New York-rapparna Masta Ace och Kool G Rap slog båda igenom som medlemmar av det högt respekterade kollektivet Juice Crew, med andra representanter som exempelvis Marley Marl, Mr. Magic (avled 2009), Roxanne Shanté, MC Shan, Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane och Craig G.
Eftersom delar av kollektivet nu utannonserat sitt första gemensamma uppträdande i Europa på år och dag, i London den 10:e november (mer info här), så passar vi sent om sider på att publicera våra intervjuer med Ace och G Rap från i somras. Vid Stockholmbesöket av Kool G Rap i juni fick Kingsize Magazines chefredaktör Tobias Carlsson och tidigare Kingsize-skribenten Niklas Grees en närgången och ärlig intervju, med en av de MC:s som inspirerade en ung Nasir “Nas” Jones till att skapa vassa texter och rimstrukturer på debutskivan “Illmatic”. Några veckor efter mötet med Kool G Rap fick Tobias Carlsson möjlighet att även sitta ner med Masta Ace på Lydmar Hotel i Stockholm – båda intervjuerna kom att fokusera på karriärsresan över flera decennier, från ungdomens dagar till till medelåldern. Foto vid Masta Ace-intervjun av Camilla Cherry.
Brooklyn-rapparen Masta Ace fick sitt genombrott inom hip hop redan 1988, efter att året innan träffat den för tiden ikoniska producenten Marley Marl, när han medverkade på posse-spåret “The Symphony”, med tidigare nämnda Craig G, Kool G Rap och Big Daddy Kane. På Marley Marl’s “In Control”-album fanns även ytterligare två Ace-låtar, “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” och “Simon Says”, som 1989, följdes av första solosingeln “Together” b/w “Letter to the Better”. Detta var starten på en resa inom musikbranschen där Duval Clear, mer känd som Masta Ace, kommit att släppa tiotalet album solo och i gruppkonstellation som eMC (med Wordsworth, Stricklin och Punchline). Ace arbetar i dagsläget på ett nytt album med den Brooklynbaserade producenten Marco Polo och har tidigare samarbetat med svenska artister såsom Prop Dylan, Professor P & DJ Akilles, Osten af, Kashal-Tee samt Elite Fleet-producenterna Devastate och Create.
Kool G Rap å sin sida, från stadsdelen Queens, slog igenom i slutet av 1980-talet med kollegan DJ Polo och debutalbumet “Road To The Riches” (1989) som följdes av “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (1990) och “Live and Let Die” (1992). 1995 inledde G Rap en solokarriär då han släppte skivan “4, 5, 6” följt av “Roots of Evil” (1998), “The Giancana Story” (2002) samt Half a Klip (2008). Efter ett samarbete med Necro 2013 återgick Kool G Rap till att arbeta på ett nytt soloalbum med Torontobaserade producenten Moss vilket resulterade i albumet “Return Of The Don” som släpptes i juni 2017.
För ett par veckor sedan kunde vi även se ett samlat Juice Crew i Detroit för en spelning, med en “symphony session” backstage:
Intervju – MASTA ACE
It’s a pleasure to meet you Masta Ace. You just celebrated and turned 50 years old back in December. Tell us about the celebration you threw in NYC?
– Yeah it was a great night, you know my wife wanted to do a big party in New York and I wasn’t so sure about it because New York can be really funny about coming out to stuff. She wanted to rent out this huge club and I’m like this place is kind of big you know, and I didn’t want it to feel like oh we’ve rented this big place and only like a 100 people came. Then I would end up feeling bad the whole night, wack like people didn’t really come out to support. But, she said don’t worry its going to be cool and you know they were inviting people behind the scenes which I didn’t know about. The night turned out incredible, like it was really fully packed. So many different artists from New York and from Hip-hop history you know came out. Naughty By Nature, X, Peter Gunz, Rah Digga, the whole Juice crew was there you know Marley Marl, Shanté, Craig G, Kool G Rap, DJ Polo. Really the whole industry came out to support. And it felt good you know to see New York come out like that in support of me on a special night, turning 50. Great night that night.
How did the celebration night turn out? Did you perform?
– I didn’t really perform, we did “The symphony like that was the one thing that we did. And that was kind of cool to do for the fans. We’ve only performed “The symphony” together with the four of us maybe five times now. So that was cool, but I didn’t do any other performing you know, I had a 3P suit on and hard bottom shoes, cool hat. So I was just in chill mode, I just wanted to chill and see people. A lot of people from my growing up came too, a lot of people from my high school, cats I went to high school with. My high school football coach, he came with his wife. He’s like in his 70s and he came out it was just a crazy dope night.
