Kool G Rap: These Are Our Heroes
Shortly after that dismal chart debut G Rap spoke exclusively to HipHopDX. In addition to sharing his thoughts on just how lost he feels in the 2008 rap game, he gave us the lowdown on his forthcoming first full-length album in nearly six years [for more info click here], as well as the most definitive interview hes given to any outlet in recent memory.
Covering a range of topics spanning the entirety of his over 20-year career, the man whos rugged street narratives inspired the careers of damn near every East Coast emcee to emerge on the scene over the last two decades has blessed HipHopDX readers with never before revealed clarification on the long-rumored reasoning behind his mid-90s move from New York to Arizona, as well as rare gems of information regarding everything from his discovering Nas to rioting with Tupac. For the 690 (and hopefully thousands more that just didnt cop Klip) G Rap loyalists, this interviews for you. Enjoy.
HipHopDX: I dont want to start our interview on a dour note, but we recently passed the 8th anniversary of Big Puns passing, and so I wanted you to tell our readers whove never heard this story of when you and Pun first met.
Kool G. Rap: Well, when me and Pun first met it was in one of [Fat] Joes clothing stores in the Bronx. And he basically got down on [one] knee and shit and kissed the ring.
DX: What was your response to that?
KGR: I mean, I was justI cant even describe it. That was ill that he displayed that much honor and respect. Thats why I always had a lot of love for Pun. He was a real thorough dude and he kept it that way.
DX: Not to stay on a dour note, but I wanted to get your thoughts on another one of Hip Hops fallen soldiers. You were featured on UGKs last album and so I wanted to get any words you may wanna share about Pimp C.
KGR: I never really got to meet Pimp C face-to-face. Bun B, thats my man, we stay in contact with each other. And when me and Bun started talking, Pimp C was still locked up. He just had came home around the time I did the recording [Next Up] for they album [Underground Kingz]. So I never got a chance to meet Pimp C face-to-face, or over the phone. Like, me and Bun had a relationship over the phone for a minute. And wed be doing back and forth favors for each other, like hell jump on something of mine and Ill feature on something of his. We just rock like that with each other. But I got a lot of respect for Pimp C. Number one, thats my boys boy. That was his partner, so thats automatic love right off the top. And, him being one of the pioneers of Hip Hop coming from out [of the south]. So mad respect to Pimp C. The game is gonna miss him terribly.
DX: Now, I wanna switch gears and go back to the beginning of your career and work our way up. So my first question is who were The Rapperteers
KGR: [Laughs] The Rapperteers, wow! That was me, my man Dog, and my man Prince. It was three of us and we formed a group called The Rapperteers.
DX: When was this?
KGR: Aww man, this had to be like 83/84.
DX: So these were like cats that went to your same high school or something?
KGR: Nah, both of em was just from me living in certain parts of Queens. Like, Dog was my man cause he from the same hood that Im from, which is Corona, Queens. And then I met my man Prince when I moved to LeFrak City. LeFrak was my hood too for a certain amount of years. Me and Prince actually linked up first and formed the group, and then I brought my man Dog in later. The group was actually formed when I was staying in LeFrak City.
DX: Were you guys really serious, like trying to make demos?
KGR: Oh, definitely! One of the things we did was hook up with Herbie Azor, the man behind Salt-n-Pepa and Kid-n-Play. It didnt work out with him, as far as him putting us out. I think if we had stuck around [him] eventually something woulda popped off cause he was starting to make a lot of big moves with Salt-n-Pepa. But we was impatient dudes. And it wasnt like Herbie was managing us, we just built an aquaintanship with him and it developed into a relationship. But it wasnt like we signed to him for management or nothing like that.
DX: So we clarified who The Rapperteers were, but who was Silver Fox?
KGR: Silver Fox was a rapper from a group called Fantasy 3 back in the day. They was out and making records before G Rap ever came out. And he was one of the dudes that influenced how G Rap sounded when I actually did come out. He was like so far ahead of his time when he was out there doing it. His flows and everything was just unorthodox and futuristic.
DX: He was a cat from Queens too?
KGR: Nah, Silver Fox was from Uptown. He was from Manhattan. My mans father had a club called Joe Grants, and we used to go to his after hours club Uptown. Thats where I first met Doug E. Fresh. He used to be up in there. And Silver Fox used to be up in there. So thats how I met Doug when I was a young dude. I had to be like 13-years-old meeting Doug E. Fresh and Silver Fox. I seen Doug come out and do his thing, and I was hearing records that Silver Fox was making, and that was a key part of my inspiration for G Rap to come out and do what I do. But Silver Fox was especially [an inspiration] because he influenced how I flowed. He inspired me to wanna be different and stand out amongst the rest lyrically.
