Sunday, May 1, 2011

Competive Spirit - Kool G Rap Interview

I've got a great one for you guys this weekend. I just got to talk in depth with pretty much the greatest rapper of all time: Kool G. Rap. I got to ask him about all the obscure, finer points everybody else glosses over - yes, my first question for him was about "Movie Review." :-D

There was a track on promo copies of Live and Let Die that didn’t wind up on the final album. It was called "Movie Review." Can you tell us about that?

Right. My recollection is very vague, so I couldn’t really give you accurate information… it did kinda ring a little bell, but it’s very vague. I think it was a skit, if I remember correctly, but that’s about all I can give you on that, it was so long ago and I put so much stuff out there, you know?

Sometimes people post stuff out there that I haven‘t seen in years, I don’t know how they got their hands on it. I don’t have it. In my personal possession. I’ll hear something and be sort of shocked myself, like where the fuck they get that off?

But is there still anything that hasn’t come out yet that you’d like to see released? Was there any song you did that you thought was really hot that Cold Chillin’ or somebody sat on?

You mean like a Lost Tapes type of thing? I have thought about that before, but I think, better than that" I always wanted to put out a collection of all the features I ever did. From known artists to not-so known artists, because I think I did some extremely good work. I don’t just push the envelope when I’m in the studio for a Mobb Deep record, or a feature with Big Pun or MOP. I do that with regular Joe Schmoe Jackson from fuckin’ Minnesota, and spit a crazy verse for that person’s project.

Yeah, one that stands out to me is "Let 'Em Live" with Chino XL, you close out with an amazing verse.

Right, Right. I appreciate that. It could be a track that Dr. Dre wants me to do, or just the average person with no name or nothing, who’s trying to get up and running, and I’ma always put the same amount of effort into my craft. So, with some people that were just trying to get their machine up off the ground, I did some real good work, that people just never heard.

Definitely. That would have to be like a five-disc set to fit all that stuff!

(Laughs) Almost! Because I’ve done a lot of features out there.

Sometimes, though, it feels like it gets marketed like a co-sign, like by you featuring on their record, it’s like you’re validating them. And you’ve worked with such a variety… Is that something that bothers you, or would you say, yeah, if you did a song with them you consider them at a certain level?

I know that’s part of the game sometimes. But yeah, I’m cool with that. I worked hard to have people look at me in that light. So I definitely wouldn’t be offended or mad now that I’m finally there; this is what I wanted from the first time doing it, doing what I do. I wanted people looking at me with the admiration or honor or whatever other things people look at G Rap as. If people look at me in that light, I definitely wouldn’t want to turn away from that now.

You’ve bigged up Silver Fox as being someone in that position for you - inspiring you, an MC to look up to.

Right.

And now Silver Fox is back, he’s got a myspace, he’s doing new songs. Have you guys considered doing some songs together or anything?

There was talk of doing some things, but it’s sort of dissipated. It was probably more to do with that he was busy doing his thing and I was definitely busy doing my thing, wrapping my project up., and running around promoting, photo sessions, press dates. It became a problem: he happened to be working on his project the same time I was working on marketing this album as much as possible and the time wouldn’t allow it. But I wish Silver Fox the best with his project; he’s definitely one of the main inspirations on G Rap and had a profound effect on how G Rap present himself to the world.

It’s interesting, because if you go back and listen to the Fantasy Three records, Silver Fox doesn’t sound like a prototypical G Rap. You don’t hear that and think, "oh, here’s where his style came from," like some early version of you.

Well, I heard him off recordings as well; I heard him freestyle. I mean, the way he was flowing back then, it might not be noticeable now because the art of flowing has gotten so technical with the times, that you probably wouldn’t even notice what he was doing in comparison with to where we at now. You know what I mean?

True.

I mean, Fantasy Three was out around, what ‘84? And by the time G Rap, Rakim and Kane came out, things had innovated already back then. And we’re talking ‘86, ‘88, those years. And we’re all the way in 2011 now. So if you had any kind of futuristic flow in comparison to the times back then, it probably wouldn’t even be that noticeable now. You’d have to saturate yourself in the music that was going on then to hear the difference.

Speaking of your beginnings, when the Terminators started, you weren’t in it, right? I know you’re not on that record - it was Polo and Frost B?

MC Frost, yeah.

But by "It’s a Demo," you’re saying, "we’re The Terminators." So how did that transition come about?