You’ve been in the hiphop game for 30 years. How would you reflect on that massive career of yours? Hightlights? Struggles?
– Yeah, I mean for me it has been a nice journey, a fun journey, it’s been a rollercoaster ride. But I’ve gotten the chance to see all levels of it. Starting out as a no name, then getting some notoriety, then getting to the point where I actually had records playing on the radio, heavy rotation, like a commercial artist would have for that time. And then not having the commercial success anymore but finding the underground, finding the real true hardcore fans of mine who were going to support me no matter what I was doing. Really 2000 was really when I started my international touring, my heavy touring and finding out that all over the world, not just back home but all over the world there’s people that love what I do. It gave me the energy to keep putting out records, obviously I put out Disposable Arts in 2001, A Long Hot Summer in 2004, those two albums have really added 15 years to my career.
After “Saturday Night Live” and “Sittin’ On Chrome” in the 90’s it was six years until you released a new album? How come?
– I was done, I was going to be done. After Sittin’ On Chrome you know New York really wasn’t feeling me. They didn’t like the music I was doing, they weren’t supporting me. You gotta remember, this is when hip-hop had the coastal beef going on. East vs West. I had these records, Sittin’ On Chrome, Born To Roll. They had heavy rotation on the west coast and the fans in New York weren’t happy with me. They were like “Ight’”. So I got caught in between that beef between the East and West. I’m from the east, but more of my music was being played on the west(coast). I was getting more love on the west(coast) and it was just one of those moments where, after that album, I re-signed with a label back in New York and I worked on an album from 96 till 97. At the end of that I did about 16 songs. At the end of making all this music, they (Big Beat, Atlantic) said that “Nah we’re not going to put it out”, like they just shelved it. I got dropped from the label, and at that point I was done, I’m done. I’m through. I made up resumes, I was doing interviews to get a job at a label. I was going to work behind the scenes. I was like, I’m finished with being an artist let me try to work behind the scenes. Maybe I can change things from the inside. And that’s what I tried to do.
How was that experience? Seeing all the behind the scenes stuff?
– I felt like I could change the game more from the inside than being an artist. So, I figured I could get in and sign some real quality artists and push some real quality music out there that would help more.
What about the I.N.C. crew? You probably mentioned this in previous interviews, but what really happened between you and Lord Digga and Paula Perry? Did that affect your decision as well?
– Nah, that didn’t have any affect on my decision. Those relationships, like Lord Digga, 96’ me and him were done. We didn’t speak no more. He was off doing his own thing. Paula Perry was around the same time. That actually was around late 95’, early 96’, she was right after him. I stopped dealing with her. We had a deal with her through Motown and I produced three songs in her album. And when the album was going to come out the same thing happened to her, album got shelved. At that point I just let them go do what they wanted to do. Like you’re in charge of your own career now, good luck. But it had nothing to do with my decision to stop making music.
So how did you get back to feeling like, wanting to make new music?
– It was a gradual process to get back to my artist mode. I did a few one-off songs, this kid J Love and I made this song NY Confidential. I did a little one-off with me and Buckshot called “Brooklyn Blocks”. Then I did, I went out to Philly and started working with Jazzy Jeff and Toucha Jazz. He had a whole crew of producers and we worked on some music for Will Smith at the time. We wrote some stuff, and then I was asked to be on a compilation. This compilation called game over. Which was a compilation this guy Rich was putting out. He had a studio out in Queens and he said come out to our studio and do a song for our compilation. In exchange we’ll give you studio time. That’s what they were doing, they were doing studio time deals. So, I said ok I did the song for em’. And then I was like what am I going to do with the studio time. Part of the studio time I used for the Buckshot record, and then still had hours left. And after he heard me on the compilation he said “Yo you should do another record”. I replied “Nah I’m not feeling it, people are not interested in what I do”.
Did you have a new album in mind or was it just writing for a few songs…?
– Just for those one-offs that I would write here and there. But I wasn’t like compiling ideas for an album or nothing like that. And then, in 2000 I got this offer to come overseas. Mostly in the U.K. with a couple shows in Germany. We did 13 shows and I really went out there with no expectations. Went out there and these clubs were full of people, 400-500 people. And they know the words of my songs and after the shows they were like “please put another album out”. And it was after that tour that I came back home and I told the guy Rich that I think I do want to do another record. And at the beginning of 2001 we started working on Disposable Arts and obviously that came out in 2001, but in October. So from January to October we worked on that album.
How did Disposable Arts album change your own career path in the hip hop game from that point on?
