Saturday, August 27, 2016

Revisiting Kool G Rap's "4,5,6"

This would mark Kool G Rap's first solo album after three straight with DJ Polo. It's also the last album ever released on Cold Chillin Records, by way of Epic Records.

Release date: September 26, 1995

1. "Intro"
With G Rap rolling up in the spot, this intro becomes a perfect segue into.....

2. "4,5,6
Produced by Dr. Butcher

Before I give my thoughts on the song itself, check out what G Rap had to say about this song (and the album), courtesy of

“The song and album was based on a New York dice game called cee-lo. 4, 5, 6, was the equivalent to the Ace of Spades and Jack of Spades in Blackjack; it was an automatic winner. Then you could win with trips, a head crack [two dice of the same number and a third dice of six], and a few other ways. It’s just like if somebody titled something ‘Royal Flush.’ Nothing’s beating that.
”[After] Live And Let Die, I wasn’t with DJ Polo anymore, so I stopped using his name. I was using Roc Raida at first, and then years later I would start using different DJs."

“Plus, back then I wasn’t making an album every year. Music was lasting longer back then anyways. Today, you put an album out and it’s already old in two or three months. Back then you put out an album and dudes were rocking it that whole summer, that winter, and then the next summer.”

Life itself is a gamble, and G Rap conveys that very image on this incredible banger. I've heard many songs that display excellent storytelling, but I don't think I've ever heard a song that turns a simple art such as gambling into one descriptive piece of work and that's what G Rap does here, backed by a thumping Dr. Butcher production with well timed samples courtesy of Nas' already classic "NY State Of Mind" and Weather Report's "Mysterious Traveler." I couldn't possibly quote any individual lines because the song itself is full of ILL lines in both verses. DOPE, dope stuff here.
*5 out of 5*

3. "It's A $hame"
Vocals by Sean Brown
Produced by Naughty Shorts

"And once again it's big G, runnin' the number rackets/Wearin' Pele jackets, fast loot tactics, I'm well up in the millionaire bracket"

G Rap was a "made man" coming off of 1992's "Live And Let Die", and speaking of that album, there will be a revisit of it at some point. Back on topic, G Rap is the esteemed "boss of all bosses" here (the first verse REALLY highlights this) and in a broad stroke of fine storytelling, it's a double dose of details: on one end, he's more than willing to dine in all the riches of "the life", which includes money, cars, clothes, women, drugs, you name it, but on the flipside, he lets you know he's not 100 percent satisfied with having to make this choice --> "it's a damn shame what I gotta do to get the money." I remember thinking this was one of the dopest things ever when I first heard it (the wordplay from this man is nothing short of amazing) and man does it still hold up today.
*5 out of 5*

4. "Take 'Em To War"
Featuring B1 and Grimm
Produced by T-Ray

Things take a gangstafied turn on this one, featuring an awesome sample courtesy "A Divine Image" by David Axelrod, and the fact that a song like that can be flipped into some gangsta shit is noteworthy in itself. Guests B1 and Grimm bring dope verses to the table, but hot damn it was only right that G Rap closes this with such an ill verse, and trust me, one or more lines would lead to me quoting the entire verse. Tight stuff here.
*5 out of 5*

5. "Executioner $tyle"
Produced by Dr. Butcher

"To the side as a homicide's committed/I gets rid of niggas quick cause ain't no bullshit permitted/I'm a outlaw, the muthafuckin' villain doin' killings/I won't stop till the morgue got bodies stacked up to the fuckin' ceiling"

"Niggas is grazed, catchin' strays from the blaze/Amazed by the ways I lays em down when my shit sprays"

"Cause G Rap ain't that nigga that try to play so nigga lay low/Or get yourself a pair of wings, a harp and a halo" (Wow)

"I will pull out the glock and clear the block(y) when I cock it/Get laid and played out of pocket wit a rocket in ya eye socket"

"Cause it's the rootin' tootin' wit the 6 shooter/Put a hole in ya trooper so big, niggas could hula hoop ya"

In a small note, I swear the other guy on this hook sounds like DJ Polo, or is that just me? Continuing on, yes, G Rap's a made man, but don't let that fool you, Lyrically and otherwise, this appropriately titled banger finds G Rap at his most thugged out self, even before such a term was created. This was something straight from the "Live And Let Die" playbook and it WORKED like an aggressive charm here.
*5 out of 5*

6. "For Da Brothaz"
Produced by T-Ray accurately describes this song in a nutshell:

"It tells the story through Kool G’s eyes, as he witnessed the individuals he grew up with succumb to the drug life and end up either dead or in jail. A popular theme of gangsta rappers is to depict the struggle through their lyricism and the fortune of escaping the life many could not."

