When music fans talk about classic Hip Hop artists from Queens, they can’t get far into the conversation without mentioning the legendary Kool G Rap. Since his appearance on Marley Marl’s “The Symphony” in 1988, rappers and fans alike respected G Rap’s hardcore delivery.
Kool G Rap’s days with the infamous Juice Crew began in 1986 when he DJ Polo were kicking out singles for the underground, and it took three long years for their debut album Road to the Riches to hit shelves.
As 1990 approached, full of conscious and fun music, gangsta rap artists like Ice Cube and Ice-T were raising the West Coast, while a barely legal G Rap was holding it down in the East with his own ‘mafioso’ style. He finally released his first solo album in 1995, proving he had staying power in the crazy rap game.
Fast forward two decades and hundreds of groundbreaking lyrics later, and Kool G Rap is still going strong. While he’s in the same age group with mainstream business sensations Jay-Z and Diddy, Kool G Rap’s legacy is planted squarely in the realm of Hip Hop.
In this recent conversation with RadioPlanet.tv, Kool G Rap spoke on why fans should respect the business moves of his Hip Hop peers, why he feels 50 Cent is repping today’s Queens movement in the best way possible, and what he knows about Nicki Minaj.
As he mentioned trendsetters like Russell Simmons, Run DMC, Master P and Easy E, we also touched on what’s really ‘gangsta’, why he prefers the term ‘reality rap’, and what the next generation may be missing out on if we’re not paying attention. Read on!
Who do you feel in this market today from Queens is really making moves? What do you think they’re doing for the legacy?
Kool G Rap: If we’re going within a 10 year frame, there’s no other name that fits that description better than 50 Cent. If we’re going by Queens’ rappers and who really impacted the game to a capacity that we’re talking about now, there’s no better name than 50.
What do you feel he’s done that’s been unique for Queens?
KGR: Number one, [he entered] at a time when hardcore was kind of playing out on the scene, with the dying down of artists like NWA and Ice Cube. I’m just talking about hardcore rap in general, street rap. Jay-Z, I don’t categorize it as just street rap. He’s street rap and he’s lyrical. He talks about money. He’s an artist that talks about everything.
As far as this hardcore street, like Mobb Deep, like a Kool G Rap, 50 kind of brought it back into the masses again and impacted the game with it. Basically set the precedence again. You can’t leave that street or that hardcore reality rap out if it. You can’t forget about it, and he just pushed it back in everyone’s face. He did that more so than anyone else, because he also had a real life story behind it that helped propel it to the level that it did.
Absolutely. Now he has the movie deal, his own film company, and his own clothing line. He’s had amazing things that he’s doing an entrepreneur. Do you feel it’s important to showcase making those moves?
KGR: Absolutely. The 50 Cent story and what he did in its entirety is inspirational to anybody. Even if you don’t particularly rap, produce, or have anything to do with music, looking at the man’s story will give you encouragement. You have to always push and keep pushing. You can accomplish anything even after something tragic, like being shot nine times or whatever.
He just put that in the face of everybody, basically saying you don’t ever have to give up hope. Even when things look at their worst, there is always hope. I think he did that on a tremendous level.
Obviously he has the label. He has Lloyd Banks, he’s got Tony Yayo, Whoo Kid is doing thing. There’s a legacy coming from 50 Cent – a movement in Hip Hop.
KGR: Absolutely. He gave a few people a life or a career. He not only catapulted himself to the top, but he brought other people with him. He gave people jobs, he fed people. He helped remove people from a life of crime or street life. What he did was positive in a lot of ways.
As far as Nicki Minaj, I don’t know a whole lot of her work. I couldn’t give her a fair judgment of what I feel about her, because I don’t know all of her work. I think she’s still early in the game to place that kind of judgment on her.
She debuted at Number 2, right behind Kanye West.
KGR: That’s incredible!