– What really mad it official was that I did a tour right before it came out, 9/11 happened and then September 22nd we got on an airplane and flew to Europe for a tour. And it was Punch & Words, myself, Stricklin and DJ AV. We were the only US Hip hop act that was flying to Europe to perform, and we did 26 shows in 30 days. And that tour is what made me know that people was feeling what I was doing. Cause the album hadn’t even hit the stores yet but because that was the time of Napster and internet so people had the songs before the album even came out. So people was coming to the shows, knowing the words to songs that had not come out yet. And I was like this is crazy how do they know this song? And that was the beginning of me saying I can keep doing this.
At that time, what songs were you performing?
– It was Acknowledge, Don’t Understand, both of those songs people was going crazy over. And then they knew, Block Episode with me and Punch & Words, they knew that record. They knew album cuts, because of Napster and people were getting songs for free. That’s when I realised the power of the internet. Because people was singings these songs across the Atlantic ocean. And they liked the old stuff too.
Now that you’re back in Sweden, Europe. I mean you’ve been here a lot of times, working with a lot of artists. You’ve collaborated with German artists, artists in Croatia, and some people here in Sweden that I know of. What decides who you choose to work with?
– Yeah if I like the beat. If I like the beat, if we can agree on the terms of the business part of it then.. For me it’s a challenge too because these are artists that come with an idea, like this is my concept can you come up with something? This is his beat, his idea. How can I make my appearance on his record make sense? To me those kinds of things it keeps you sharp as a writer.
Do you have any favourite collaborations you did in Europe?
– The Create & Devastate joint called Hit Man. That was like one of my favourites I did over here. Obviously Kool Aid, the Beautiful joint. That’s like a huge record for fans. I recently collaborated with the biggest rapper in Germany. It actually went gold he owes me a gold plaque for that.
I just met Kool G Rap 3 weeks ago, it was his first time out here.
– He finally made it out, must have been crazy!
Yeah! We sat down and talked for hours. He is a really cool dude. The legend that you are, and that he obviously is. He said that he loved going out on the west coast, you mentioned that as well now. That you made a lot of records for the west coast?
– I mean he actually, he actually flew out there and recorded with west coast producers, I didn’t really do that. I did most of the production. I just knew how to find sounds that would make sense on the west, and in the south as well as on the east.
During that same time that Ice Cube was going to the East Coast?
– (Ice) Cube came to the East and he worked with them before I even started doing those records. It came out what, 92’ I think? That was a little bit before I started experimenting with the sound.
You guys had a reunion back in December as well?
M: Juice Crew reunion? Yeah, BB Kings. Out in New York City
If you reflect back on The Juice Crew, how do you perceive that period nowadays? Are there crews nowadays that can be compared to your legacy…?
– I would say the closest thing, I mean Wu-Tang obviously. Wu-Tang would be the closest thing from our era. But in terms of right now, the closest thing might be maybe Young Money? Cause you got a bunch of different popular artists, under one umbrella. You got Wayne, you got Drake, Nicki Minaj. The Juice Crew was unique because you’re talking about 6 different acts. That had their own fan bases, and they were all produced for the most part by one name producer. I don’t think we’ll see that again. Wu-Tang was probably the closest to that.
How’s your relationship with the modern hip hop game? I mean, I’m close to my 40s so even though the music isn’t my favourite you learn to grow with it. What’s your perception of the hip hop game in 2017?
– I mean to be honest with you. It’s not that different from our perception of it in the 90s. There’s stuff I like and there’s some stuff I think is garbage. When people talk about the golden era of the 90’s the way we speak about that time you would think there’s no wack music coming out. There was always stuff that we thought was terrible, the Vanilla Ices, The MC Hammers you know those kind of groups that we thought was garbage. That was on the radio though, that was platinum, double platinum and triple platinum. They were selling records like crazy because it was this pop hip-hop that we didn’t mess with but the masses we’re buying. So, every time I found myself saying “Oh these wack dudes on the radio” I have to remind myself it has always been like that. There has always some hip-hop that we really didn’t like.
Was there ever some point where you considered going commercial?
– The closest I came was the records that I was getting radio play on in 95’ and in 96’. Born To Roll. InC Ride. In LA every half hour that was getting played on the radio, it was like crazy.
Yeah, in the 90’s those joints were on Yo! MTV Raps all the time.
– So you know, that’s as close as I’ve come. But after that little period, because I really did those records because the label convinced me that if I could make some records that played on the radio they could take this thing some place big. They had success with Tone Lōc, with Young MC. Both of those guys was platinum, so I was like OK if I give them some radio joints maybe we’ll go platinum. So the closest I come was Born To Roll, The InC Ride, Sittin’ On Chrome. It didn’t work. Million different reasons why. It was them changing distributors in the middle of my project, you know when Born To Roll came out it was a B-Side and it took them two months to make it a A-side. So we lost all these record sales, so it was just a lot of little mistakes that made it not work. The record was performing at radio but they weren’t seeing it performing at the stores, that’s because the distribution wasn’t set up the way it was supposed to be. If I was on Def Jam, I would’ve been double platinum no question about it.
