“I had just left Warner Bros. in 2000 because I had gotten tired of the corporate thing. I think everyone in hip-hop had started questioning its own roots, especially after 911. They started questioning whether hip-hop would remain cultural or whether it would go all the way out to the mainstream for good. And hip-hop actually chose culture. People like Missy Elliot, who had breakers in her videos, held hip-hop down ridiculously. Outkast held hip-hop down ridiculously. Lil Wayne held it down ridiculously with ‘Go DJ’. Everything was still mainstream, but there were a few acts that kept it hip-hop…kept it real cultural. But at the same time, there was some bullshit going on. I was tired of us making excuses about the police and the white man, and yet we turn around and start shucking and jiving. And I addressed this on The Sneak Attack. That record was prophetic, too. The Sneak Attack came out a little before 911. I remember when I dropped the video for single on that album called ‘Hot’. In that [clip], I’m coming across the Brooklyn Bridge with a bunch of people with me, and behind me the Twin Towers is burning. I remember BET stopped playing the video after the towers went down. This happened to a few artists. People were getting their albums taken off the shelves. This was hip-hop on some psychic shit.
But I was angry on The Sneak Attack. I was expressing my John the Baptist in the wilderness screaming at hip-hop to get its act together. I wanted MC’s to hone their skills and not just their bank accounts. While all this was going on me and Nelly started going at it. I’m a battle MC. You don’t challenge KRS-One to a battle and don’t expect to get one. I would have let it go, but Nelly challenged me. He did a remix with Freeway and Beanie Sigel where he called me out. And I said, ‘Well, there it is!’ It was an honor for me because I only battle people I respect. Before all this, me and Nelly actually knew each other. We shared the same attorney. I was supposed to do a record with the St. Lunatics (Nelly’s crew). I went to Electric Lady Studios to meet the Lunatics and they played me some beats and gave me a CD of tracks to rhyme over. But when the battle popped off one of the bitch ass producers called me up and said you can’t use the beat no more. I later found out Nelly thought I dissed him on this record called ‘Clear ‘Em Out’. But I clearly put out two press releases stating that I was not dissing Nelly because when I diss someone I don’t do it subliminally. I call out names.
But Nelly wanted to answer it and the industry hyped it up. So I put out ‘Ova Here’. I’m was saying, ‘The real hip-hop is ova here!’ We knew we weren’t going to sell as many albums as Nelly. And I called for a boycott of Nelly’s record, which I was heavily criticized for. People felt I took it too far, but I was speaking for the women at Spellman college who was saying that the [‘Tip Drill’] kind of rap needed not to be supported. But at the end of the day, people felt like the battle was stupid. Like why would KRS be battling Nelly? And Nelly why would you be so crazy to try to say something about KRS? We eventually made up. I was doing the 20th anniversary of the Stop the Violence record. And Nelly was the first artist there in the studio to do his part! We squashed it right there.”