Veteran rhyme-slinger Kool G Rap is in that rarefied class of lyricists that helped revolutionize the art of rhyming. And nearing thirty years in the game with not much of a step lost, you'd be hard pressed to find many artists with a better catalog of bars to their credit. A native of Queens, N.Y., Kool G Rap caught the rap world's attention alongside DJ Polo while signed to Cold Chillin' Records during the late '80s.
An impressive appearance on "The Symphony" as well as the buzz single, "It's a Demo," positioned the duo to release their 1989 debut, Road To the Riches. The album was well-received by hip-hop junkies and critics alike and was the first of a trilogy that would solidify the pair as one of the better duos in all of rap outside of sales figures and radio airplay.
While their resume would prove to be virtually flawless, DJ Polo and Kool G Rap split after their third and final album, Live and Let Die, in 1993, prompting Kool G Rap to go for dolo and record a solo album. Regarded as one of the premier rappers on the East Coast, it's safe to say that Kool G Rap created a classic solo debut with 4,5,6, which touched down on Sept. 26, 1995.
Debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, the collection would fail to catch fire or earn any plaques, but did spawn multiple singles and is considered one of the better albums of its time.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kool G. Rap's 4,5,6 album, we handpicked the five best songs for your listening pleasure.
"Take Em To War"Featuring MF Grimm and B-1
Kool G Rap connects with MF Grimm on "Take Em To War," a murderous anthem on 4,5,6 that sees the pair of New Yorkers letting their guns go with reckless abandon. Produced by T-Ray, "Take Em To War" is essentially a MF Grimm and B-1 showcase, as they account for the first two verses while Kool G bats cleanup on the third. Grimm makes the most of his air-time with standout bars, like "I represent the murderers and felony offenders / Who even buck time-out to get these legal tenders / Nah, I'm going out with a bang, n---- / F--- Pataki, I gotta do my thing, n----" and showing a complete lack of respect for authority. Kool G Rap refuses to be outdone, though, turning in a clutch final verse, rapping "So let a motherf---ker move a muscle / When I tussle, there'll be pieces in ya back like f---ing puzzles" and other mentions of bodily harm. Violence never sounded so lovely.
"For da Brothaz" is a soulful joint that samples of Art Farmer's "Soul Sides" and Idris Muhammad's "Power Of Soul" with stellar results. Reminiscing on one of is street proteges, Kool G spits, "I know a youngster, met him at fourteen, a very short scene / Fiending to make his dreams come true, but see, money was caught mean / Started running wild, living life type of foul / See, that was my shorty style, but deep down at heart, he was only a child" and eulogizes his deceased partner in song. The veteran rapper does an excellent job documenting the pitfalls of those that fell victim to the street game. "For da Brothaz" is more heartfelt and cautionary than celebratory.
"Blowin' Up in the World"
The Juice Crew legend recounts his rags to riches come up on "Blowin' Up In the World." Showing his more introspective side, G Rap describes his humble beginnings before explaining how hustling and rap changed his lifestyle for the better. "Back in the days was kinda crazy, kid, I started out with nothing / Wasn't living like Thanksgiving, I was turkey without the stuffing / Sometimes I swear to God that I was headed for the poor house / Said momma caught the drama she would bleed tryna' feed four mouths," he raps. Produced by Buckwild, who utilizes a sample of Bobby Caldwell's "What You Won't Do For Love" and thumping drum kicks for the brooding beat, "Blowin' Up In The World" is a thug's version of a testimonial and a great song.
The Naughty Shorts-produced "It's A Shame" is the lead single from 4,5,6 and features a sample of "Love Is for Fools" by Southside Movement. Setting it off on the first verse, the Queens, N.Y. legend spits, "And once again it's Big G running the number rackets, wearing Pele jackets / Fast loot tactics, I'm well up in the millionaire bracket / The boss of all bosses, I own horse races and a fortress / Corridors wit Olympic torches and Mona Lisa portraits." Kool G Rap paints a vivid picture of his lavish lifestyle before moving onto encounters with desirable women and mentions of high stakes drug deals. Featuring an addictive hook that is guaranteed to lull you into a spell by the end of the song. "It's A Shame" is Kool G Rap at his finest and stands as a testament of his influence on much of the content of our favorite east coast rappers.
It's rare that you hear two transcendent lyricists on a track together during their prime, but that's exactly what this banger has made possible. Fellow Queens, N.Y. native Nas joins his rap hero for this collaborative effort, which brings the architects of mafioso rap together. Produced by Buckwild, the two volley rewindable couplets back and forth with ease over a sample of Surface's 1986 ballad, "Happy." The song is an undisputed classic that puts 4,5,6 over the top and serves as the cherry on top. Props to Kool G Rap who is a true genius and pillar of the culture.
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