You’ve worked with a lot of producers and a lot of people, are there any people you regret that you didn’t work with or you’ve had the chance to work with?
– I don’t know about regret, but I’m going to work with (DJ) Premier before I hang it up. I’m working on a album right now with Marco Polo. The only other production on the album is going to be a Premier joint or two. It was only supposed to be one but Premo said that we had to make another one because the other one was old because he made it four years ago. But it wasn’t old to me though if I can still listen to it and work with it after four years it means that it’s timeless music and that is what I am trying to do.
I actually visited Marco Polo in Brooklyn back in 2013.
– Where he was living?
Yeah in his apartment where he’s was making beats.
You had to walk up all those stairs?
Yeah, his landlord came down to see us. It was amazing you know, I’m a big fan of Marco Polo.
– Oh, so Nostalgia was already out? When you say his landlord, because his original landlord was in the video for Nostalgia. He passed away but I think his son is the landlord now.
See the thing is we just got an address and took the subway.. W made our way up those stairs (laughs), so we sat there for like two hours and talked to Marco.
– Yeah he could talk Hip hop forever.
You and Marco did Nostalgia back in 2006-2007. How did you guys start collaborating again?
– The fans kind of egged it on I guess, but it was really just Marco coming to me and asking me “Yo, what do you think about doing another album together?”
And I was like I don’t know, we’ll see. I have to find time, and I said if I could just find the right time to do it then we could do it. And, it just lined up. He wasn’t busy, and I just finished working my album The Fallen Season for the last year plus. So it was like perfect timing, everything lined up.
So what can you tell us about the album? I think there’s a lot of people, especially hip-hop heads that are looking forward to it.
– I can tell you that the beats are all fire. He gave me some crazy beats and I picked some crazy stuff. I definitely pushed him to get out of his comfort zone. Because his comfort zone was just these rugged drums, dirty samples and I was like “Yo, look I want some prettier stuff. I need some with a little more beauty to it”.
Lets talk about the beats that you select, you have a certain style and wave. Why is that?
– I just like stuff that inspires stories. I like beats that when I hear them, it takes me some place you know. It’s cool to have a beat that you just wanna’ spit and go wild on but I like music that when I hear them I feel something, it takes me some place. So that’s what I asked Marco to do. He sent me some stuff, he probably sent me 40, 50 beats and I got like 13, 14 for sure.
So what’s the timeframe for the album?
– We don’t have a time frame I’m traveling so when I come back he’s coming to Europe. So we are going to line it up first. When we have a free day, I’ll go to his house and we’ll record it there. He wanted to record it at his crib so we’re going to record it there.
Let’s talk about the Falling Season. It’s a very conceptual album, I mean probably the most conceptual album that you’ve released. How do you go about the process of doing the album?
– It was really me writing my own story, telling my story from the time that I walked in to high school for the very first time till the time I graduated. Telling you everything that was going on in my life, and in my borrow, in my city, in my neighbourhood and in the neighbourhood around my school. Tying all of that into an album. A lot easier than Disposable Arts that was a little bit more fictional, based on reality but more fictional. But the Fallen Season was completely like a autobiography of my life.
Now that you’re here with your family (wife and daughter). What’s that like, touring and being a tourist at the time?
– This is like the first of what I hope will be many, you know I’d like to do this every summer. Find a new location, do a show and bring them out. Because I never get to see the town, I have been to Stockholm maybe four times before this but I’ve never gotten to see Stockholm. I’ve never gotten to be a tourist. It’s always you know, hotel, soundcheck, hotel, dinner, show, go to bed and the next morning off to the next city. So this is my first time getting to see Stockholm even though as many times as I’ve been here.
What’s your reflection of Stockholm as a tourist?
– It’s beautiful. I mean the weather today is incredible. I’m just taking as many pictures and videos, I’m telling my daughter to keep taking pictures and videos because you’ll want to remember it.
What do you feel is the difference between New York City and Stockholm? As a tourist when I come to New York it’s an amazing experience.
– Yeah it’s (NYC) overwhelming, there is a so many people. I just love the architecture, the way the buildings look. I feel like I am looking at a piece of history. You know, it’s modern but it still looks historic. You know, I think tomorrow we’re going to check out what is it called, Old Town? In the states, not only NYC, there isn’t many pieces of history left anywhere. Everything is modern and modernized, they knock it down and renovate it. It’s all new. So yeah, I look forward to those kinds of experiences.