What it was is that Polo and Frost started together first. They were the team first, before I even got in the picture with Polo. Once I got in the picture, to my understanding, Frost was having differences with Polo. Because Polo wanted to do promotional stuff that Frost didn’t necessarily want to do… things they weren’t getting paid for. So when me and Polo linked up, I was for anything to accomplish my dream. Whether it was something we gotta do for promotion, get ourselves out there or get paid, it didn’t matter to me. I was gonna do it because I was hungry and I wanted it that bad, because I knew what I was capable of doing poetically.

When I mention Terminators, it was out of respect for the name Polo had before I even got into the picture. If you notice, I didn’t really use that name anymore other than just using it as a punch line or a metaphor. But I did not affiliate myself and Polo as the Terminators after that. The first time I did it was just out of respect, like, this is your thing you got going before I even got into the picture, I’ma wave that flag.

Jumping ahead a little… on your second album, Wanted Dead or Alive in 1990, you had a song called "Riker’s Island" on the cassette version, which was an older song. That was unusual, especially back then, for an album to add on a song that would’ve been like three years old, before even the first album.

I’m not sure that the copy you see is an actual release of the times, or something that somebody went back and did later and put out.

No, it’s definitely on my original copy I got when it first came out.

Oh, ok. If that was the case, then it was a record company call. Because I had enough songs to make an album; I didn’t have to include something that was put out previously.

I always thought it had something to do with getting Marley Marl’s name on there, so he would be associated with the project? Because he wasn‘t on the album otherwise.

No, not at all. Because I was comfortable with Large Professor being the overall producer of the album.

So, was it pretty much all Large Professor, then? I mean, excluding like the Cool V tracks, there’s been some question of whether it being more Eric B or Large Pro responsible for the music on that album.

What it was… I guess, Large Professor and Eric B had worked out a situation where Large Professor was supposed to produce that album under Eric’s production company. But I wasn’t explained 100% how it was supposed to work out. I didn’t know that he did a situation with Paul, the Large Professor. So I didn’t want to just shit on Large Professor based on their inside, personal business. You know what I mean? I’m like, I gotta give Large Professor the credit; he’s the one that was in the studio every day. It kinda put me in the middle, because I’m close with Eric, and then I gained this relationship with Large Professor because we did the whole album together. So it put me in the middle, and I just gave the credits to where I thought they should’ve went, and I thought, that’s pretty much between y’all. I don’t wanna be responsible for shittin’ on nobody.

Speaking of behind the scenes business, you’ve also written for a lot of artists. How did you get started in that, especially the early stuff? Like Salt ‘N’ Pepa and their first album? That just seems so out of your camp, as opposed to just writing for others within The Juice Crew or whatever.

Well, I was messing with Hurby first. And I actually met Salt ‘N’ Pepa before they made any record.

Was Hurby going to put an album by you out at one point?

Well, I was rhyming for him and that was the intention for him to put me out. But it just didn’t work out that way. I also recorded with The Disco Twins, the guys who put out the NYC Fat Girls and all that back in the day. And then I recorded with Hurby. But then I got with Marley, that’s where it stuck right there. So I still had relationships with people I recorded with before Marley. Me and The Twins were still cool. Me and Hurby were still cool, you know what I’m saying? But I was just doing my own thing then.

Does that mean there’s like a lot of recordings of you with Hurby and all in a vault somewhere?

Nah, because this was before I got into song-writing mode and all that. So there’s not like a lot of material that Hurby would have… maybe like one or two songs with Hurby, tops; and one recording with Disco Twins I have.

Still, that would be great to hear!

(Laughs) You gotta track down Hurby.

Another interesting writing credit you have is that song for Whodini that Full Force produced.

Right, right. Yeah, absolutely right! Wow, I forgot about that.

That was interesting because it was different for Whodini, it was different for Full Force, and then it wound up just on the soundtrack for Nightmare On Elm Street 5 of all places. But it’s a really dope record.

Thanks a lot, man. I got cool with Jalil and Grandmaster Dee. I met ‘em all, but I kinda really bonded with Grandmaster Dee. Jalil was cool, too; and Ecstasy was more of a to-himself type of guy, he has that kind of persona. He acknowledged me and I acknowledged him, but he kept it right there.

You had them rapping faster and more technical than they usually do, but they did it well.

Well, they were definitely fans of G Rap, and appreciated what I do. I assume that’s why they would have me write something for them. Because that was a Whodini call. And they were able to deliver it the way I wrote it to be delivered, because they were familiar my style and they thought highly of it. Just like I respect what they do in the game, you know? But I’m just a different type of rapper. I’m more of a lyrical assassin type of rapper, and they’re more keep the party going type of rappers, and performance on stage type of rappers. They had more of that commercial appeal. G Rap has more of that gutter lyrical assault kind of vibe, but they liked my side of it, where I was at, too.

