Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hip Hop Nostalgia 101, Session 46: Kool G Rap & DJ Polo's "Wanted: Dead Or Alive" (1990)

Pardon me for being a little late here, as this album, the second from G Rap & Polo, turned 25 on 8/14/2015. After their classic debut in 1989, "Road To The Riches" (and of course we can't forget about his verse on "The Symphony" alongside Masta Ace, Big Daddy Kane and Craig G), G Rap begins to change things up quite a bit as the 90s begin (in terms of his content), and we'll certainly explore that during today's session.

Release date: August 14, 1990

1. "Streets Of New York"

Sample check #1

Sample check #2

This opener is about as real as it gets and right off the bat, G Rap wastes no time in covering a topic that would become the order of the day as the 90s progression: the ghetto. In this case, G Rap, in a very descriptive form, talks about the life and times of New York and what goes on in the "ghetto portion" of the city. Whether any of what he said was based in reality or not (and in some cases most of what he said was), you can't deny the importance of a song like this.
*Grade- A+

2. "Wanted: Dead Or Alive"

Sample check

Yes, Eric B, one half of the duo with Rakim, was behind this production as well as other songs on the album. As the 80s drew to a close, some, if not all, of the artists under the Juice Crew umbrella wanted no parts of Marley Marl behind the boards. Whether this was due to Marley himself or the artists in question wanting to take their careers to the next level, perhaps we'll never know, and even then I'm sure this has been discussed at some point over the years. As for this song, G Rap not only brings what would eventually become some of hip hop's best storytelling, he all but initiated the "mafioso rap" in one fell swoop, leading to others to follow suit, not immediately though. Here, G Rap is on the run from the authorities and nothing will stand in his way, lyrically and otherwise. Towards the end of the song, this is what's said:

"Latest bulletin, suspect seen approaching West Side Highway
I repeat, all units cease pursuit, cease pursuit
Roadblock is now being set up
Over and out"

To be continued.

Grade- A+

3. "Money In The Bank"
Featuring Large Professor, Freddie Foxxx and Ant Live

Apply titled in nature, but G Rap, Large P, Foxxx and Ant talk about anything but the money on this one. It's all good though, still a decent song.
*Grade- B

4. "Bad To The Bone"

"And I max while you be waxin your Cadillacs/Smooth as a sax, but I can cut you like an axe/Big spender cause I'm a winner like Bruce Jenner/I burn all beginners and let em simmer like a TV dinner"

Yes indeed, we have a second straight apply titled song. G Rap never had a problem professing how dope he was, especially on the mic, and if you're as talented and lyrically gifted as he is, could you blame him? Tight stuff here.
*Grade- A

5. "Talk Like Sex"

Sample check

Oh man, can I even say this joint is for the ladies right here??? In nature, it is, but I'm sure G Rap turned off a few ladies (and probably turned on more in the process for being SO straight forward) in 1990 with this one. Over an ill sample of Syl Johnson's classic "Different Strokes," G Rap is as vulgar as ever and listening to this song again, there's no way he could've sugarcoated anything here. Also, not only do you get the vibe that he's playing but still serious at the same time, no way a song like this would see the light of day today. Check out some of these bars:.... you know what, if I decided to post some lines, I'd be posting the entire song; you have to listen to this one. As a song, it may be controversial to some by 2015 standards, but make no mistake about it, if you take the song for what it is quite frankly, it's damn good.
*Grade- A+

6. "Play It Again, Polo"

Sample check 
"Your brainstorms don't even drizzle"

This is simply an awesome display of wordplay, breath control and multi-syllabic rhyming.
*Grade- A+

7. "Erase Racism"
Featuring Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie

"We got to better this world of prejudice/People, make peace and learn to live equal"

The lines above from Kane perfectly describes this song (and it's purpose) 100 percent, and can you believe that in 2015 we're STILL faced with and dealing with racism in this country? I could've sworn it was 2015 and not 1965. It goes without saying that a song like this MEANT something in 1990 and it still does 25 years later. Now when I think about it, if more songs were made like this considering recent events, it would help a great deal. And on a sidenote: I remember someone mentioned this to me when talking about this song. Did it seem like Biz Markie was in such a hurry to bring the song to an end based on how he closed it?
*Grade- A

8. "Kool Is Back"

"You wish your name had a G/But to be a badder G boy you gotta play with strategy" 

Sample check

Of all the dope songs on this album, this joint right here has always been my favorite. He displays the same wordplay and breath control found on "Play It Again, Polo," albeit with a much faster flow. I can't forget about Eric B's ill sampling of Little Royal & The Swingmasters' "Razor Blade." Incredibly dope.
*Grade- A+

9. "Play It Cool"

Lyrically, G Rap does "play it cool" on this one, but not in a bad way of course. He's still on point with the mic in his hands. This is probably one of the most mellow G Rap songs you'll ever here.
*Grade- A

10. "Death Wish"
Produced by Eric B.

"I got your ass on target/You got beef, you betta save it for the muthafuckin; meat market"

And right after the "mellow" side of G Rap, we return to the gangsta, aggressive side, and it would've been a death wish to even try to see G Rap on this mic. Again, more dopeness.

*Grade- A

11. "Jive Talk"

Sample check

The first verse, while dope as usual, came off like it was written, respectively, however, the second verse did sound like it came off the top of G Rap's head a little more than the first, and even THAT was dope too. It even sounded like Polo was trying to buss a freestyle of his own towards the end.
*Grade- A+

12. "The Polo Club"
In what was something that was included on most albums at the time (as closers), we get a instrumental that incorporated elements of hip hop and house, complete with scratching. Honestly, there was no way this album could close on a good, but relatively anti-cliimatic, note, so instead we close with....

13. "Riker's Island"

While one of G Rap's classics, also released in 1987 with the "Rhyme Time" B-side, this was an odd choice to include on the album because it would've fit better on "Road To The Riches." It seemingly was added literally at the last minute and even G Rap himself didn't know this was included until years after the fact when he was interviewed about it. 
*Grade- A+

I want to start off by saying this sophomore album does give "Road To The Riches" a run for its money and to this day I still tend to like it a little more. Complete with dope production, this was a TIGHT album. G Rap was lyrically on a roll at this point, also giving us social commentary and storytelling, inventing the "mafioso rap" that other artists would adopt as the 90s continued. With all this said, much props to all involved for this classic from 1990. It still holds up exceedingly well today.
 Final Grade- A

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