Let’s get in to the recent discussion of now, the grown man rap thing. The new Jay-Z album discussion about the grown man rap thing. How do you interpret that? I saw Chuck D posting some tweets about it. Jay-Z is like 47, why would he rap about, I mean people expect him to rap about the same stuff that he’s always rapped about. In the light of your own career, cause you’ve been doing this your whole career.
– Because I’m not that commercially known artist. This is an new thing to these new fans of hip-hop, these commercial fans who only know what’s on the radio. But grown man hip-hop has been made during a long time, it’s not just me I mean J-Live, Little Brother a lot of dudes has been writing from the perspective of the age that they are and what they’re going through in their lives. Not some fantasy about being a drug dealer and you 40 you’re not on the corner hand shuffling no more. Like nobody’s doing that.
What do you think about talking lyric wise, back in the days you had people like Big L talking about the streets but still being lyrical and showcasing their skills. Nowadays, people talk about money, strip clubs and such and such. How do you perceive all that? Do you ever think we’ll see a throwback thing becoming popular?
– I’ll tell you this. I say this all the time during interviews. I don’t blame the artist, artists can make whatever music they want to make. It’s the fans that buy it, it’s the radio stations that play it and it’s the record labels that put it out. The bottom line is this, if fans don’t buy that, if that doesn’t sell, guess what? Those artists that’s just trying to hit the lottery, they’re not going to make that music they’re going to make whatever is selling. If the biggest selling artist in the world was rapping all about positivity, education, staying in school, not doing drugs and being a great role model. If that’s what’s selling millions and millions of copies and making millions and millions of dollars. Then that’s what the record labels are going to put out, that’s what the artists is going to make and that’s what the fans are going to consume. That’s the bottom line.
I met B-Real last week, he was here with The Prophets Of Rage. They had a single called Un-Fuck The world. Now this week Trump is in Germany on meetings. What’s your thoughts on the current state of The United States of America?
– Oh it’s bad man, it’s not good. I just, I worry about my daughters future and when I look at the way things are it makes me a little nervous about what where world’s going, because I’m not worried about me I’m 50 years old, but when she’s 50 what is it going to be like? You know, we’re destroying our planet and at the same time now have people in power that are basically trying to ignore the scientists that are telling us what’s happening to the planet. And it’s just scare man. All I can do from my end is to try to show her what life is about, show her the greatest life that I can show her and hope that good overcomes evil in the end. Right now evil is in power and hopefully we can change that over time.
Kool G Rap öppnade upp backstage igår om relationen till Tupac Shakur, “the Marvin Gaye of hiphop”, som han mötte första gången i samband upploppen i Los Angeles 1992 (swipe för videoklipp) ??? Mer om detta inom kort i intervju på Kingsizemag.se. På bilden chefredaktör @tobiascrlssn och veteranskribenten @grasskass med @kgrfilms ???#koolgrap #tupacshakur
Ett inlägg delat av Kingsize Magazine (@kingsizemag.se)
Intervju – KOOL G RAP
T: Welcome to Sweden, your first visit in Scandinavia ever, right? What’s that like?
G Rap: Yeah, absolutely.. I mean we pumped up, I’m crazy excited about this shit. This my first European tour in general, so we were looking to come out here like years ago. But I had situations, dealing with the passport you know things of that nature. It took me a little time to get everything in place for me to able to get my passport and then eventually get over here. So I’m pumped up, I’m fucking charged.
T: Back in the day, I’m guessing there was a lot of people wanting to see you. Even back in the 80s and the 90s. What was holding you back from getting here back in the days?
G Rap: Back in the days, well you know after 96, my last trip over to Europe was in 96. I didn’t have a situation with getting over here before 96. It was after 96 that I had situations. So, that was when we were getting offers from everywhere in Europe but I kept telling em’ that we working on it. That shit just turned to the year, and the next year and the next year, you know what I mean. But now we here, 2017 shit turned around.
T: What’s your first impressions of performing in Europee and do you see any differences between The States and here?
G Rap: Oh absolutely! Out here in Europe, even during the years I wasn’t able to come over here you hear about it all the time. You always hear that Europe has such appreciation for music in general, but Hip-hop (listeners in Europe) has an awesome appreciation for the music. And they like cherish the grassroots artist. That’s the difference, you know America’s spoiled. After they get used to a particular artist, whoever is hot, the next fucking couple of years later they on to the next one. On to the next one real quick, that’s the mentality out there.