Right, no doubt. Well, now this you’ve probably been asked about a lot, but when you and Polo split… was that because he wanted you guys to steer in more commercial direction? Because you sort of went more in that one direction, and his solo album was totally someplace else.

Well, I think Polo had more of the commercial flavor to him. Polo had a great ear for what would work generally, like mass audiences. Whatever track he would track would be the track that was a little more mainstream, because you know G Rap is all gutter. I’ma attract the type that wants that hard shit, you know what I’m saying? But this was that time and era when the hard shit was getting accepted by the masses, like it is now. Fifty Cent could come out now and sell fucking nine million records because people embrace that hard shit now. Because you had people that kicked the doors off the hinges like Ice Cube, Public Enemy, Scarface, hardcore rap, hardcore street…

And you too, definitely!

And myself. But when I started doing it, there wasn’t a massive audience for it like that. And there wasn’t so many outlets for us to play like that. Radio wasn’t even trying to embrace a G Rap like that when I first started. But by the time I got to like the 4, 5, 6 album, the doors were a lot more open. Because we had like Nas, Black Moon, Smooth and Trigga the Gambla, MOP, all these real hard streets started coming out and making the audiences bigger and bigger. NWA did phenomenal with that.

Yeah, there’s almost pre-NWA and post-NWA in hip-hop.

(Laughs) Right, exactly. And Geto Boys, all that. But I didn’t have so many vehicles available when I started doing it as kids would later, when the world would embrace it.

And going back to Polo… do you still keep up with him today?

I haven’t spoken to him in a while now, but I have spoken to him… it wasn’t years and years ago, it was more a matter of several months. But yeah, me and Polo are good. We never broke up on bad terms, there was never no conflict or friction. It’s just that, by the time I got to the 4,5,6 album, I had done seven years with him, three albums, and I felt like I’d paid him back enough. Because I’ma very loyal dude. I gave him seven years of my life. But Polo was a DJ; he wasn’t a producer. It wasn’t like he would always come in with all the tracks, so it was like the workload was really just G Rap’s workload. You understand what I’m saying? Like the songs would get done, all he’d have to do is add some cuts and scratches and bring ‘em to shows. And I really didn’t feel like two grown men could eat off the same plate forever under the same circumstances, So it was time for me to move on. But no animosity or nothing like that. Me and Polo still talk to this day.

Does he still DJ at all, or is he in the business still?

I’m not sure to be honest with you. I know he still Djs, but I’m not sure exactly how active he is in the music business. Because I know he was actually recording and actually being the vocalist. I’m sure he was rapping on that album you told me about, because he showed me a video with him and Greg Nice.

Yeah; that's right. It’s mostly guests on every song, though, like Ice-T, Melle Mel… Ron Jeremy of course was the single.

(Laughs) Right, right.

So let’s get into your new stuff. Obviously you’ve got your album coming out in just a couple weeks, and before that you dropped a free EP, Offer You Can‘t Refuse. Are those songs going to be on the album?

There’s one song off the EP that’s actually gonna be on the album, that’s the one with Havoc featuring on it and The Alchemist production. Everything else is all new material.

And that song "Sad" will be on it, with Supa Dave?

Right, exactly. That song is definitely on the album.

So who else is working on this album?

Well, I did a reunion song with Marley Marl, that’s on there. As far as other producers, I got my man DJ Pain-1, he did some stuff with Jeezy. The producer Infamous, who’s actually a Grammy award winner, who did stuff with Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Fifty Cent, LL Cool J. His discography is crazy. And the rest is underground, hungry producers like Leaf Dog. He did a track on the Offer You Can’t Refuse EP, "Baggin’ In the Spot." So if you heard the EP, you know he’s bringin’ it. Supa Dave did the majority of the tracks. He’s the only producer who did four tracks in total.

Supa Dave is really underrated. He’s someone I’m surprised didn’t get a bigger name in the late 90’s, early 2000’s.

Yeah, you know, I didn’t even know his track record like that. Somebody just told me he did tracks with De La Soul and all, I was like damn! No wonder his tracks was crazy.

Yeah, I kept expecting him to blow up more.

Right. Well, we’re gonna cure that little problem. (Laughs) If you can appreciate "Sad," then you know what the chemistry must be like between me and Supa Dave.

Now, I’ve read in an interview you said this was going to be a more personal album…?

