Following on from Part 1, Kool G Rap discusses his discography following his debut, the “Cop Killer” fall-out, the failed session with the Neptunes and why Queens isn’t soft because it has trees.
Robbie: When did you begin work on Wanted: Dead Or Alive?
Kool G Rap: Maybe a year later, after Road To The Riches got released.
How was it going from working with Marley to Eric B. and Large Professor?
It was great. Me and Eric was close, and I looked-up to Eric B. and Rakim as a group. I was just as much a fan as everybody else. Nobody can deny their music.
Did you ever discuss making a song with Rakim?
We talked about it but it happened to never really come into place. Me and Ra’s from different areas – Ra’s from Long Island, I was from Queens, so it wasn’t like we bumped into each other all the time. I would only see Rakim if he would come to Queens to fuck with Eric and them.
Were you involved in choosing the records you rhymed over?
I would bring records to the studio to Marley and tell him what to do. I would tell him, “Yo, put this with this, put that with that.” He’d be feeling my ideas I was coming with, then he would add something to it and the record would just come out crazy. It was definitely Marley’s ear and Marley’s touch that made the record come out sounding nice and polished, because he was an experienced producer. I just was a writer with a lot of ideas – I knew what I wanted to rap over.
Like the Billy Joel record used on “Road To The Riches”?
Yeah, I brought that in ‘cos I loved it the first time I heard Cold Crush 4 on it.
What inspired you to use Gary Numan’s “Cars”?
I used to always love that record. That was the Run-DMC influence on that one. I don’t know how nobody coulda came out rapping in my era and didn’t have no Run-DMC influence whatsoever. That was the Run-DMC part of G Rap coming out, but as you can see it didn’t come nowhere near Run-DMC! [laughs]
How did you feel about Bel Biv Devoe using you for the hook of that “Poison” record?
I just heard my voice on the radio on Bel Biv Devoe record. They never said, “Yo G, we’re gonna use your voice,” they just used it. But that’s part of hip-hop and R&B. R&B was becoming very similar to hip-hop, production-wise, so I didn’t look at it no kind of crazy way. I was honored that they wanted to use my voice like that. It meant that I was on their radar.
Did you hear any of TJ Swan’s unreleased album with Marley?
I heard one or two [songs] but I never heard the whole album. I used to love to see TJ Swan live when he used to be on stage live with Biz Markie and they used to do they little routines and stuff before they would do one of their hit records. I used to love seeing them do that together. Biz already had crazy stage presence, he was funny, the beats was crazy. They show was one of the real enjoyable shows, as far as hip-hop artists back in those times. To me it was like Biz, Kane and Doug E. Fresh had a hell of a stage presence. I used to love seeing Doug E. on stage.
Did you do many shows with the rest of the Juice Crew?
We did a Cold Chillin’/Juice Crew tour out in London in the UK. We did that early, I didn’t even have an album out then, I only had a single. Other than that, there was maybe one other time, when artists like Grand Daddy IU came, Masta Ace came, and they was part of the Juice Crew too, but there wasn’t a whole lot of that. I would end up on the same bill as Shan or Kane much later in the years.
Where you tight with Mr. Magic?
Me and Magic hung-out a couple of times, but it was never an everyday thing. I used to be around Shan, I used to be around my man Fly Ty – the co-owner of Cold Chillin’ Records – and my man Polo. Me and Grand Daddy IU was mad cool, too. We would end-up on the same show sometimes, so we would get to wherever we performing at and we would hang-out. Sometimes we would stay days and days after the show was over, just hanging out together. That’s a real good dude right there.
What’s your favorite track from the second album?
Lyrically? “Kool Is Back” was my “Men At Work” for the Wanted: Dead Or Alive album. I used to always try to keep one of those type of records on the album back in those times, because that’s when I was really trying to establish that I’m not just an ordinary rapper. I’ve got a little more with me than just being ordinary. So every time I did an album, I would try and put a “Men At Work” or a “Kool Is Back” on it, just to re-establish, “This is me!”