T: You know I’ve been telling Grass for years, Kool G Rap man. I need to see Kool G Rap in Sweden and when the promoter called me and said that they’ve booked Kool G Rap I went fucking bananas, I was jumping up and down and everything. The thing is, you know we’ve had a lot of the legendary, prime MCs in the Hip-hop game come through, and you’re definitely one of those guys. So getting out here now that you’ve released your new album obviously, The Return of the Don. We’ve seen your previous interviews with Sway, Ebro and you pretty much laid it out there but how does it feel to come back? I mean, it’s been a while.
G Rap: You know to come back out in such a new climate of hip-hop right now, I didn’t know exactly. I mean I knew where I would fit in, but I didn’t exactly know the response that I would’ve got right now. I know I got my core base of fans and I know they always checking, whatever G Rap coming out with the next there’s a certain audience that’s checking for it right out the gate. But I didn’t expect the awesome fucking feedback that it generated. We had, Soundscan contact Dan Green because Billboard contacted them. They wanted to make sure that it was right, I don’t know if they charted me on the Top 200 or whatever. That would’ve been nothing for G Rap 16, 17 years ago but 2017. That’s fucking news work.
T: You’re a role model for a lot of MCs, like Nas, obviously he’s speaking on you a lot and a lot of other MCs as well. How does it feel to be in that position because you’ve been doing this for 30 years?
G Rap: I’m blessed. I’m blessed that I was able to come out and establish this whole Kool G Rap legacy, and along with that be a contribution to artists such as Nas, Big Pun, you know what I’m saying to be mentioned by the names of Raekwon, Wu-Tang, M.O.P., Mobb Deep and all these amazing artist that I love. I’m fans of them, so it’s a blessing, I’m crazy humbled by it, and I wear it like a badge of honor.
T: I heard your recent interview with Sway, and you said its combination of things that motivated you put together a new project – one of the things is new production that opened up your creativity. Describe the recording process and chemistry between you and Moss?
G Rap: I mean this project right here was pretty much easy, this one was mainly just, you know in most cases it’s not on me. I was sitting on certain songs for years, and I knew that I was going to do something with the songs but you know sometimes you gotta wait for the right moment. It was just a matter of that with those songs that I did in the past happened to be in the right moment when I put together a project called Return Of The Don.
T: Is there a difference nowadays when you write and put together records? Maybe you recorded some stuff at your studio or at home? Just the creative process?
G Rap: I’m adaptable, I mean I prefer to write at home because that’s my comfort zone, or rather my most comfort zone. But if it comes down to it, I mean I done did features that people consider classics. Me and Jonny On The Spot, like the shit I performed the shit I did with Mobb Deep and M.O.P. Right there in the studio with those guys you know what I mean. I try to keep myself like that, never let a situation or atmosphere be a reason not to produce.
T: How did the collaboration with Nas come about?
G Rap: Me and him was in the studio for that one.
Grass: Did you write that right there?
G Rap: Yeah right then and there. The going back and forth shit yeah.
Grass: Do you miss that? Being in the studio and recording like that?
G Rap: Absolutely nothing in the studio would come out better than that. You know, we were really feedin’ off each others energy at that moment. Because ya’ll are in the studio and you’re joking together, just conversing, just feelin’ each others energies.
Grass: You build a certain chemistry right?
G Rap: Yeah, exactly!
Grass: Did you do that on Return Of The Don? Did you sit in the studio?
G Rap: No I didn’t, because we’re in this new age now and it’s so convenient for everybody. Like “oh send that verse over” or “send me back the WAV-files”. You know everybody’s spoiled that way now. I mean it could still happen it is really hard to get people in the studio, especially at the time you wanna record and all that and you live in different states. All that could be a factor.
T: With Return Of The Don you have great selection of guests, it’s not random MCs. All these guys that are on the album are fucking dope. That’s the MCs that G Rap like.
G Rap: Exactly, you know Dan Green picked a lot of them but he happened to pick those that I was gonna pick in the first place. Like a lot of those I had already did favors for them, like Saigon called me when he was working on something. So I was like alright Imma get Sai to get back on my projects. So this was that project where I was like Sai I need that favor back baby. Same thing with Cormega, me and Ray as well we got a real good relationship. This would’ve been the project where I would’ve hit Ray. Sean Price was a blessing, that was a blessing I didn’t even see that coming. I happened to meet him being with some people, and they were going to the studio that night and that was the first time I ever met Sean Price in person. It was just strange because when we met each other we embraced each other like we’ve met each other before. But it was just the amount of respect we had for each other.
T: I actually met Sean Price at Flight Club in 2013 at Union Square. He was the most humble dude I’ve ever met. Talking about the craft, lyricism, you’re obviously one of the masters of the craft. How do you feel about other MCs, do you evaluate other guys that you’re working with?