Well, you know I touched on subjects I’ve never really touched on before with personal life experiences and things of that nature; but it‘s not like the whole album is a G Rap life story or something. I don’t wanna confuse people. I’m very well-rounded on this album, touching on a little bit of everything. "Sad" was very much me touching on real life stuff, all the people I lost down to my moms, my pops, one of my sisters, some of my friends. So I’m touching on real life situation in "Sad" and another track called "Pages In My Life." But then you’ve got the songs where I’m very metaphoric or I’m messing with the flow, or I’m doing this and doing that. I’m doing the things G Rap is known to do. Then I’ve got the story tracks, like "American Nightmare." I got concepts. The track that I did with the producer Infamous is called "Harmony Homicide." I don’t even want to give the whole idea of It away, but it’s a concept. I didn’t just do anything with this album. I really wanted to have something to say when I did this album, and it all happened to come out, and every way I wanted to display my art as a lyricist came out. This is a well-rounded album, I feel good about it, and I think the fan base is gonna love it.

Nice. And I assume Fat Beats wouldn’t be interfering like Warner Bros, so you’re pretty much free to do it all how you want?

Oh yeah, yeah. Fat Beats is like any other underground label. They accept the artist for who they are. They’re not trying to change you or polish you up. They’re gonna leave it as gritty as it comes. If they make the decision to work with you or do a joint venture with you, they already know what to expect.

So this is gonna be the album people have been looking for, without worrying that Rawkus is gonna swap tracks out or things like that.

Exactly.

It's also exciting to me because it's been a time where a lot of the greats would say they didn't have plans to do an album... like it was just put on hold indefinitely. It was actually getting a little depressing. With the labels closing I guess the greats weren't messing with the new scene, maybe? But now, not just you, but we're seeing Kane is doing a new album, there's talk of Slick Rick coming out on Ice Water Records. Is it shifting back somehow? Are we coming out of that period?

You know what I think it is? It’s been years. Big Daddy Kane’s done Big Daddy Kane for years. Slick Rick’s done Slick Rick for years now. But once you’ve been who you are for over two decades, you know, you go through changes in life. I mean, I had points where I was like, I don’t think I’ma do this no more. Or I’m ready to retire this thing, hang it up, move on. And it’s just my competitive spirit that brings me back all the time. And I’m sure all of them have that competitive spirit… Obviously, they wouldn’t have become what they did if they didn’t have that spirit. It’s just a matter of time before they dust off that old mic, plug it back in the old amp and start rappin’ again. Especially when there’s so many people out there that love them. Kane has so many fans. And Slick Rick has so many fans. And everybody’s sitting there waiting and rooting them on. And that makes you more confident to come out in a totally different era and time frame. It makes you just say, you know what, I’ma just do it for the people that love G Rap, or the people that love Kane, or the people that love Slick Rick. I’ma do it for them. But everybody has their own certain point where they’re ready to be persuaded to do that.

Well, I’m glad you’re doing it now. And on vinyl, by the way. Double LP in addition to the CDs and mp3s.

I’m glad of that, too. Because so many people are still holding it dear. I don’t think the mp3s’ll ever make it to the antique store! (Laughs) Or maybe, you never know, that’ll be an idea for someone to do in the future, an all-digital antique store. But I don’t think they got that yet.

(Laughs) Well, thanks for talking to me. Is there anything final you want to add?

Yeah, look out for the album, Riches, Royalty, Respect. And go out there and get that free mp3 download, Offer You Can’t Refuse. You can get it from koolgrapnow.com, still a free download. You won’t be disappointed.

10 comments:

  1. Great Reading!

    ReplyDelete
  2. That was intense and very thorough. Great job and I enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. grap is the man, interview is great but offer you cant refuse is wack sadly and i dont think that LP will be better

    ReplyDelete
  4. Incredible interview man. I learned a lot from this. Thanks. Keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is a really great interview, been wishing someone id an in-depth one with G Rap. Up there with Robbie from Unkut's best, well done man.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I heard the snippets from the LP on the UK amazon site... the actual album is waaaay better than the free EP, which was ok, but the album's got some incredible beats, all bangers, all classic sounding, and of course G Rap destroys them all!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great interview. Ill probably buy the vinyl set as well as the CD, really looking forward to the SupaDave collabs. Shame that "Take Em Back (SupaFly)" didnt make the album, that track was just beautiful in my opinion. Let's hope these other producers gave G Rap what he wanted on the album. The best that ever done it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great interview with one of the greatest out there. Thank you very much.

    ReplyDelete