Saturday, January 5, 2013

Restoring Honor To the Fam

The internet can be an excessively snarky place. I'm all for taking the air out of the ridiculousness that increasingly pervades hip-hop... but the tide shifts from completely undue reverence to an utter lack of appreciation of real talent with dizzying abandon. Blogs will hail every teenager with a glossy Youtube video as the Second Coming the first week, and then a few months down the line, they're just the punchline to a joke, "ha ha, remember him?" This isn't about old school artists who can't equal their 80's and 90's material anymore; it's just about trendy trends and the culture letting clueless teens with no analytical ear determine what's "relevant."

Kool G Rap has definitely fallen victim to this... I think his insistence on plumbing the depths of gangster rap after it stopped being a fad because he still mining great art from it cost him a lot of fair-weather fans who really need to go back and rediscover what they've been missing. But while the scales may be tipped unfairly towards his older material versus anything he's done after the mid 90s, he still gets his respect. But what really gets maligned? His 5 Family Click album.

Back when this dropped, it was a pretty under-the-radar little gem, which Jay-Z famously called his favorite album of the year on the radio. Now it's regarded the way Ramones fans regard Dee Dee King's rap album. Granted, Click of Respect isn't G Rap's best long player - it's probably in the running with Half a Klip for his worst - but there is no wack G Rap album. Mediocre artists today get so much praise for going back and recapturing the spirit of material like this, when their bars aren't half as viciously, multi-syllabically ingenious as the ones on this album:

"Giacana gambino wit it.
Rollin' with gorillas 'n' chrome
Ballers stand tall like the pillars in Rome
Still a stone, still prone to kill alone
Still in zone, chest stuck out like they filled it with silicone
Killer, it's on
Retaliate like Italiano
Leave a hollow slug lost in your head like the Econo
Too live Five Family shit, clique of black Sopranos
You get the money, roll through your hood
You ain't thug cause you dress grimey, nigga; I'll put a hole in your hood

Wanna cop somethin'? I'm holdin' the goods
Pop a shotty, drop a body, snatch my hottie and lay low in the woods
Somebody violate my premises, some shells spit off
Pitbulls in the yard, nigga get his tail bit off"

And yes, I admit that a song with a verse by G Rap and two of his friends isn't as desirable as a song with three verses by G Rap on his own. But let's be real... you know G Rap had to have had a big hand in the writing of everybody's stuff on here. And G Rap is all over this album; it's not like one of those projects where you're starved for the real artist and given nothing but inferior weed carriers. There's tons of great G Rap material on here... and when he passes the mic, everybody holds their own. Again, that's presumably because he's carrying them in the writing department, just like he's done for so many artists he's worked with in the past; but 40 Cal and Hammerz carry their weight better than a lot of bigger name collaborations have in the past, that's for sure.

But maybe the production is really to blame for the reception this album got? Granted, this isn't Wanted: Dead Or Alive; but what's so disappointing here? Tracks by Buckwild and DR Period? Hard drums and sped up soul that everybody still sweats Kanye for (when did we stop crediting RZA for this style, by the way?), even though these guys sound infinitely fiercer spitting over it?

Again, I'll acknowledge the flaws... some of the instrumentals do feel a little undercooked, and the less compelling songs can sound too similar. There's also a track or two that try to emulate the poppy, in vogue club styles of the time that should've been cut. And a little less Ma Barker would've gone a long way. Every G Rap fan, including myself, was starting to get pretty sick of Ma Barker jumping onto every single record by the end there. She was never a bad MC, and with G Rap behind her, she even managed to spit some crazy impressive bars.  Yeah, she really over-saturated his records with herself, and indeed, "no Ma Barker" might've been the biggest selling point of Riches, Royalty and Respect. But at least a couple of her (probably ghostwritten) verses here are fucking killer, and you're seriously missing out if you let her online media image get between you and the material.

So it's not his penultimate masterpiece; but this album still belongs in your crates, or at least a cheap copy of the CD. I'd much rather replay this than the latest, half-as-skilled knock-off just because his mixtape is on the front page of datpiff this week. You don't impress me when you take cheap shots at this. Albums this good are too rare, no joke.


  1. Thanks for posting this. You make a convincing argument. Looking forward to revisiting this, because I can't really even remember what it sounds like.

  2. The 40 Cal mentioned in the post the same 40 from The Diplomats? Its a generic name though. Side question: do you have Zion I stuff

    1. Pretty sure it's not the same guy... I have a little Zion I, definitely not a huge collection, but at least a 12" or two. I really like that song they did with The Anomolies.