G Rap: I think you’re always evaluating each other. You always got the measuring stick up, but like you said everybody on Return Of The Don they measure up on every account. Amazing fucking hip-hop artists, and spitters, fucking Crooked I went bananas. Even the cast that was more on the low like AG.
T: In these times, well everybody knows that Hip-hop in 2017 is compromised. Hip-hop at the radio stations is not what we used to consider Hip-hop. What do you feel about that discussion?
G Rap: I mean, everything evolves. It grows or changes, it begins to mutate but I just think that the way Hip-hop right now is a reflection of how shit is in reality. It’s like the younger kids today, don’t connect with their OGs. The era I come from we connected with our OGs but right now there is a gap in between the youth and the guys like myself and it’s reflecting in the music. Now these young kids they done have nothing to go on, other than what they see other cats doing. What the cats are doing in the south, or what they was doing elsewhere? And some of them don’t connect to nothing, but that’s why some of the music is sounding dumbed down. You got mumble rap and all of that shit now. It’s like music forms of a lower IQ. So this is what you got now. Hey, I don’t knock none of them kids they getting money doing mumble rap fucking do it then.
Grass: We never talk about humor in rhymes, you’re the master of humorous rhymes. I feel like you’ve toned down on the humor on the last couple of albums.
G Rap: You know what it is? I know what you mean, those songs was geared towards being a little on the funny side. I still think I do that but I might not gear a whole song to go in that direction. But I’m constantly saying funny lines, but I know what you mean you want that Operation CP shit and all that. That’s the type of person I am, I love humor, back in the school days I was the fucking class clown. I got in trouble for it and all that shit.
Grass: On the Living To Die album. You have, very dark songs but you also had humorous songs like Angel Sanity, and you could rap like you had a dark side with humor too. I miss that.
G Rap: (Laughs)
T: The Living To Let Die record, that was recorded in LA pretty much from what I understand. And, I mean. You’ve been compared to Ice Cube, at the same time as Cube was recording Amerikkas Most Wanted in New York. Talk about that time period, you’ve mentioned that you were with Tupac at the LA riots?
G Rap: It was a new experience for me the whole idea of, well number one I’m a fan of Ice Cube, I’m a fan of N.W.A., Geto Boys, to me they were artists that didi shit that was right up in the same alley as G Rap. So I gravitated towards those dudes and I love them. When I collected with Jinx and I knew Jinx had did the shit with Cube “once up in a time in the projects yo”. I loved that track, the track was ridiculous to me and I wanted the same type of production.
T: The East Coast vs The West Coast?
G Rap: Yeah, that shit didn’t even exist yet. It was basically the same thing.
Grass: How did you link up with Jinx?
G Rap: Through the A&R. But I had put it out there that I wanted to connect with him.
Grass: Is it true that Dre was supposed to produce?
G Rap: Nah but later on, this was like right when he left Death Row Records and all that and I guess he was just in the mix of getting Aftermath up and off the ground. It wasn’t quite there yet.
T: Would you’ve liked that to happen?
G Rap: Shit hell yeah (laughs)
T: Would you still be able to reach out to him or? I even heard rumors of you signing with G-Unit later on.
G Rap: Yeah yeah, a couple of things that almost happened that didn’t happen. Like the whole thing with the G-Unit situation. Me and 50 spoke a couple of times, it’s just one of them things that just didn’t pan out.
T: Why not?
G Rap: You know I cant pinpoint it, it wasn’t just about me it was about dude at that time. He was still on fucking fire at that time. He was tryna do shit with me but it wasn’t just me at the time, I think he was trying to do something with Nature at the same time. I know he went right on tour after that and after the tour shit just got lost.
T: What time period is this?
G Rap: 2004, 2005 something like that.
Grass: I would like to know the recording of “Two To The Head”, how did that come about?
G Rap: I mean Cube surprised me, you know I was recording the whole project at the time. But this happened to be at a time when I had to go back home to my family because I was already away for a while. So I had to go back home for about 3 weeks, and at that time Cube just came in the studio with Jinx just recorded that. He knew that I fucked with him, so Cube just blessed me with that so big S/O to my man Cube for that. I had love for him before but that shit went up fucking levels after that. I arranged to get Scarface and Bushwick Bill on it
Grass: From what I know in every interview where your name gets brought up he (Scarface) always salutes and appreciates you.
G Rap: Yeah, Face is my guy right there. I mean even beyond the music together, I was in fifth ward in Texas with many years ago. Running around with him in the hood and all that and I brought him to East Brooklyn New York with me when he came to New York. We were sitting up in traphouses, back then we would just call them crack spots. All the kids call it a traphouse nowadays (laughs).
