September 26, 2015

Kool G Rap "4, 5, 6" (Vibe Review, 9/95)

"Lately gangsta rap has been in the curious spot of being simultaneously declared played out, commercially unviable, and - no news here - threatening to the morals of the young. The murderously cool G-Rap of Kool G Rap's new album, 4,5,6 doesn't so much counter those complaints as ignore them. Over the course of 10 tales of lives on the line, street loyalty, desperate criminal ambition, unsentimental remorse, and vicious capitalist ethics, 4,5,6 approaches thug life the right way: as if it had never been written about before. For his first album without longstanding partner DJ Polo, Kool G Rap retreated to the rural wilds of Bearsville, NY and captured an ambience of deep urban dread. The tracks are determinedly New York old-school, with few concessions to contemporary fashion: an atonal piano sample here, a mournful keyboard line there, the odd sung chorus." Peep the Buckwild-produced smash with Nas, "Fast Life," the article continues below...

"The stark elements of '80s style eerily evoke that decade's reactionary politics - the greedy, ruthless, white-collar, white-boy governmental savagery that generated its black, underground mirror-image gangsta rap... What the corny politicians who denounce rap never get is how much they have in common with the entrepreneurial characters in these songs - "A team from outta Queens with the American dream," as "Fast Life" puts it. Unlike their free-enterprising counterparts in real life, though, the high rollers in Kool G Rap's world occasionally admit to moments of regret. As the chorus of "It's a Shame" puts it, "It's a damn shame what I gotta do just to make a dollar / Livin' in this game, sometimes it makes me wanna holler," echoing Marvin Gaye's plaint from the early '70s. As 4,5,6 grippingly demonstrates, not much as been done to ease the inner-city blues for the past quarter century. No amount of official hypocrisy can disguise that neglect. Or diminish the art - whether it's Marvin Gaye, Run DMC, or Kool G Rap - that rises up in response to it." - Vibe 9/95