It didn't take long after the emergence of rap at the turn of the 1980s for artists to begin tackling social and political topics, but it was midway through the decade before such lyrics could match or even overshadow the simple party anthems and posturing that remain at the form's core even today. While his phrasing may seem badly outdated and his beats perhaps tame by today's standards, KRS-One and the late DJ Scott La Rock were a head of their time with tracks as diverse as "My Philosophy," a track critical of then current hip-hop culture, and "Sound of Da Police," which pointed the direction West Coast rap in particular would take over the next few years. Throughout his heyday, KRS warned against emerging rappers going for the quick buck ("Love is Gonna Get'Cha") taught them to avoid trendy gimmicks ("I'm Still #1"). By the turn of the 1990s, however, rap had taken a turn that even "the teacher" couldn't predict. Violence and misogyny sold far more records than lectures about knowledge and vegetarianism. That being said, A Retrospective works best as a solid history lesson of raps first great transitional period, and most importantly, of the man who led it, proving it was possible to be intelligent, literate, and insightfully critical of the emergent hip-hop culture while still remaining true to its roots.
AllMusic Review by John Duffy