or bad knowledge. All knowledge is valuable and is the key to life itself. The perfect example is Jay-Z, who took his street smarts to create a billion-dollar empire. As Biggie put it, “the sky is the limit.” I am constantly reading various books, from religion to spirituality and beyond. It not only keeps my mind balanced, but it also gives me ideas to write about.
What does your “W.O.L.V.E.S.” mean today? How has police brutality and systemic oppression affected you and your area?
Well, basically W.O.L.V.E.S. has always stayed with the same meaning—Warriors Organizing Life Values Escaping Struggle. And basically what that means is we are the protectors and educators of our community. It is an ongoing struggle to have the same equal rights as some other Americans are afforded. We need to police our own communities and be more involved with our youth.
I have suffered my own brutality at the hands of law enforcement, but it has only enlightened me more on the ongoing struggles that affect minority communities. I believe if we come together and have some type of dialogue, then we will understand each other and our situation more clearly. We have minorities in law enforcement and I believe they need to be more involved in policing their own. It is truly a testament today on the frustration globally on communities and the departments that police them. I believe W.O.L.V.E.S. will be the voice of that struggle. We all have experiences that are traumatic for us and others close to us. If we stand united and show that we are one people-one voice, then I believe we will be heard. I use my music and voice for such.
What are your thoughts on the protests going on in Boston and across the country?
I’m really surprised to see the whole country and abroad stand up to the brutality and oppression that a lot of minorities suffer the world over. I just hope that the right ears are listening. People are tired of being treated less than human in every affair of life. This was something that was needed and has to be addressed now before we can heal and get back to being a great nation and leader of the global community.
Check out all of Krumb’s latest releases at mindpowerent.bandcamp.com.
Matteo is a proud product of Boston and carries the city in his heart always. His two new books - Machetes Dipped In Rum and Deep In The Dark With The Art - drop Fall 2020.