Friday, January 19, 2007

Kool G Rap

Kool G Rap never rose to superstar status during his late-'80s reign as a leading member of Marley Marl's Juice Crew, but the Queens-bred hardcore rapper endured for over a decade, eventually enjoying a renaissance in the early 2000s. Throughout his tour of duty, G Rap maintained a reverent following, mainly among his original late-'80s/early-'90s fan base and the subsequent wave of gold-age revivalists. Cold Chillin' furthermore repackaged his key recordings with DJ Polo periodically over the years, so G Rap remained visible even as his productivity slowed considerably. While countless other golden-age rappers thus fell by the wayside, G Rap quietly ascended to legendary status, perhaps as recognized in the early 2000s as he had been during his late-'80s prime. The "Kool Genius of Rap" began life as Nathaniel Wilson in a rough section of Queens, where he first met Eric Barrier and Polo, two friends with a mutual interest in hip-hop. While Barrier went onto a short-lived yet successful career as the less-acknowledged half of Eric B and Rakim, Polo and G Rap collaborated and released the It's a Demo/I'm Fly 12" on Cold Chillin' in 1986. This legendary single was the first of several; "Streets of New York," "Poison," and "Road to the Riches" also being noteworthy singles. G Rap also graced Marl's "The Symphony," a performance that promised him legendary status in itself. By 1989 he was making LPs rather than 12" singles, signaling G Rap's rise from the underground to mainstream recognition. Yet while Juice Crew peers such as Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie scored crossover singles, had big-selling LPs, and soon found themselves on MTV, G Rap struggled with his sudden position on the uncomfortable brink of crossing over. Sure, his LPs had their share of highlights such as "Road to the Riches" and "Erase Racism," in addition to the aforementioned singles, but his albums with Polo never achieved what many had hoped for in terms of popularity. By the mid-'90s, G Rap parted ways with his longtime partner and attempted a solo career with 4,5,6 (1995) on Cold Chillin', followed by Rated XXX (1996) and Roots of Evil (1998). None of these albums garnered too much attention, commercial or critical, and it seemed as though G Rap was bound to suffer old-school status like most of his '80s peers. As G Rap's name became less and less acknowledged among contemporary rap listeners in the late '90s, the stalwart MC simultaneously began channeling his efforts toward guest appearances. Collaborating with the likes of Fat Joe, Big Pun, M.O.P., Mobb Deep, Nas, RZA, Big L, and Talib Kweli — along with a surprising appearance on U.N.K.L.E.'s high-profile Psyence Fiction album as well as the Lyricist Lounge 2 compilation — G Rap gained substantial momentum. Once joining forces with Rawkus, the rapper's renaissance officially began as the label began promoting his comeback album months before its proposed 2001 release. The album, The Giancana Story, unfortunately wouldn't street until late 2002, as Rawkus became increasingly entangled in major-label affiliations. Though some of the anticipation simmered during the long delay, the album nonetheless impressed many and forcibly signaled another of G Rap's periodic returns.

Kool G Rap - 4,5,6 (Sep 12, 1995: Cold Chillin')
After a three-album run with DJ Polo that stacked up favorably to any other rap act, Kool G Rap went solo with 1995's 4, 5, 6, and it's the only time he sounded as if he was running out of steam. Though "Ghetto Knows," "Take 'Em to War," and "Money on My Brain" (featuring a slick sample of Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon") are far from missteps, they have little on G Rap's legacy with DJ Polo. Furthermore, there are telltale signs that he either needs to gain new inspirations or take a break. "Blowin Up in the World"'s lyrics could've been written by just about any MC, and the lazy chorus is particularly dull by his standards.The production from Buckwild and T Ray is merely passable and lacks the unique spark that masters like Marley Marl, Sir Jinx, and Large Professor were able to provide years earlier. It has to be stressed that few other MCs could release a record like this and have it considered a failure; in fact, had this been a debut from a youngster, it would've doubtlessly created a stir of some sort. Thankfully, G Rap went on a very necessary hiatus after this.

Kool G Rap - Roots of Evil (Nov 10, 1998: K-Tel)
Since his last album, Kool G Rap made two very critical life decisions that would greatly impact his career. First, he left the hustle and bustle of Queens behind and relocated to the blistering desert heat of Arizona. Secondly, tiring of major-label hassles and poor promotion, he severed all ties with Cold Chillin and started his own label, Ill Street. After a four-year hiatus, it was finally time for the self-professed Godfather of Street Rap to unleash his ferocious appetite for rhyme upon his unsuspecting prey. Sounding reinvigorated after a lengthy layoff, his skills remain completely intact, blazing verse after verse in grand fashion. Standout cuts include the eerie, bass-heavy "One Dark Night," and G Rap lyrically drenches the wavering keyboard of "Mobstas." Also, "Let the Games Begin" and the well-executed "Mafioso" stand out. One of this album's crown jewels, "Thugs Life Story (Chapter I, II, III)," is a nine-minute excursion into the underworld, finding G Rap at unparalleled echelons. Though rarely diverting from his usual topic matter of money, murder, and mayhem, there is a definitive method to his madness. G Rap's intricate storytelling ability and keen attention for detail enables him to flip futuristic tales of criminology in a totally unique fashion. However, just as the production failed to take his first solo album, 4,5,6, to that next level, the same can be echoed here. It's abundantly clear that G Rap needs to map out a strategically stronger battle plan when searching for just the right tracks to compliment his flow, because that's the only thing holding him back on this album.
Kool G Rap - Gianciana Story (Nov 12, 2002: Koch International)
Delayed for over a year while Rawkus sorted out its increasingly labyrinthine label affiliations (it was eventually licensed to a Koch subsidiary), The Giancana Story proves that time means nothing to one of the greatest rappers ever (though Rawkus took it too far when they declared "the game was named after him"). Don't call it a comeback because he never left — he recorded continually during the '90s — but Kool G's third solo record illustrates the rare case of the hip-hop world moving closer to a veteran than when he made his breakout. What sounded refreshing and genuinely unique in 1990 — check out before-their-time shots like "Road to the Riches" or "Streets of New York" — was becoming nearly ubiquitous by the end of the millennium, and besides slipping in a few more words per line than he used to, the first real hardcore rapper hasn't changed his style a whit (or needed to). The opener, "Thug for Life," is as clean a track as any classic golden-age production, but with the type of mid-tempo roll that gets it closer to later hardcore rap. The single "My Life," with Capone-N-Noreaga, is the best track here, the only one with any crossover appeal (via a remix complete with talk box and stuttered chorus). Everything else is pure hardcore rap, with all the dark intelligence and heavy venom hip-hop fans expect from a master.
Kool G Rap - Click of Respect (Oct 21, 2003: Blaze The World)
1 Intro 1:07
2 I Die 4 U 4:44
3 Cold World 3:27
4 Blackin Out 2:30
5 Breaker Breaker 4:28
6 Click of Respect 4:28
7 Get da Drop on Em 3:41
8 Gully 4:05
9 On My Grind 3:30
10 Pimped Out 4:21
11 Slide in My Whip 4:21
12 Air U Out 4:02
13 Niggah Nah 3:39
14 Sick Wit It 2:55
15 Stop Playin Wit Me 3:35
16 I Am What I Am 2:42
17 Takin Over 4:00
18 Never Gonna Let You Go 3:21


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Yeah, You saved my day man, I love Kool G Rap, but could not find the albums anywhere else online.

Thank You So Much!

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