Return Of The Don – Kool G. Rap Shows The World Why He Is The Original Boss

By Sumit Rehal and Anton Constantinou

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Kool G. Rap is the epitome of the phrase “Your favourite rapper’s, favourite rapper”.

Many of the most respected hip hop artists of all time have credited the Queens artist as their inspiration when coming up. Jay-Z is famously quoted on Encore stating:

“Yeah, hearin’ me rap is like hearin’ G Rap in his prime
I’m Young H.O, rap’s Grateful Dead!”

This is just one of many examples of homage being paid to the rap’s original mafioso. The likes of Eminem, Big Pun, RA the Rugged Man, Nas and The Notorious B.I.G have all been motivated in some way or another by the The Don.

The Highlight Nation team recently had the rare opportunity to see Kool G. perform in London for the first time in over two decades. This return marked the launch of his new album, Return of the Don, his first solo album in 6 years. Anton and Sumit took the opportunity to go back and forth on their thoughts on the whole experience!

Sumit: I had never thought I’d get to see Kool G. Rap in the UK in my life! You sounded quite excited when I said he’s in town. How did you feel to get the tickets?

Anton: Kool G Rap was never someone who I had thought would ever perform in the UK today. He’s the same era as LL Cool J – and when was the last time LL came here?

But, after hearing of his upcoming gig in London about a month ago, I knew I had to go, if anything, to tick another legend off the list. I booked myself in for babysitting that night he was playing. However, when you told me you were going to see him, I knew I had to get out of it, by all means necessary. Boy, am I glad I went!

Sumit: How did you first get into him back in the day?

Anton: Hmm, that’s a good question. To memory, I think my first discovery of him was the remix of On The Run. You know, the version with The Untouchables version at the beginning. How about you?

Sumit: As someone who was born in 1990, I discovered G. Rap when digging the crates of the Old School section of Beanos in Croydon in 2004 when I got my first decks. I picked out a random Juice Crew mash up!

Going back to the event, Blade, the support act really got the crowd going, was a great touch to see his son on stage too. Loved his cusses to him! What did you think of him?

Anton: I’d never heard of him before, and felt his performance was a combination of hip hop and big beat. As in, it had this hardcore, Prodigy sort of the feel to it (the band, not the rapper that is). His flow reminded me of Ill Bill, if you’ve ever heard of him. I particularly like the track he dropped called Survival of the Hardest Working, and how he worked in that proper old school Warner Brothers Home Video sample at the beginning of it – you don’t get more 90s than that.

There was something endearing in the way he tripped up on his lines a few times, despite rapping hard for most part. It gave you a feel for his human side. I also liked the fact that he’s the same era and Kool G. Rap. There’s be no point in someone from this generation warming up for him. It just wouldn’t authentic.

Sumit: As soon as G. Rap spat, you could instantly hear he that he commanded a presence, apparantley he was having issues with his vocals as he lost his voice, could you notice that?

Anton: Can’t say I did, to be honest. I just came to conclusion that he’s knocking on a bit and not able to spit as fast or as loud as he once did. So I sort of just went in not expecting a “youthful” performance, shall we say. Needless to say, he banged out all classics.

That random intermission in the middle where they played DMX and MOP was different. It didn’t stop the momentum though, this may have been due to his voice issues. What were your thoughts on that?

Anton: In all the hip hop gigs I’ve been to, I’ve never encountered such an intermission. It was almost like an ad break. I joked to you they should’ve brought out ice cream at the point. In all fairness I wasn’t too bothered by it. I knew he’d come back out, and saw it as an early opportunity to grab another drink.

Sumit: I saw you go crazy when he performed fast lane! Is that your fave of his?

Anton: It’s not my favourite by him, but I definitely the beat and his verse on it. It sounded just as dope live, even if Nas wasn’t there to do the backing vocals.

Sumit: The legend has rapped over 3 decades, yet he’s manage to sound relevent to the times all the way through. It was quite an eye opener in his perfomance though as you can hear the contrast in sounds from each song to the next.

His new album, Return Of The Don came out this month, featuring some of the most respected rappers over the years from Sean Price to Raekwon. G. Rap himself is also one of those rappers who are huge game changers but are often overlooked by the mainstream. You touched on that he’s “Your favourite rapper’s, favourite rapper”. Care to elaborate on that?

Anton: Based on what I know about guy, he neither gives the impression glitzy nor attention seeking. Basically, he’s a down to earth rapper whose got skills and doesn’t brag about it. And, in the hip hop community, there aren’t many people like that.

If you look back to the time when he was coming up, you had Big Daddy Kane, Erik B and Rakim, Slick Rick, De La Soul – a lot of big, marketable names who, almost stole too much of the limelight. Somewhere between conscious rap and Rakim’s untouchable flow, I think Kool G. Rap maybe got a little bit lost in the public eye. He basically was rhyming in that difficult period between ’88 and ’93, where several other artists were stealing the show. But, hey, I could be wrong.

Sumit: What did you think of the album?

Anton: It’s modern, that’s for sure, if not a bit rocky sounding in parts. I like that Kool G. Rap has been able to retain his flow, but feel the beats are little lacking. For me, the overall sound of the album is a bit too repetitive sounding; a bit to, this is straightforward hip hop and nothing else.

What do you think?

Sumit: It was refreshing to hear straight to the point rapping again. The first track after the intro, Mack Lean, gave me that dose of raw rhyming that I’ve been missing in an age of over-experimentation. It was also great to hear N.O.R.E on here too as he’s such a superfan for the OGs on his podcast Drink Champs. He’s also from Queens too so it was a great collective.

Another moving feature was that of the late Sean Price. I can’t think of a better album to be part of posthumously than that of someone such as Kool G. Rap.

What did you think of the night overall?

Anton: All in all I’d give it a sterling 7/10. G. Rap delivered all his big classics on time, and incorporated a moving tribute to the late Prodigy, of Mobb Deep. His dress sense was bang 1990, and his choice of warm-up act suitable. I just wish he’d kicked about for a bit longer. How about you?

Sumit: I am so thankful that I got to see this legend live as it’s something that I never thought I’d do. He didn’t disappoint either as it felt that he gave it his all despite reportedly being under the weather. I could definitely hear where the likes of Biggie got their flows from so I’m also thankful for Kool G. Rap to be able to help evolve this life we call hip hop.

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