Rakim is arguably the greatest emcee Hip-hop has ever produced. Many believe he single-handedly elevated the art of rapping further than any other emcee before or since. Within a decade of Rakim’s arrival Hip-hop was introduced to another prolific, game-changing emcee in Nas. It is not a stretch to say Nas took the torch from Rakim and elevated the art even further.
But, there were a few emcees in between Rakim & Nas who were also upper echelon emcees. Kool G Rap was one of them. In fact Def Jam records passed on signing Nas in the early 90’s because Russell Simons thought he sounded too much like Kool G Rap. In other words one of the greatest emcees in the world got shot down because a decision was made that he wasn’t better than Kool G Rap. Probably the wrong decision, but still it is not crazy to put Kool G Rap in the list of greatest emcees of all time.
And he is back with a new album, “Return of the Don“, produced entirely by MoSS. One producer at the helm gives the listener a really great, cohesive sound. Nothing seems out of place here. And although MoSS doesn’t break through with something amazing on this album, he doesn’t disappoint either. His production is straightforward; sample heavy with an emphasis on soul and grit. This simple formula works well as Kool G Rap muses about street life, criminal activity, exploiting women, and the like. The album is called “Return of the Don” after all. The content is not for the faint at heart.
Even if the listener doesn’t go for the Mafioso street tails of the criminal underworld he or she can still enjoy elements of this album. Kool G Rap remains prolific in his ability to rhyme within the bar and to utilize multisyllabic rhymes. Even when he is not saying anything really incredible he is saying it in an incredible way. It is always enjoyable to listen to. Just as MoSS doesn’t give us anything earthshattering on the beats Kool G Rap doesn’t personally break new ground on the mic. Still, the level at which he is rhyming on “Return” is light-years beyond just about every other emcee releasing music in 2017.
And in the essence of a Don, Kool G Rap brings in other emcees to carry the lyrical load. In several songs Kool G Rap spits the first verse and then the guest emcees do the rest of the work. I can just see him in the booth doing his thing and then sitting back with a drink in one hand, cigar in the other, and his feet propped up on the coffee table. But, don’t worry. While he’s relaxing, the guest emcees are cooking up something tasty. A few highlights include AG Da Coroner, Raekwon, Saigon, and Lil Fame. Sean Price is featured with Ransom on “Popped Off” leaving us a bit melancholy. Stealing the show on the features for me is Conway and Westside Gunn. They are the last two voices you hear on the project. And they don’t really say anything incredible, but they say it in a very engaging and compelling way. Maybe Kool G Rap featured them last for a reason. Maybe it is a subtle endorsement and reassurance that the future of Hip-hop is in good hands.
“Return of the Don” is not a masterpiece or even a classic album. But, it is a good piece of art that further solidifies Kool G Rap’s place as one of the greatest to ever do it. And thankfully he’s not done yet. It is amazing that Kool G Rap is lyrically superior to almost every emcee that has come out since his debut release in 1989. Sure, some have elevated rap to new levels. But, most fall short of the intricate skills that Kool G Rap possesses. In a culture where too many living legends release irrelevant music or none at all it is refreshing that a Hip-hop veteran darn near 30 years into the game can still come correct. Kool G Rap probably won’t move up the ranks in the greatest emcees of all time lists with this album. But, he won’t move down either. He will remain and that alone is quite impressive.
Right on time, Kool G Rap has also blessed us with visuals for the track “Running” which features Saigon & Termanology. Check it out below and make sure to check out “Return of the Don” out now!