What about people like Russell Simmons and Rev Run who’ve had reality shows? Russell is in the fashion life and charity world, and has reached a different style of life that most people couldn’t comprehend. Do you feel that people or young rappers from Queens can look to them for inspiration, or do you feel that it’s too out of touch?
KGR: I think that Russell, in my opinion, has inspired. Not just Run but Run DMC in general. Russell and Run DMC have inspired a lot of people. They inspired me. Russell, on the other hand, inspired a lot of entrepreneurs and people that wanted to start their own label, their own businesses. Get more into the corporate side of it. I think he was definitely an inspiration and not just to Queens, but to Black music in general and black hop hop in general. He gave people that confidence.
After Russell, you got Puff Daddy, Master P, and Easy E. They had their hands on both the entertainer and corporate side. It’s so many that follow after that, but there are people like Russell Simmons that pretty much set the standard at a higher level. Just don’t have the expectancy to become a better artist, but become a successful businessman in the game as well.
You have a lot of talented underground artists… Stack Bundles from Far Rockaway was a contender, but he was murdered. What do you feel about these young guys coming up in the game now? Vets dealt with a lot violence, but I feel like the early Hip Hop artists really put it into their music rather than always taking it to the streets. There was more of a balance. Do you feel like these younger rappers are missing out on the beauty of being able to battle on records, battle in clubs, and stuff like that?
KGR: That what you just said, for me, relates to how they say ‘real gangstas move in silence’ – and the ones that’s not so much a gangsta make a lot of noise. I’m not saying on a gangsta tip that it’s fake or they’re not men or [that they're] cowards. These guys try to escape, and this is why I think they go all out and being beef outside of the records.
They don’t want the pressure from the public when relating cowardice to them, so a lot of artists let the public dictate their life. Just because of public opinion, they go out and do stupid things. Like rob another artist and be on YouTube showing his chain and stuff like that. Real gangstas don’t do that.
The artists from the ‘80s era, I don’t think, felt the need to prove themselves so much because they really came from that. It was more inbred to them. It’s artists whose brothers, fathers, and uncles lived that life and they saw how they moved. They never went around boasting about it.
The new artists today, I think, are so out of touch with that, but they want to live that because they look up to it. They admire the gangsta mentality of the cats from those times, but they have it wrong. They got it all wrong, so they go about projecting that image when that’s not what it’s really about.
Real gangstas don’t want publicity like that. A lot of them don’t even want that life. That’s why a lot of so called gangstas [don't know] these street life cats used to send their kids to good schools, because they didn’t want the same life for their kids. They didn’t want their kids to go through what they had to to get a leg up. The whole thing of being into the street life to a real person that lives that is to get out of the struggle. That’s basically it. The really don’t want all the other things that come along with it. They don’t’ glorify that.
It’s stressing thinking that the police could be at your door any day, and you can get 25 to life, or life in prison. It’s stressful knowing you got robbers out there that could hurt your family at any given moment because they are jealous of what you got. Somebody might want to take what you got and you’ve got to defend yourself. Now you got these people’s family and friends looking for you.
Once a body drops, ain’t nobody trying to hear nothing. You can’t really justify it. Once a body drops its beef and that’s that. They don’t care if the person that you hurt was right or wrong. You did something to somebody’s friend or family. Dudes ain’t trying to hear nothing after that.
It’s sad that people associate that with Hip Hop. Hip Hop is not about that – but you can’t get away when you got these media outlets that glorify all the violence. Not to be preachy and not to say that we didn’t have violence back in the day, but Hip Hop was an escape from it.
KGR: You’re absolutely right. That ain’t what Hip Hop is about. This is why before Hip Hop proves itself to be such a lucrative vehicle and that it can happen for people overnight. There was no gangstas really trying to rap.
They were busy being gangstas.
KGR: Yeah exactly! They were too busy being gangstas. A real gangsta doesn’t have the patience to sit down and write something to try and make some money. They just go take it from someone that got it already. [laughs] You know what I’m saying. The real way way, 1-2-3 it’s yours now.
