Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Retail Ginacana Story

So, I've done a couple posts on Kool G Rap's somewhat infamous sixth album... The Unreleased Giancana Story, about all the mp3 leaks, The Other Giancana Story, about the bootlegged Rawkus version, and a post about "Holla Back," one of the best and most important tracks from the album. Well, today I'd like to touch on the actual, official, final version that was released by Koch in 2003. Because, while I can't exactly say it gets an unfair rap - most of the criticisms leveled against it are valid - it does have some under-appreciated qualities. And, much like pizza, sex and Ingmar Bergman films... even "bad" Kool G Rap albums are good.

The important thing to remember about this album is the position Koch was in when they released it. This was an album Rawkus had already dropped the ball on. They'd been dangling it in front of fans' faces for years, and then collapsed before they could actually release it. But not before, as my previous posts have detailed, it could leak online. In fact, it leaked more than once, with alternate track-listings as the album was still being worked on, and then re-worked on to address its commercial viability after the initial leaks. The hardcore Kool G Rap fans already had the bootleg double LP on wax. So what did they do?

They actually went about it exactly the way I would've hoped a label would.  Instead of just repressing the bootleg and calling it official, they went back through all of the G Rap's vaulted and focused on the as-yet unheard and unreleased material. Most labels would've just tried to sell us the same material we already had.  I know I wouldn't have bothered getting that. But no, Koch really took the right, commendable approach in my eyes, and dug up what we didn't already have. Sure, they kept the signature Giancana tracks... the biggest single, the amazing "Black Widow" track, his awesome Jinx duet and "Holla Back" (minus Nas, but I'm sure that's because they couldn't afford him, not because they somehow imagined the song would be better without him). You just couldn't call it The Giancana Story without those. But so much on the album, after being booted and leaked to high heaven, was new to our ears. They actually managed to put together another record that belonged in the collections of a G Rap fan in 2003.

Just think of it a Bootlegs and B-Sides compilation, a la Ice Cube. Yeah, the Rawkus version is easily the better of the two Giancana Story's... it's got the Premiere remix, the awesome track with CNN... If you only get one version of Giancana story, absolutely get that one. In fact, if you've heard the Koch version back in the days and were unimpressed, I recommend you go back and find the bootleg album; I think you'll be impressed.

...But if you really appreciate KGR, there's no reason to limit yourself to just one Giancana. This version features a couple of the earlier singles, like "Streets" and "My Life," which the Rawkus version for some reason left off, and eschews the lame Snoop collabo in favor of a far grittier team-up with Havoc called "Thug Chronicles," which features some amazing bars from the Kool Genius. It's got "It's Nothin'" with Joel Ortiz, though he only gets to do the hook because G Rap just can't stop spitting amazing lines long enough to pass the mic.

And yeah, there's some weaker stuff, too... "Fight Club" has G Rap and Ma Barker catering to some club styles of the time, and the production on "Drama" really doesn't live up to the MC. Even tracks with a more traditional NY-style, like "Thug for Life," are still pretty weak in the production department compared to the jewels he'd been blessed with from guys like Marley, Extra P and Sir Jinx throughout his career. But they're still preferable to songs we already owned, and like I was saying above... G Rap at his worst still easily outshines music recorded by most MCs at their best. And for every no-name produced track, there's another by Rockwilder, Mike Heron or Buckwild. I'll still take this out of my crates and spin it any day of the week.

Koch gave this a nice, double LP treatment, so there's not much to complain about. No, I wouldn't rate most of the material here alongside his classics, but I still wouldn't want to be without it. And I'm grateful Koch rescued some stuff from the vaults that otherwise surely would've gone forever unheard otherwise, second tier or not.

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