DX: What happened to dude?
KGR: The last I heard from him he was a chef or something like that. I havent heard from him in years. But thats my dude right there. A lot of dudes aint know about him because the more [known] names [of that era] is like Melle Mel and Kool Moe Dee, and those dudes had a lot to do with influencing G Rap too, but when I heard this dude Silver Fox this dude was phenomenal to me. I thought Moe Dee was crazy. I thought Melle Mel was crazy. But when I heard Silver Fox I was like, Yo, I think he got em all beat.
DX: Well lets get to the story of how you ended up going from The Rapperteers to a solo career. Break this story down for me cause Im a little confused, it was supposed to be Eric B & Kool G. Rap and not Eric B & Rakim?
KGR: Nah, nah, nah, it was never supposed to be that. I didnt even know Eric B at the time. I used to be around his brother, and then [Eric B & Rakim] came out with they first single [Eric B Is President] and I found out that was my mans brother. And Eric B just started coming around more often. Because when I was hanging out with his brother, I dont think Eric B lived under the same roof his brother did, but when he popped off with Eric B Is President and My Melody he started coming around and thats how I met Eric and we became mad cool. We became cool to the point where I used to tell him like, Yo E, hook a nigga up. He got wind that I was a rapper, and not only that I was a rapper but I was one of the dudes in the hood people knew for that shit. And he liked what he heard coming out of me, so he wanted to help me. So what he did was he linked me up with [DJ] Polo. Polos a dude from my hood too. I knew of Polos name because they used to jam in the parks. Like, when people first started playing music in the parks Polo was in one of the groups out of Queens that would come out and set up the stuff in the parks and be rocking all night. So I knew of Polo, but I never met him. So Eric B was responsible for introducing us. And once he introduced us, me and Polo just clicked right away. Then Polo took me to Marley Marls house [in 1986] and I laid down the Its A Demo track and Im Fly.
DX: So when you met Eric B you were already solo; he wasnt looking at The Rapperteers? You had already made the decision to split from the group at that point?
KGR: It kinda just started to just disapate, the whole Rapperteers thing. After awhile of trying to get it popped off as a group it wasnt really moving. And Prince was still in LeFrak City, so he wouldnt really be around me and Dog that much when I moved back to Corona. I was around Dog most of the time, and then me and Dog just started doing separate things.
DX: Going back here, you brought up Polo, whats up with your former deejay these days? Last I heard from him was like 10 years ago when he did that like porn rap song.
KGR: Polo good. I was with Polo like last week. We was in Southside shooting some documentary, some video footage.
DX: So that split between you guys, that wasnt like beef?
KGR: Nah, it wasnt because of no personal beef or nothing like that. It wasnt even cause of [creative] differences. It was basically two grown men cant eat off the same plate forever, ya know? Polo brought me in the game and I did seven years with him and three albums, so at the time of the split I felt like I repaid him back enough. Like, Polo was a worldwide name. Me and him being in a group together took his name from neighborhood to worldwide.
DX: Now going back to Eric Bman, this the hardest question I gotta askI guess you gotta let me know if Im overstepping my bounds, but Im just gonna ask, its become Hip Hop folklore, but did Eric B in any way influence your move to Arizona?
KGR: Nah, not really. I know there was a lot of rumors going around and all that shit, people talking that witness protection program shit, which it never was. Source magazine did an interview with me [at the time] out in Arizona, so its like how could I be in the witness protection program doing shit like that? As a matter of fact, me and Eric still talk to this day. Basically [the real reason I moved is] I used to be around a lot of dudes in those times that was serious dudes. I mean, you can see for yourself if you look at the back of the Paid In Full album with the real 50 Cent and a couple other dudes on there with names that a lot of other real dudes in New York know. So that was always my circle. And it wasnt just those dudes, it was other dudes too. Those dudes was from one part of Brooklyn and I fucked with, dudes from other parts of Brooklyn, dudes from parts of Queens, I was a young dude that was around older dudes. This is why when G Rap came out I came out on a mature level talking about real shit because I was around real shit. Thats why a lot of people credit G Rap for being like one of the first gangsta rappers because thats what I was around. That was my life. But a lot of my dudes around me started dying, started getting killed, and it was really too close for comfort. It was dudes that used to come to my house and pick up my kids. And so the whole New York thing just started to turn me off after awhile. I had to change up how I moved, not because nobody influenced it but because I seen how shit was around me and that made me different. I didnt wanna be the person I had become during those times. To me, what I was doing this music shit for was to better shit. Like, a lot of dudes like to call themselves keeping it real, they stay in the hood, walking around with Benzes parked in the hood, fucking all kinda jewelry and shit on, but you still laying your head up under fucking wolves. And when shit happen niggas think niggas flipped on em. Nah, thats the nature of the wolf, nigga. So I wanted to break outta New York for those reasons, cause I seen a different life [for myself].