Your third album was caught in the fall-out of the “Cop Killer” stuff, wasn’t it?
They didn’t wanna put out none of the hardcore street artists. Warner Brothers didn’t want to put out my album or Live Squad album neither. Without that major machine behind it, it didn’t fulfill all it’s potential. But as far as the streets? G Rap had the streets with that record.
Did you stay in LA while you were making Live and Let Die?
I would go out there for like a month at a time, sometimes two months. I spent around six months out in Cali recording that with [Sir] Jinx.
Was it more laid-back out there?
Laid back? It was gang-bang central out there! [laughs] It was a different atmosphere. I was charged up about recording an album out there, because my first time going to Cali with Kane, Biz, Shante, Shan – all of us – we had went out there for a big industry function to perform. I just loved Cali after that – I loved the atmosphere, I just loved being there. Plus I wanted to work with Jinx. Jinx is one of the illest producers out there that don’t get his proper credit.
Why did you add those three Trackmasterz songs onto the album after finishing the Sir Jinx stuff?
Trackmasterz had a rap group that Fly Ty was dealing with. I liked the rap group and I liked the tracks that they was rapping over, so when I came back from Cali, Fly Ty said he could get me tracks from these cats. They gave the track for “Ill Street Blues” and I went crazy and wrote the first two verses on the spot, right there in the studio.
Why was that album originally called Live and Let Die – The Movie?
I always wanted to do an album that was constructed like a movie, but I think I accomplished it more with Roots of Evil.
The record that stood out to me was “One Dark Night” where you did a triple cadence. That was seriously slept on.
That whole album, right? When people ask me what’s one of my favourite albums, that’s one that’s at the top of my list.
T-Ray describes you as “The Muddy Waters of Hip-Hop” since you had an influence of people like Nas and Big L. How do you feel about that statement?
It’s an honorable statement. I appreciate Big L as a lyricist, and Nas is legendary status. That’s already established – that’s written in stone. For me to be mentioned by Nas himself as an influence? I’m grateful to have made that kind of impact to inspire somebody that would turn out to be a Nas, who I look to very much to be incredible, lyrically.
When you recorded “Fast Life” with him, it felt like a passing of the torch.
Absolutely. That wasn’t the intention, but I understand what you mean. It kinda had that appearance to it, and it probably did work out that way.
Do you remember an incident when MF Grimm and Joe Fatal took your car out and got into a fight with a cab driver?
No, I don’t really recall that. I met Grimm through Joe Fatal, so they was already tight, so there was a lotta times they hung-out and did things that I never knew about. I met B-1 through Grimm, and he actually had a single deal with Rawkus before I even signed with ‘em. I met them both when I was recording the 4,5,6 album. I already knew Grimm was nice, but that was my first time hearing B-1, and I was blown away. I was like, “This kid sounds hungry, yo.” B-1 was nice, yo.
Do you remember recording a track with B-1, Freddie Foxx and Grimm, over a Lord Finesse beat? I read about in RapPages.
I don’t recall the song. Maybe I did a verse for B-1 and he maybe he put other cats on it later. I never heard the version with Bumpy Knuckles and Grimm ahead of time. Just like I recently did the record for RZA soundtrack [The Man With Iron Fists], but when I got it it only had Ghostface verse on it – matter of fact I never even heard Raekwon’s verse for that record. Sometimes records just turn out that way.
How did you meet T-Ray?
I met him through [Dr] Butcher. He gave me that crazy-ass track for “Shit Ain’t Never Gonna Change” [“Take ‘Em To War”].
Were you based in Arizona when you did that album? T-Ray said you recorded some stuff in a cabin up-state.
I was going back and forth. It wasn’t a cabin – the studio owned a whole lot of land, and they had about three or four houses on the land, and whoever rented out the studio would basically live there. You’d stay there for like a week or two.
Did you discover Papoose?
He had already been working with a producer outta Brooklyn. He introduced me to him, than I started to work with Papoose and Jinx [Da Juvy]. I got Jinx signed to Def Jam Records. Jinx was really young, I think he was 15 years old, and he had a half a million dollar deal with Def Jam, but he didn’t run with the right crowd and all that and he started getting into a lot of legal trouble. I guess it became too much of a headache, so they just wiped their hands of the project.
