Thursday, 12 April 2018

Kool G Rap "4, 5, 6" (1995)

Prior to some research on this record, I would of lumped in Queens rapper Kool G Rap in the Golden Era of Hip Hop, simply for my vague memories enjoying his records with DJ Polo and also as a name I hear a lot of my favorite 90s rapper cite as a big influence. Turns out he is considered an originator of Mafioso Rap for some of his street rhymes with DJ Polo. After three records the two split and this debut as a solo artist comes out right at the peak of Mafioso Rap's emergence. Around the same time Raekwon, AZ, Nas, Mobb Deep, Notorious B.I.G and Jay-Z dropped classics in the sub-genre. Its what caught my ear when it spun on shuffle. Ive been binging it the last few days and adoring how sweetly it sits into that moment of time, its truly of the era.

My biggest take away from this record is Kool himself, his ability and technical prowess is simply undeniable! He spits fast and concise with a strong tone that makes every word visible as he navigates through tricky flows of rhymes that one might say "he makes sound easy". The reality is obvious that he is rhyming tough and hard, fast technical schemes that pay off with his ability. It makes me think Ive overlooked a great here. If his ability is great the lyrical content may be a step behind, coherent story telling violent word play doesn't have quite the emotional weight to reinforce his impressive ability. Kool navigates us through tough Mafioso rhymes of hardcore street life and criminology rap thats gritty and dark, steeped in violence and gang life however it always feels short of a point or any social context or message.

The production is all you could hope for from a mid nineties Hip Hop album. Caught in that sweet spot between jazzy samples and programmed instrumentation, it plays out with a nice amount variety reflected with the tone of songs like "Take Em To War", dark, menacing and gloomy which over a few songs finds its way to "Fast Life", a sunny summer party track flashing the wealth and lifestyle side of family crime life. On first listen I was literally thinking this song would be perfect for Nas who then steps on the mic and delivers a fantastic verse. Parts of the record felt a little deju-va, as some of the songs feeling somewhat cast from the mold. Echos of Big L's instrumental style can be heard with the same samples and gang shouts parallel to his debut. Of course looking into the producers we have Buckwild who explains the similarity, his "Blowin' Up In The World" has some of the same beats, samples from Big L and the gang shouts have to be by the same guys! Maybe it was a left over from that session that made it here.

If I sound critical, its all praise, the production is wonderful, the instrumentals are what I love with exception to the final track that samples Herbie Hancock's Watermelon Man. Its a really fun instrumental but its totally contrasted against the violent, money obsessed lyrics. It just sounds odd as a whole. Overall its a sharp and keen album that's bang on the Mafioso crime family vibes and I feel it falls a little short in terms of lyrical substance however the brilliance of Kool is obvious and I'm left feeling like I need to get better acquainted with his work.

Favorite Tracks: Blownin' Up In The World, Fast Life, Ghetto Knows
Rating: 7/10