DX: Well I appreciate the candor on that, clarifying everything. That whole story just got out of control.
KGR: Right. The story did get out of control, but niggas cant show you no documents with my name on em. It was all bullshit. Niggas said 50 Cent ratted on Ja Rule, and then came out with documentation. Tell a nigga to say that with G Rap.
DX: Lets get back to the time-line of your career here, I wanna move on to the Juice Crew stage, you said Polo was the one that brought you to Marley, but was Marley immediately like, Youre in?
KGR: Polo and Marley was mad tight. I think they went to high school together. So it was just sorta automatic [that I was put down with the Juice Crew]. I just went right up in and started recording with no problem.
DX: I gotta ask, whos playing you in this Juice Crew movie thats coming out?
KGR: I spoke to the dude, [director] Antoine Fuqua, and he wants me to play my part for a few scenes. So Im not sure who exactly is gonna be playing me for the whole duration of the movie, but I know he does want me to play myself for a few scenes. Im not sure yet if theyre performance scenes or what it is. We aint get in depth yet about what exactly he wants me to do.
DX: Hows that feel that theyre gonna like put a movie in the theatres about them days?
KGR: I mean, its crazy. They need to do that though. Juice Crew was a legendary movement in Hip Hop. We was the jumpstart for so many other cliques and crews that came after, one being Wu-Tang.
DX: Yeah definitely, Hit Squad, a bunch of crews came after that.
KGR: Yeah, Hit Squad, all that stuff was like an offspring of the Juice Crew movement. Its a lot of dudes that came out and popped off that was heavily influenced by members of the Juice Crew.
DX: Now I understand your fellow Juice Crew alum Big Daddy Kane is gonna be executive producing the movie, and I gotta ask if back in the day having two legendary lyricists in the same crew ever caused any conflict? Did yours and Kanes relationship ever become unfriendly competition?
KGR: It was always like a silent competition with me and Kane. We was different but similar. We were similar in the sense of both of us being rappers with these new flows with crazy wordplay. But we was different in the fact that I was more underground and Kane was able to break through to the mainstream and still keep his underground appeal.
DX: Yeah could G Rap do I Get The Job Done?
KGR: Definitely not. See that was never me, so thats why you never got no records out of G Rap like that. But Kane had the knack for playing both sides. G Rap was only able to conquer that one side.
DX: Do you guys still stay in contact? I know hes living down south now.
KGR: Yeah, I havent spoken to him in awhile but [we stay in contact]. The one [from the Juice Crew] that I stay in contact with or see more of is Kane because its been a few occasions where The Roots performed and had me and Kane come out. So me and Kane bumped heads a lot doing that. Me and Marley, we been in contact over the phone. I havent seen him in awhile but we spoke over the phone a few times recently.
DX: Switching gears here, I got a couple stories to ask you about that involve you and a couple other Hip Hop legends. First, is it true that you and Tupac were looting together during the 92 L.A. Riots?
KGR: Definitely was.
DX: [Laughs] How in the hell did that happen?
KGR: [Laughs] I mean, we wasnt so much looting, we was just out there poppin off guns.
DX: So what Pac just called you up?
KGR: We were both in the same studio [in L.A.]. He was working on one of his albums and I was working on one of my albums. I was in there with Sir Jinx. Me, Jinx and my man Gooch from out in Cali, we was riding out there [during the riots] together. And then PacI dont remember if he was riding with us, but we was all together. Everybody was riding around, poppin they burner off out the window. Everybody was mad.
DX: I just think thats like a crazy visual, you and Pac riding around bustin guns during the riots.