Anybody that sits down and projects their energy into writing some music and things of that nature is real positive. For you wanting to make that transition to pick up a pen instead of picking up a gun is righteous. You’re not being too much of a gangsta doing that. This is why I never really agreed with classifying that kind of rap as just “gangsta rap.” I call it “street rap” or “reality rap” because to me Hip Hop is a reflection of the streets.
You’ve been credited by some as the original gangsta rapper. You were a person that many guys who ever did gangsta rap credited as an inspiration. How do you feel about being credited as a gangsta rapper but don’t want it to be called “gangsta rap”?
KGR: It’s not so much the title; it’s how people perceive the title. If I was to be a gangsta movie film producer, I don’t want people to relate that to how I believe that life should be lived. When I’m out producing a film, that’s not how I go home and live my life. I don’t want people to classify or relate that to me on that level. I don’t feel like just because you’re not living out the lyrics you write in your music that you’re a coward, fake, or not real.
I think that it’s too much of that and this is what causes situations like what happened to Stack Bundles. I think it causes a person like Notorious B.I.G. to go to Cali when the beef is hot. The beef is hot between New York and Cali right now, why are you out there?
People think that they can talk crap on a record or on a website and not have to see people in the streets. That’s a big misconception. Not everyone lives by ‘you can say what you want because it’s the internet.’ Nah, you said it.
KGR: Exactly! But you know what’s so messed up? We do that to our own artists and to our own people. If one of us was to see Brad Pitt, they would go fucking gaga. Then they would want to have a hatred for him because he’s not jumping through a window or pulling out and popping off his gun. Or Tom Cruise who does all of these wild action movies. People don’t put that pressure on them, but they put it on their own people.
I think that it’s messed up that we do that bad, then feel like it’s so horrible when you get the results of it, like a Stack Bundles, Big L, Notorious B.I.G., Tupac… Sometimes we push people into that danger.
Coming back to Queens, I feel that it’s important for us to recognize the people that are doing positive things with their movement. They might have been in bad situations before, but just to show that you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to be in the streets trying to prove yourself to be successful and be considered a rapper that does reality rap.
KGR: The main thing too comes from parenting. You have to teach your kids proper moral values, righteousness, and decency as much as you can. Teach them to be intelligent and make wise decisions. No one should look at 50 Cent and be like I want to be a gangsta and pop my gun off. They should look at what he’s done with his life and how he turned it around. He made a positive out of a negative.
50 Cent is not standing on corners right now with bandanas and doo rags with three or four guns on him. He’s doing movies and business deals. He’s on late night talk shows with a suit jacket looking real sharp and sounding intelligent. He’s not stupid. He’s not ignorant. He’s a very smart businessman and that’s the part of 50 Cent that people need to gravitate to.
Tell us a little bit about your upcoming album Riches, Royalty & Respect. What does this record mean to you and why you think people will like it?
KGR: Number one, I know that they will like it because it’s an authentic G Rap. I didn’t really step outside of my character nor do something I’m not really known for doing. This is an album of lyricism. Witty wordplay, punch lines, metaphors, things of that nature. It’s storytelling. This is what G Rap built a legacy on, doing songs like that.
What I think young artists will like about it, too many of the artists today have been influenced by G Rap, or was influenced by another artist that was influenced by G Rap. If you can gravitate to the tree, then you can definitely gravitate to its roots.
Do you have any guest spots? Who are some of the producers you worked with?
KGR: Right now I have a track with Alchemist and a feature with Havoc. As far as names, I’m not trying to lock down any more features until I wrap the project all the way up. Those names are too early to mention right now, because they could happen or they could not happen.
I’ve got other producers like Super Dave and Insurgency”¦ these are no household brand names. These are hungry kids that do their thing production wise. They produce that heat. These are the elements that I use to construct an album.