In this ‘Thing of Ours’ called hip hop, many are called, but few are chosen. Sometimes hype can precede hip hop artists, turning our beloved rapper of the month, into a ‘one hit wonder’ and late night comedy punch line.
After that, it’s off to a digital desert, somewhere lost in iTunes oblivion. Only an unspoken veteran pass can save you. To qualify, one must be considered a ‘man of honor‘, proving there’s another level of skill and reverence for those most lyrically qualified.
Enter Kool G. Rap.
Kool G. Rap can be considered your “favorite rappers, favorite rapper.” Celebrating over 20 years in the game, he preps another release on his independent label. Purposely flying under the radar in recent years, Kool G. Rap continues to build his legacy – one verse at a time. Even new school fans are curious about Kool G. Rap and rightfully so; he’s been in the game 20 years, he’s an original Juice Crew member who’s name is placed in verses by Jay-Z and others. Need more proof on his legacy? Kool G. Rap has recorded with Nas, Mobb Deep and Big Pun to name a few. Overall, after two decades, Kool G. Rap still has a genuine love for hip-hop.
Recently speaking with Kool G. Rap via telephone (while on tour) – I had the privilege to build with a legend on a few hip hop related topics. Not for nothing, Kool G. Rap is well spoken, courteous and surprisingly humble about his iconic status. See, back in the early 1990’s, before online sensations, covert marketing plans and recycled swag – Kool G. Rap was coming hard with songs like “Men at Work,” “Rikers Island” and “Streets of NY.” Back when DJ’s spun LP’s and MC’s slung degrees, Kool G. Rap lyrically held his own. But many moons have passed since his biggest single “Road to The Riches” blazed our airwaves. Nowadays, Kool G. Rap is considered an elder statesman. Possibly a candidate for an imaginary hip-hop Mount Rushmore. Sometimes words are better left unsaid, but true hip hop heads wondered what’s up with Kool G. Rap? Until now.
Q: Do you feel you’re “our favorite rapper’s favorite rapper”?
A: “I’ve never promoted myself as such. I always been modest and believed that the proof is in the pudding. I mean, let the music speak for itself. In other words, it’s not because G. Rap said it, that saying came from a credible artist. They put their stamp on it. But I can’t lie; it feels good to be respected. It’s a compliment. I appreciate that.”
Q: In 1995, The album 4, 5, 6 was your most successful release. Do you agree?
A: “I’d have to say yes and no. Yes it was my top selling album, but no because Road to the Riches was my biggest moneymaker.”
Q: Rap Critics associate your music with being dark. Do you think its dark or just a harsh reality? How do you describe your music?
A: “Musically, I went through multiple changes during my career. To keep it real, I came out the gate spitting hard or what some would consider dark/gangster/hardcore lyrics. But to me, it was just a lyrical expression of my experiences in a harsh environment. So yeah. I went back and forth. Gangster lyrics to harsh reality. But it was never dark. It was just real.”
Q: You have been featured on songs with various artists, which collaboration can we consider to be your favorite?
A: “Off the top of my head, I would have to say either “Fast Life” with Nas or “Realest” with Mobb Deep. I like the joint with Big Pun too. It’s funny because I caught these collaborations while the artists was on the come up…I appreciate their music as well…It was fun. We banged joints out regularly.”
Q: What is your creative process?
A: “Early in my career I would normally write without music. I had to. Nobody would give me beats back then. (Laughs) Only Marley Marl looked out. But anyway, I’d get a vision and just run with my instinct from there, but as I got more known, I’d get beats from everywhere. That’s was not good for Kool G., it seemed rapping became harder. I had to quickly get used to having instrumentals and creating around beats.”
Q: You’re considered one of the best storytellers in rap history, but how do you feel about the ‘storytelling’ in modern music?
A: “Nowadays in hip hop, everyone is more inclined to bragging, swagger and all them other new words. Times have definitely changed. But regardless…skills are skills. Keep in mind, hip hop evolves but it doesn’t change much. To me, somehow it seems we all lost the storytelling aspect and the music suffers from it. We started focusing on the rewards and not the talent. But some of the young boys hold it down. Overall I’m proud of our music. We keep growing and growing. And that’s a big deal considering where it started from.”
Q: What’s new with Kool G. Rap?
A: “Right now…I’m working with producer/artists Alchemist. I’m currently putting a tour together, you know…just staying busy.”
Q: Anything you miss about the old days of Hip Hop? Do you see anything that’s better today? Or is it anything worst?
A: “The very worst thing right now is there’s little variety… Honestly, I really miss the variety in hip hop. Back in the days we had all flavors. From Public Enemy to NWA. Total contrast in styles, but multi talented groups at the same time. That’s what I call variety. Dig it? We don’t have that today. The game is so overly saturated; it’s like a bunch of mediocre products that’s not highly potent or maybe its artists that really don’t care about being the best they can be lyrically. That’s not good. Most rappers sound alike or imitate each other. On the other hand, the ‘business’ aspect has improved. You don’t need a major label. You can win independent. Meaning, if you do get a leg up in this ‘thing of ours,’ you can really do well financially. We have pretty good examples of business in Jay-Z, Master P and now Baby of Cash Money. That’s the magic key to any door of doubt. Just go get yours bro. Word. The world is yours. It’s that simple.”
Q: What does the future look like for Kool G. Rap?
A: “Hopefully it’s more success…more music and more hits. What else can I do? I love my job. (Laughs) I’m in this forever. Over twenty years in the game and counting. I’m still going strong…at least as long as people still checking for Kool G. Rap. Can you believe that? I’m still here bro…Still Here. Word.”