KOOL G RAP is a legend of Hip Hop music. He is an MC that is the epitome of the peak of mastered technique that merges developed skill and natural talent. As a lyricist, his vocal dexterity allows him to say anything, going beyond the confines of slow, mid or high tempo tracks. Content wise, he is the pioneering example of supreme verbal agility delivering the raw, violent scope of our Black and Brown ghetto lives. It is G RAP who brings so much detail, artistry and literal film sequencing to the street life that explicit content can even be considered acceptable and elevated by others. When one studies the greatest MCs after G RAP they are all imbued with his mastery of technique (i.e. Pharoahe Monch, BIG PUN, etc.) and/or his descriptive, cinematic street detail (i.e. Raekwon, Nas, etc.). Without G RAP, this writer proclaims, the complete realm of our subject matter would not be so able to be powerfully expressed and validly presented making this music a complete, unlimited poetic/prose folk Art of ours.
The G RAP of 1998 was living in Arizona and manning his own label, Illstreet Records. About to release his next album, Roots of Evil, he was able to incorporate the elements of his rhyme palette he felt were missing from his 1995 album, 4,5,6. In retrospect, these two albums literally prove the prior contentions I offer. 4,5,6 was a battle tracked album where G RAP dominated the high speed verse immaculately, internal rhyming, multi-syllabic patterns, on break timing, alternating speeds within bars and incredible punchlines (“I’ll split ya fuckin’ top and leave a fingerprint on purpose” – “Take Em To War”) among other techniques. With Roots of Evil he continued the athletic showcase (i.e. “One Dark Light”) but content wise made a cinematic presentation of the street with the epic “A Thugs Love Story (Chapter I, II, III),” the Scarface inspired “Da Bosses Lady,” the shootouts of “Tekilla Sunrise” or the fragmented street portraits of “Cannon Fire.” His flows are constantly rolling phrases into melodic power notes as on “Thugs Anthem” or amazingly driving, breath control feats with lengthy, complex verses as on “Hitman’s Diary.” These are not merely two albums to be heard but a part of any listener’s complete catalog.
Just prior to the release of Roots of Evil, I had the honor of interviewing KOOL G RAP for Vibe.com. This original draft that follows was considered too raw though it captures G RAP’s sincere vernacular and vulgarity filled speech properly. It also touched on exposing the negative commercialism that was becoming destructive and in the next decade would dilute the music of Hip Hop, as the layman youth can openly hear it, to a completely effeminized, integrity-less, skill-less showcase of hooklines between hooks. For these reasons, the published version was a sanitized mess that characterizes the separation between proper journalism Hip Hop music deserves and the pop promo sheets the press truly were and still are. In honor of the living legend KOOL G RAP, here is the original piece that is still filled with relevant insights and a capsule of an artist’s vision as he set himself to present another great work of Art…
The Hip Hop interview has, all too often, lacked many of the facets necessary to properly document an artist’s upcoming work, artistic ideology and present impact and legacy, if any. We never really know what type of shit they’re on with the next album and we really don’t need to read beautifully long opening vignettes of someone’s vision of the blunt hazed landscape under the thuggified skyline. We also don’t want to be told how much better those old farts, who rapped over James Brown breaks, were than those diluted rappers with 6,000 tracks and the Pen and Pixel ads on the next 6 pages.
Although you may excuse the following piece as niche marketing or giving the real on occasion to ease consciousness, Kool G Rap needs to be heard. The creator of the highly refined cinematic street tale is also a master of flows filled with innovative wit. G Rap is the possessor of many Hip Hop classics and deserves your attention.
I’ll assume you will already buy his new LP, Roots of Evil, due out October 27th on Illstreet Records, which he co-owns. In conjunction, your function is to assume that the following cipher will reveal a lil’ somethin’ about G RAP:
SUNEZ: As a label owner, if 4,5,6 was your product, what would be wrong with it to sell well?
KOOL G RAP: That album was a rushed album and I didn’t really have enough time to do what I really wanted to with that album. This album compared to that got more of what you was saying, ‘what G Rap created,’ the storytelling and all of that. The last album 4,5,6 ain’t really have that.
SUNEZ: That had a lot of freestylin’ and battle rappin’.