Grass: So Cube did that song and you never worked on it together with him in the studio?
G Rap: Never did that but I was in the studio with Scarface. They came when I came back, it was crazy I came back to a fucking Ice Cube verse and then I had Scarface and Bushwick Billin town because of the Grammy’s or some shit! And had them finna come in the studio.
T: Do you have any more of those special studio moments?
Grass: Recording Stick To Ya Gunz maybe?
G Rap: Yeah! I really loved M.O.P. at that time, still love them today but just speaking of the moment, Billy Danze got in the communication with me so we ended up in the studio because of Billy Danze. Fame wasn’t there that session, Legendary Street Team many years later. Then both of them would be there but Stick To Ya Gunz it was just me and Billy Danze.
Grass: One of our favorite verses from you is the You Must Be Out of Your Fucking Mind from Fat Joes first album. Were you in the studio together recording that?
G Rap: Yeah I was.
Grass: How did that come about?
G Rap: Cause I met Fat Joes brother first in the club, his brother approached me like “Yo G Rap what up baby we love you” and I was like ight. He asked me if I liked champagne and so they ordered all the champagne and then he introduced me to Joe. I embraced both of them you know because I could tell both of them were street cats, I am a street cat. They in the club gooned out I’m gooned out. We just had that street connection and it just went off from there. Fat Joe kept in contact and then he hit me on time like “Yo G I’m in the studio, could do this for me I’d be honored”. I’m one of them dudes I stay grounded I never was like “too big” for everybody and shit like that.
T: Personally, I love the 4,5,6 album. It has some of my favorite joints of all time. Could you, if anyway possible, rank your albums?
Kool G: Road To The Riches to me, looking back all these years later it was great for G Rap at that moment. Was it the most mature, well put album together? No, it was just Kool G Rap and all his youthful spirit doing whatever and wanting to be heard and recognized for my skill level. Because I knew I was advanced.
T: Before your debut album and before it’s a demo. You must have been inspired by a lot of people?
G Rap: Yeah definitely, fucking LL. LL was like one of the closest inspirations at that time but it was the dudes like Melle Mel, Moe Dee, Grandmaster Caz. Those were those who inspired me as far as my writing level and skillset.
T: I think there is a quote where Kool Moe Dee described you as the pro-generator protégé for Biggie, Jay-Z, Fat Joe, Big Pun. Wow that’s some respect.
G Rap: Coming from Moe Dee too? Yeah absolutely. I’m honored. That was from his book?
T: I think it was a statement from some interview, I wrote it down but I can’t remember from where.
Grass: I want to go back to us talking about you to me being the GOAT. All my friends say that Rakim is the one. But I would argue that G Rap is at the top, they’d ask me why and I’d explain that he combined lyricism of Rakim, the flow of Big Daddy Kane and did something else with it. Of course you rapped before both of them but you had both of the pre-mentioned and you added a whole lot more to it. And that to me makes you the GOAT.
G Rap: I appreciate that, for real man. Yeah I know what you’re saying.
Grass: You brought all the elements in to that mixture, like Rakim never had humor. You had humor. Kane had that flow.
T: You mentioned that Kane was the guy you were competing with in The Juice Crew. That was the guy you were looking to be better than right?
G Rap: Yeah I wasn’t looking to be better than Kane, but it was always a form of silent competition. Which is normal. I’m sure there is times where Havoc was writing and was like “damn imma write this one and outdo Prodigy” even if it didn’t happen.
Grass: When Kane was here a couple of years ago I asked him about the Don’t Curse song with Pete Rock and Heavy D. Kane told me something I had never heard before, Rakim was supposed to get on the song but when he heard that I was getting on the song he left out. Is that something you’ve heard?
G Rap: I’ve never heard of that. Nah (laughs). That’s some new information right there. I couldn’t tell either way. Me I just liked my verse.
Grass: That’s also an amazing verse from you when you flipped that.
(Starts rapping his verse from Don’t Curse)
“You’re telling me don’t curse on my verse
I did it worse, first I put a curse on every verse
I kinda got outrageous
Check it, even made a record how I’m doing all the B-I-T-C-H’es
Ducks, it wasn’t for the bucks
Every word that you heard is ‘cuz I didn’t give a f– aww shucks!
Hey yo, I almost forgot
The curse is a plot but it’s getting kind of hot
So I’mma let profanity retire
Hey, but if worse comes to worse I’ll curse you out like Richard Pryor
So Grand Puba, kick a verse
But do your man a favor, and don’t curse…”