Long before it was a one liner that could be shouted out to show support for some
amorphous idea of ending urban violence, Stop the Violence was a song, written by KRS-One, off his second seminal album, By All Means Neccesary. Later on, KRS-One would collect a group of rappers for the Stop the Violence movement, who would release the single Self-Destruction, which was not based on the earlier song.
There is a cliche I've heard about Van Morrison: that his voice is beautiful enough that he could sing out the phone book and make it beautiful. KRS-One's voice is similiarly powerful, that when he expresses moral or spiritual lessons, even when they are straightforward, they still come off sounding powerful, because he speaks them with conviction. When KRS-One chooses to combine his power with his intellect, it makes an incredible combination.
The lyrics to Stop the Violence are not only about violence in the most obvious sense, and what exactly the main point of the song is in doubt, because KRS-One speaks in riddles and allusions in this song.
After the opening, an echoed chant of "worldwide", the song goes into its first verse, which instead of focusing on gang violence, focuses on military violence, taking note of governments "creating missiles" while "my families eating gristle", and also about how these issues weren't brought up because of corporate and government control of the press (which was a much more innovative issue 20 years ago than it is now). KRS-One then asks in the bridge "what is the solution" and suggests (presumably ironically) that we "rewrite the constitution" or "change the drugs which we are using". Following the chorus, (perhaps the best sing along hook that KRS-One has ever wrote), KRS-One goes into the second verse, which has a more simple, direct message, as a plea to end violence inside of hip-hop clubs. After another rendition of the chorus, the final verse, where KRS-One engages in some old fashioned hip-hop bragging, occurs, ending with the lines
Some people look at me and see negativity
Some people look at me and see positivity
But when I see myself I see creativity
So if I can create, well then I make some money
followed by a call and response
with the audience to "put their hands up if they are out here getting paid". It may seem like an odd ending for a song that is either a riddle about the root causes of sociopolitical violence, or an earnest plea for an end to interpersonal violence, but it may not be as odd as it seems . Since KRS-One has written many songs before and after this that involved some level of violence, he may be preemptively answering his critics, acknowledging t hat he himself has both positive and negative elements to his persona
. However , both positive and negative are just different forms of "creativity", which its elf is tempered by the need to "make some money", which means both financial wealth, and more abstractly, a need to put the spiritual value of crativity into pragmatic
terms. In other words, KRS-One is putting forth his personal recipe for success to be that while negativity and positivity come in cycles, they should always be tied to both spiritual growth and a pragmatic outlook. This formulas eems to have served KRS-One well in his career so far; and it is a good interpretation to think maybe he is hinting that this is a way for everyone to stop all forms of violence in their own lives.