G RAP: Exactly, knowamsayin’. I didn’t really get into the depth of G Rap. It was basically thrown together. I had a lot of business execs rushing me. To me, that’s what was wrong with that album. I didn’t really get the chance to put the raw essence of G Rap. Even though, I think it had some good songs on it.
SUNEZ: I was feeling that shit.
G RAP: I feel you. “Shit Ain’t Never Gonna Change” [“Take Em To War”], I like that. I liked “Fast Life.” I was feeling stuff on that but for the hardcore G Rap fans I don’t think it really had what they wanted to hear…Roots of Evil is really just repairing what wasn’t done on the 4,5,6 album. For everybody that didn’t hear me for the 3 or 4 years that I was silent, this album is to let everybody know where G Rap coming from. A lot of niggas don’t really know ‘how this nigga gonna come.’ Some are probably ‘ah, that nigga don’t live in New York no more.’ They probably wondering if it’s still there. This shit right here is to let everybody know a nigga still got it, a nigga still do his thing, whatever. Now once I let everybody know that, with the next album, then I could really get into some droppin’ jewels shit.
G RAP: Through Marley [Marl]. He told me there were some kids he was working with and they wanted to do Roads again. They some cool kids outside the record shit. I was sorry to hear that the shit they had working for them didn’t work out for them.
SUNEZ: The trials and tribulations are always updated around my way.
G RAP: I head that the kid that was supposed to put them out backed out the deal. He did something, let go of his whole label and shit. I was speaking’ to one of ‘em, Icon or Destruct, and they was trying to get out of their contract with him. I don’t know what they doing now. But the kids is nasty. They need to come out. Some dope Spanish cats.
SUNEZ: Word. You’re living out in Arizona now with a newly founded record label. On the move away from New York you were quoted as saying, “I don’t wanna be at the place to be.”
G RAP: I didn’t say I don’t want to be there. I said I don’t want to live there. To me, the whole purpose of this game, it’s a blessing for all of us, for all Blacks, Latinos, all the youth, our races. This is a blessing for us cause before the only way we could find our way out of the ghetto was to play basketball or on some 12 years of school. There’s nothing wrong with that but those were the only tools we had to get out. Now we got this music shit and, to me, you’re supposed to take advantage of it. If it’s gonna provide for you a better place to raise your kids and keep them away from the shit you had to be around while you was a shorty you supposed to take advantage of that and not subject your seeds to the bullshit you had to go through. It’s definitely not a bad place to visit but to raise my kids…I don’t want my kids growing up with stray bullets flying around and all that shit.
SUNEZ: So it had nothing to do with getting away from the industry shadiness.
G RAP: The only thing that’s gonna stop it is you. No matter where you live at. It doesn’t stop wherever you live. You gotta get on top of your business wherever you at. That’s where Illstreet [Records] came about. That’s to cut out the extra middlemaen and all the bullshit. I even go to The Source right now.
SUNEZ: How do you tell the fake from the Real?
G RAP: It’s by certain little shit niggas say that give niggas away a lot. Like when niggas talk about—say if a nigga say he got caught for assault or something and he say like ‘niggas try to hit me with a 3 to 9’ or something like that. A nigga might say the wrong kind of time somebody would actually hit you for that charge.
G RAP: Exactly. Sometimes niggas give theyselves away like that. Then there be other little comments. Then there are some niggas that’s really convincing cause they be in the street and they got they little mans that run wild or whatever so they get all the real information so they come to the table with that.
SUNEZ: Is it alright if you spit the shit your crew live cause maybe one could say they’re technically ‘representing the Real?’
