Rather than hawking $30 T-shirts or overpriced albums, KRS-One came bearing gifts for his fans at Thursday night's 9:30 club gig. The fortunate crowd was thrown piles of 12-inch records during an especially casual performance.

KRS-One's nearly untouchable lyrical prowess has kept most challengers at bay -- though oddly enough, he engaged in lyrical combat last year with bubblegum rhymer Nelly, who dissed KRS-One in his platinum-plus-selling "Nellyville" by implying that a rapper's pension was in order. Although he's a stone's throw from 40, KRS-One vigorously retaliated with "Ova Here," and kicked off the concert with this wonderfully insulting track aimed at the pop superstar. "We tore him into pieces," he told the crowd, declaring himself the victor before ripping lines like: "Challenging the god of rap is madness / I'll snatch your status."

Wearing a knit cap cocked ever so slightly to the side and a yellow T-shirt, he rolled, medley-style, through a bevy of tunes, including "Step Into a World," where he unleashed the much-quoted boast, "I'm not saying I'm number one / Uh, I'm sorry, I lied / I'm number one, two, three, four and five."

He revisited his rough-and-tumble roots in "The Bridge" and gave a history lesson in "My Philosophy." These were rapped rather unceremoniously; the show seemed more like a fan-club gathering than a concert. Unfazed by the commotion it caused, KRS-One generously signed more autographs than William Shatner at a "Star Trek" convention. Folks loved getting a dose of thumping, political cuts like "Sound of Da Police," but even more than that, they dug the signed tennis balls KRS-One retrieved from an oversize garbage bag and hurled to them.

-- Craig Smith

Rapper KRS-One appeared at the 9:30 club on Thursday.