I've always been under the impression that the stories told by G Rap here were based in reality, which adds to the effectiveness of the song, along with the "Soulsides" sample by Art Farmer. Great song.
*5 out of 5"

"Tap the bottom of the bottle for the brothas
Keep it real on the street money, and look out for one another!"

7. "Blowin' Up In The World"
Produced by Buckwild

As far as "rags to riches" songs go, this one was no different from any other songs of that caliber at the time, but of course the lyricism of G Rap sets his apart from everyone else's. This is a very good song, but before I move on to the next classic, I want to speak on G Rap, obviously, for a moment. It's really a shame that G Rap didn't blow up in hip hop like he should've, and I don't blame anyone if they happen to name him as one of the most underrated MCs in hip hop history. Yes he has some classics under his belt and has influenced a great number of artists, including the guest on the next song, but in between transitioning record labels and an unfortunate lack of true promotion for someone with his skillset, he never really had that true breakout moment that he deserved to have even dating back to the late 80s. It's good that long time fans have really kept his name out there because if there's a career that shouldn't have ended before it ever got started, it's G Rap's.
*4 out of 5*

8. "Fast Life"
Featuring Nas
Produced by Buckwild

You know, as 1995 turned into 1996, I really wonder what Russell Simmons was thinking when he passed on giving Nas a deal, stating that "they (Def Jam) already had a G Rap." Interesting comment there. Nevertheless, this, loyal reader, is one of the dopest collaborations you'll ever hear. The "other side" of "It's A Shame" comes this Surface sampled classic, courtesy of another classic in the form of "Happy," featuring the boss G Rap bringing Nas along for the ride, fully indulging in the life of riches, almost as if Nas was an underboss here. Speaking of Nas, the gifted MC was already in Nas Escobar mode here and how about this: after dropping the classic "Illmatic" in '94 and a name change, Nas HIMSELF was a "made man" when "It Was Written" was released on July 2, 1996. How about that for continuation. Another piece of hip hop excellence.
*5 out of 5*

9. "Ghetto Knows"
Produced by Naughty Shorts

G Rap goes the storytelling route again, almost in an interrelated fashion. It's like the first half talks about the ghetto's of New York ("the city that never sleeps") and the somewhat usual instances of crime and related things involved with that life, then the second half finds him telling an extreme story of true survival. Dope song.
*4 out of 5*

10. "It's A $hame (Da Butcher's Mix)"
Remixed by Dr. Butcher

The same lyrics are present from the original, only this time around Dr. Butcher comes with an ill sample courtesy of Ryo Kawasaki's "Bamboo Child." Not on the level of the original, but still dope as hell.
*5 out of 5*

11. "Money On My Brain"
Featuring B1 and Grimm
Produced by Dr. Butcher

My ONLY criticism of this album is that this song was placed in the wrong slot, as this should've been song #10 and the Butcher's mix of "It's A $hame" should've closed the album. With that said, we have all heard songs like this before, but when they can offer something different from other songs about the same subject, (in this case, money), the results can be very good and that does describe this song. I really like B1's line, "don't forget it, money's the metal and my hand is magnetic," as well as G Rap's money infested verse, filled with ill lines like, "so stand back cause I'm gon make whatever it takes/To shake Jakes and shoot snakes, and bake more snowflake cake than Drake's," ha! Let that line sink in for a moment. Even with the slight misstep in the track sequencing, this was ANOTHER very good song on an album filled with such goodness.
*4 out of 5*

Man, simply put, I freaking love this album, no question. I bumped it a few weeks ago (as of this post), which is when I immediately got the idea to do a revisit. If 1992's "Live And Let Die" showcased the true gangsta side of G Rap, 1995 showed him as a complete made man and that is fully realized on this album, no doubt about that. Backed by tight production, G Rap hadn't missed one step on the lyrical side of things and this is definitely one of his best works. It was truly one of 1995's best albums, noted as such in The Source magazine's "year in review" of that year, and it has aged SO well. Long time fans, revisit this ASAP; newer fans, this is a STRONG recommendation to check out. 4.5 stars for "4,5,6."

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