G RAP: Ay, yo, to me, dawg, if a nigga was to really rap about his life for real on these fucking records it would be less exciting. Let me tell you, most of these niggas in this ain’t been through nothing and ain’t did nothing. Just for the simple fact that you can’t mix the two. You can’t be a thugged-out nigga and a nigga that got a career in the music industry. Both of them shits ain’t gonna work together, knowwamsayin’. I had a whole click of thug niggas. A lot of them niggas is dead and a lot of them niggas is locked up. A lot of them that’s talking all that crazy shoot out shit, knowamsayin’ – to me, that’s just a source of entertainment and its cool cause I don’t think Al Pacino should have to walk around killing niggas just to prove he’s Scarface. What type of shit is that?! But it don’t make me think any less of him. He don’t live like that. This music is a source of entertainment. But niggas to act like they did all the shit in they records, those are niggas that’s frontin on theyselves. I been through a lot of shit in my life. I was never no crazy thugged-out nigga, never no wild ass nigga, murdering niggas and all that shit. That’s not me, B. I just went through it on the street side like a lot of niggas did. I sold drugs, I pimped before and I been through a lot of crazy incidents, knowamsayin’. Gunplay and all that. A lot of shit that I write come from true incidents and a lot of it is stories. A lot of shit I make up too cause I’m a movie fanatic and shit like that so I make up movies of my own. I never tried to act like I lived out my lyrics, Sun. Don’t let nobody front on you. All them niggas that’s talking that they really lived that shit, Sun, they ain’t really live that. I don’t give a fuck if they punched a nigga in the face at a show or one of they mans shot in the crowd—aint’ none of them niggas is thugs.
SUNEZ: I see that. That’s peace. Taking it back, the Juice Crew was perfectly diverse. Was that planned?
G RAP: It was a Juice Crew thing but it was never like the artists got together and said, ‘we’re gonna flip it like this’ or like that, you know, like Wu-Tang do. Them niggas came out unified for real. We was the Juice Crew, everybody down with the Juice Crew but everybody went their own separate ways from the doorknob.
SUNEZ: Did the separate ways and lack of unity regarding musical direction lead to the record label problems with Cold Chillin’?
G RAP: Niggas was young and hungry and just wanted to be out there. Back in the days, I could speak for me. I was concerned more with being acknowledged for what I did more than money. I wasn’t really thinking on the business side. That’s how I got jerked around… Now I always try to pass on what I know to a nigga that’s younger or a nigga that might not know as much as me…I wish there was a nigga like that for me back then.
SUNEZ: Would you work with a reunited Juice Crew again?
G RAP: To make a record like the Juice Crew’s really bangin right now—to me, that’s dead. If someone wants to do a record to show that we was one of the first unified crews to blow up in Hip Hop—a documentary type thing. I would do that for the sake of Hip Hop, period.
SUNEZ: I’m not justifying this wack trend but there seems to be a double standard as new artists can go ‘global’ and do tons of commercial joints and still be respected as hardcore with those two songs on Stretch and Bobbito. But if Kool G or any other older Hip Hop legends makes a slightly radio accessible cut, like “Fast Life,” he’s criticized severely.
G RAP: I think niggas know me for coming with so much hardness and coming so raw. They don’t want to hear a nigga come with something else. I don’t do “Fast Life” just to get radio play. These are like other sides of G Rap, shit I feel. I don’t just play hardcore Rap. I play some mainstream. I play all the shit and a lot of it be hot to me. It’s like that shit with Noreaga, that ‘what, what’ [“Superthug”] shit is hot to me. Then he got other dark shit that’s hot like “Body in the Trunk” with Nas.
SUNEZ: What the fuck is wrong with today’s MCs—rappers?
G RAP: Rappers these days get over a lot easier. Basically all they need now is a hot beat and a hot hook. As long as they got some decent lyrics and they ain’t gotta be mindblowing. The era I came from your [lyrics] had to be mind-blowing cause hooks didn’t hold the weight for your record. We didn’t really have hooks back then. Niggas would just say one long ass verse and say the name of the song at the end of it and that’d be that. Then they come with the next verse. You had muthafuckas like Rakim and KRS-One with punchline after punchline, real clever shit and you had to be on top of your muthafuckin’ toes. You had to really do your homework to really vibe back then and if you wanted to be considered on of the best rappers. But now all a nigga gotta do is make the hottest club record and muthafuckas is like, ‘He’s the illest rapper!’ Or go platinum. If that’s the case P.M. Dawn went platinum two or three times already.
SUNEZ: Now the Billboard is filled with no name rappers who go platinum one week and are gone the next week.
G RAP: Exactly. That’s true. That’s when the real test hit a nigga. You came out, did your thing, went platinum or whatever. How much more albums can you do after that? How many years can you stay in the game with niggas still respecting you? A lot of niggas won’t be able to do that. A lot of niggas wasn’t able to do that.
SUNEZ: Word. I see that.
An artist’s reasons for movement aren’t always to escape or follow the current trend. It is often a simple evolution that allows one to have the proper space to live and grow within the same mind frame and elevate a classic tradition.