I didn’t know about the Queensbridge/Bronx hip-hop wars because a) I lived in suburban Detroit from 1984-1987 and b) even though I spent summers in NYC, I lived in Brooklyn, not Queens or The Bronx. I barely knew people outside my block, let alone my borough. I feel like this particular battle didn’t register with me until I’d moved back to New York. And only then after my uncle played a mixtape that started with “The Bridge Is Over” relentlessly during the summer of ‘88–nearly a year after Boogie Down Productions’ DJ Scott La Rock was murdered (not as a result of this particular beef).
Old school hip-hop was all about battles, answer records and dis records. When MC Shan (with the help of producer Marley Marl) proclaimed that rap music began in the Queensbridge Projects on his song “The Bridge”, two Bronx residents named KRS-ONE and Scott La Rock (with the help of radio personality Kool DJ Red Alert) took offense. “The Bridge Is Over” is a scathing rebuttal. And, uh, pretty much anything said or written about the topic complains that hip-hop did start in the Bronx.
“The Bridge Is Over” was my introduction to the talented loudmouth KRS-ONE. This was back in the day when you could appreciate the former Lawrence Parker for his rhyming availability and not his ridiculous pronouncements to the press. As hip-hop transitioned from the gold chain/boombox days into what became the “golden era”, KRS’s innovations in wordplay stood out. “The Bridge Is Over” is an early example of BDP’s relatively seamless merger between hip-hop and dancehall reggae, with KRS’s chatting skill all the more impressive because he’s not Jamaican, to my knowledge. His rhyming hits hard while still being lighthearted (come on! The guy appropriates part of Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock ‘n Roll To Me” in part of the song!)
Sure, there’s a somewhat cringe-worthy throwaway line about MC Shan & Marley Marl “rhyming like they’re gay”, which offended/annoyed me more when I was young and closeted (fear is a crazy thing, y’all) than it does now. “The Bridge Is Over” harkens back to a time when hip-hop needed nothing more than a drum machine, a simply played piano melody, a harmless beef, and a booming voice to change the molecular structure of the listener.