You later made a huge buzz when you started doing a lot of features, peaking with “The Realest” for Mobb Deep.
I was doing so many features at the time that I began to re-surface again. The Mobb Deep feature was like a knock out the park. It made everybody start paying attention again.
That lead to your Rawkus deal. What exactly happened there?
Right after completion of that album, Rawkus lost their financial backing and they lost their distribution and had to find a new home, basically. They had to establish another situation, and my album got all tangled up in that. By contract, they couldn’t put my record out as an independent. They had to put it out through a major – that was one of the stipulations in my paperwork. I had to sit around and wait for them to construct a whole new deal, so I chose not to sit around.
What happened with your aborted session with The Neptunes?
Pharrell was trying to cater to hits that I did in the past, but I wanted him to come with some of the things he was doing during those times. He was trying to come to my world, but I was trying to go to his world. I was trying to explain to him, “I’m trying to bring G Rap to your world. Not convert to your world.” But he was stuck on “Ill Street Blues,” I guess that was one of his favorite G Rap records, so I suppose he was trying to cater to that sound – but I was trying to get into the Neptunes sound of the times!
What sets Queens apart?
Queens got some history – you’ve got legends that resisided in Queens at one time or another. Louis Armstrong had a house in Corona, Queens. The house that Malcolm X used to live in – that got fire-bombed – is in East Elmhurst. As far as the hip-hop sound? Queens is a good mixture. You’ve got parts of Queens that are kind of cool areas, then you’ve got parts of Queens that are straight-up gutter. Dudes from Queens aways had a “get money” mentality, because some of them might come from that – and the ones that didn’t come from that got a “get money” mentality because they see other people that’s a little better-off than them, and they not that far from ‘em. You could be in a part of Queens and it’s straight gutter, then go ten blocks another direction and be in a place where the families own they house, and might have a little land in the South or another house in the South. They come from something. Their parents might be educated and went to college and all that. Then you have another part of Queens that was straight hood – your mom’s might’ve been a dope fiend, or your pop’s mighta been a slinger – a pimp! It was all in close proximity to each other. That’s why rapper’s that come from outta Queens have a bit of everything. Nas sounds street, but then again he’s intelligent too. He’s multi-dimensional.
Didn’t The Bronx and Brooklyn try to say that Queens was soft because you had trees out there?
Let me tell you something…all that about Queens being soft and all that, back in the days, that came from people that didn’t really know about Queens. You had a lot of Uptown cats, Harlem dudes that moved to Queens and bought homes ‘cos they were gettin’ money. You had Brooklyn dudes that moved to Corona, Queens. It wasn’t like everyone in Queens was born in Queens and raised in Queens. The real dudes from every borough knew the real dudes from Queens back in those times, so they wasn’t the ones saying Queens was soft. Goons connect with other goons. It was other people that didn’t really move around from outta their boroughs. Early 80’s it was Fat Cat’s in Queens, it was Supreme’s in Queens. Baisley projects, 40 projects, Corona…Queensbridge. Astoria projects – where shit happens! That’s why later in the years they would call that shit “Cop Killer Queens” [chuckles].
What have you been working on?
In recent times I’ve been doing a lotta features for different artists projects. One of the highlights was the RZA movie soundtrack, The Man With The Iron Fists, one of the bigger features I’ve done in recent times, but I do a lotta other stuff, even with cats overseas. I stay busy like that.
Any plans to work with Alchemist again?
Me and Alchemist was talking about doing a collaboration album together. Right now I’m wrapping-up my collaboration album with Necro. It’s lyrical onslaught – back-to-back lyrical swordsmanship.
Are you happy with where hip-hop is right now?
To be honest, I’m not really tuned-in to what’s going on in the hip-hop scene right now. I don’t listen to radio. The hip-hop of today is a totally different world to the hip-hop I’m accustomed to. It’s really not on my radar right now.