It was the early ’90s and KRS-One had spearheaded the formation of H.E.A.L., a group of artists whose ideologies promoted knowledge, self-awareness, political involvement, and truth seeking. In fact, H.E.A.L. stood for Human Education Against Lies, and as KRS shared with Vibeback in 2012, the inspiration for H.E.A.L.’s formation came from Kwame Turé (better known as Stokely Carmichael) who taught KRS “what happened to the Black Power movement and who was a fraud and who was a snake. But more than anything else he taught me that we are all human.” As a collective, H.E.A.L. released Civilization vs. Technology, an Elektra Records release that featured Heather B., Kool Moe Dee, Michael Stipe (of R.E.M.), Ms. Melodie, Salt-N-Pepa, Ziggy Marley and others. However, it was the album’s lead single, “Heal Yourself,” that most famously embodied the project’s themes.
Starring Big Daddy Kane, Freddy Foxxx, Harmony, Kid Capri, KRS-One, LL Cool J, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, and Run-D.M.C., “Heal Yourself” is a posse’s posse cut, albeit it one promoting education, self-love, acknowledgment of history, and more. From BDK’s words of warning about the horrors of crack cocaine, Freddy Fox’s laments about White supremacy, LL’s depiction of female baseheads, MC Lyte’s experience in Swahili school, Queen Latifah’s calls for female empowerment, KRS’ please for less attention paid to race and more attention paid to corporate greed, Ms. Melodie’s stance against domestic violence, to Run-DMC’s acknowledgement of the AIDS epidemic, the song has a message for nearly everyone. Nearly a quarter of a century later, both Jam Master Jay and Ms. Melodie have passed away, while all of the issues touched upon in the song’s lyrics remain prevalent today. While great strides in combating AIDS have been made, one need only glance at a newspaper (or, perhaps more accurately, news website) to see that matters of race, drug use, corporate hegemony, and women’s rights are still struggles met on a daily basis. And yet, “Heal Yourself” also reminds us of the good; as KRS-One puts it, “Before you’re a color, first you’re human.” As the world heals itself after staggering attacks of terrorism in Beirut, Nigeria, and Paris (and elsewhere) and the United States finds itself embroiled in fights against police brutality, an unfair criminal justice system, and LGBTQ civil rights, “Heal Yourself” and its accompanying video serve as a perennial rallying cry: we must keep fighting, but most importantly we must take care of ourselves.