During the 1980s, copious amounts of artists were thriving in hip-hop. From KRS-One to LL Cool J, there was an unfathomable amount of rappers, all of whom had varying styles. Although this may sound like a fantastic thing, for a while, it meant that every base was covered stylistically.
With this being the case, it became increasingly difficult for something or someone new and refreshing to come in and shake things up. Various types of MCs had seemingly exhausted the spectrum of creativity. However, Blast Master and MC Shan soon shook things up when they had a legendary battle with Boogie Down Productions (BDP) and, according to MC Shan, it saved hip-hop and put a stop to the cultural rut.
MC Shan was part of a legendary New York rap battle that is commonly referred to as ‘The Bridge Wars’. Referencing the area of Queensbridge, the battle was between two crews BDP from the Bronx and the Juice Crew of Queens. MC Shan was in a very intense lyrical battle with the iconic South Bronx artist KRS-One. Standing for ‘Knowledge Reigns Supreme’ (KRS) KRS-One is considered one of the forefathers of conscious rap music. Also considered one of New York’s most potent lyricists during the 1980s, it would be no easy feat to beat him. However, MC Shan was up for the challenge.
Speaking to hip-hop music publication Rock The Bells, the Queensbridge native signified the importance of his feud with KRS-One, declaring, “That battle saved Hip-Hop.” Recollecting the period, he continued, “Hip-Hop was at a standstill. We had all the Kid ‘n’ Plays, we had all the Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s, we had all the Kwamés, we had the MC Shans with the gimmicks: The left shoe and right shoe different colours. Hip-Hop came to a point where it was about to be what them people said it was, it was about to die.”
Further elaborating on hip-hop’s predicament during the ’80s, MC Shan explained that acts such as Salt ‘n’ Pepa and Kriss-Kross had diluted the culture and made insinuated that it had become so mainstream it had lost touch with its rebellious roots. However, he believes that the ‘Bridge Wars’ reversed that, claiming, “Then came the original element of hip-hop on the record side, as opposed to me hearing Busy Bee and Moe Dee battling on cassettes. That record [‘Kill That Noise’] and battle crossed the world and it took Hip-Hop back to its original element with what me and Kris did. It wasn’t about the dancing and all that. It was like ‘Oh, that’s Hip-Hop.’”
For the most part, the battle was purely through records and never turned violent or physical. However, MC Shan did say things in the city got tense especially with regard to people from the Bronx and Queens. Speaking on the period before their war Shan recalled, “It did start to get a little dangerous leading up to the battle, because he wasn’t no punk and I wasn’t either.” Shan notes that what proceeded to happen is that he and KRS-One (real name Lawrence ‘Kris’ Parker) did a series of shows together in which they tried to outperform each other. He highlighted how, this way the two made money out of their rivalry.
The Queens rapper recollected, “He ran with a crew and I ran with a crew, so if anything popped off it was gonna be something but we were well past any type of beefing by the time it all went down. Very early in the beginning what we figured out with each other was, if we go into it just fighting, we’re not gonna make any money. These venues wanna see us at a show together, and me and Kris did hundreds of shows together, but we figured it out early on that whatever we got going on was for the stage, but once we get off stage, we can go and I’ll sip a whizzle, and you can drink your gator water or whatever you do, but that’s what it came down to.”
The ‘Bridge Wars’ were legendary and there was more than one. Scott La Rock, the other half of BDP also had input and so did othe rmembers of the Juice Crew. However, you can hear the two songs that started the battle in the videos below.