KGR: [Laughs] Hell yeah. But you know Pac was fond of G Rap. And I was definitely familiar with some of his earlier music. So we both had respect for each other and we just clicked.
DX: Now the other Hip Hop legend I need to ask you about is Nas. Fast Life is arguably the best collabo track youve done in your career, and I understand that your relationship with Nas goes back like 18 years, that he first met MC Serch at your crib?
KGR: Yeah, he did.
DX: So G Rap discovered Nas, not Serch?
KGR: Yeah, pretty much. The only thing that would stop G Rap from being known at the time for discovering Nas is that people brought him to me. I first met him through Large Professor. But I introduced Nas to Serch, and thats basically what got him [his deal with Columbia Records]. That got him his situation.
DX: So you knew he was it back then?
KGR: Oh yeah. I knew this kid had something. I knew he was special. I knew he was a talented young dude, and I was definitely willing to do anything in G Raps power to get him heard and to get him out there. When him and Serch met at my crib and all that, Serch was blown away by the kid. They exchanged math and all that, and then G Rap went to Cali to record an album. So everything took place [between Serch and Nas] while I was in Cali. But before I went to California I was shopping Nas material. I took his material to Def Jam and all that. He even mentioned that in one of his songs [Surviving The Times], how I took him to Def Jam and [Russell Simmons] told me he sound too much like a G Rap.
DX: Another emcee that may owe his start to you is Papoose. How did he end up on your 1998 release, Roots Of Evil?
KGR: I met Papoose through this producer out of Brooklyn I had a relationship with. The dude used to do crazy hot tracks and he used to always be around these young kids that spit. He introduced me to my man Jinx Da Juvy, Papoose, and a kid named Ike. And when I heard em I was like, Yo, these kids go in! So I snatched em up and put Papoose and Jinx on the album on a song called Home Sweet Funeral Home.
DX: Did you try to do the same thing with Papoose that you did with Nas and try and get him out there?
KGR: Yeah, I was trying to get all them dudes out there. Anybody that would call me for features I would be like, Yo, my man gotta be on it. So I would throw him on some of the features I would do. But it was a slow grind because I was just starting to resurface myself and starting to build my name back up. I was just coming from about a three year hiatus period where people didnt really hear from G Rap like that.
DX: Plus you were an independent artist at that point.
KGR: Exactly. So it was a real slow grind, and some people stayed, but some people strayed away. And Jinx was one of the dudes that kinda stayed around, so thats the one that I ended up getting a situation for over at Def Jam back in 99/2000.
DX: So have you and Papoose kept a relationship?
KGR: Yeah, we did. Even when Papoose started running and doing his own thing he was working with D/R Period and needed me to do a feature on one of his records. We used to all be click together, thats why I got a record with Papoose [Thug Connection] besides the one I did with him on my album. On the single that D/R Period put out, it was the flipside of [Papooses] Alphabetical Slaughter.
DX: Staying in that late 90s/turn of the century period of time frame, after Roots Of Evil you got down with Rawkus Records. It then took like 3 years to finally get your next album, The Giancana Story, officially out in stores in 2002. So I just have to ask, looking back now do you regret signing with Rawkus?
KGR: I mean, I dont really regret signing with em but I just think it was a situation that obviously just didnt happen for either one of us. It went bad for G Rap and then it went bad for Rawkus too.
DX: Obviously the situation with Rawkus slowed down your release cycle, but why has there been just that one full-length solo G Rap release thusfar in the 21st century?
KGR: I mean just cause when people started basing [what I could] bring to their company on Soundscan numbers they [werent] as quick to jump at G Rap.
DX: So you tried to go to other labels after Rawkus just to see whats up and they was frontin on you?
KGR: Yeah, of course. And it wasnt nothing unexpected to me. I been in the game 20 years and I already know how the game go.
DX: Speaking of how the game go, or how its gone of late, I know you gotta feel like a stranger in a strange land when you look out over the current Hip Hop landscape and see so few true blue lyricists?
KGR: Oh hell yeah, definitely! I feel like that now, Im lost.
DX: Whats G Raps response when hes watching 106 & Park?
KGR: [Laughs] You know what, I dont even really watch shit like that to be honest with you. I might watch it once in awhile just so I can always keep an eye and an ear open to whats going on, but for the most part I dont live in that world. And its not that I dont live in the present, its just that I dont fuck with that part of the present state of Hip Hop. Dudes started doing this thing for money instead of the love of Hip Hop, and I dont fuck with them cats.