Saturday, November 18, 2006

I write rhymes and insert 'em inside your brain

Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Poison
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Rikers Island

Along with Rakim, Chuck D and Kool Keith, Kool G Rap is one of my favourite MCs of all-time. Hailing from Queens, New York and one of the original members of the Juice Crew, Kool G Rap was a clever and innovative MC. His rhyming ability was phenomenal, and by that, I mean his uncanny ability to make everything rhyme. His lyrics always flowed so neatly, with barely a moments pause to take a breath, apart from the gaps between verses where his DJ, Polo, got the chance to shine. I’ve never really stopped to analyse why he was so good, but then I read his Wikipedia entry and realised that there is an actual structure to his rhyme flow that would even impress Shakespeare. Apparently, “He trademarked the ability to rhyme the same syllables in the same combinations, though with different words, for a whole verse (16 bars long).” I’m not sure that this is the best example (though it’s one of my favourite Kool G Rap raps), but check out the opening verse to ‘Poison’, another Marley Marl produced track from the duo’s debut LP, ‘Road to the Riches’, released on Cold Chillin’ in 1989 –

“This is poison so be alert and cautious
Those who act courageous you will get nauseous
Infected or contaminated
Turn on your stereo never come radio-activated
Deadly and fatal, poison the title
My recital hits the parts that are vital
So tune in the tone of beats and poems
Polo's headphones becomes a skull and crossbones
Pull out your Q-tips, clean out the earwax
If you're still hard of hearing, I'mma scrub them with Ajax
With maximum drum so behave and remember
You're a slave to my sound wave
Faster rhymes I mastermind I have to find
A new method time after time
Write a rhyme quick when I pull out my Bic pen
Stick to an idea, the soundproof slick then
Put it on paper cause I make you hyper
Than any other rapper cause I keep my rapping riper
Like cherries or some say berries
Mandatory for the auditory and its glory
Here’s the story: rappers getting leery to hear me
G speaks in a new technique of fury
Combination of drums and noise and
Yo yo yo Polo yo this is poison”

The furious pace at which he spits the words out is amazing, and Marley’s production is also first class, with fierce and funky beats, a nagging guitar riff and the siren over the chorus; all combine to make ‘Poison’ a classic.

It’s one thing to be able to rap in this way when you’re just going on about how great you are, but another entirely to stretch out these skills over a track which tells a story or, in the case of ‘Rikers Island’ (from their second LP ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’), recalls the pitfalls of being incarcerated in New York’s largest and most notorious jail.

"C-74, adolescents at war
Put your ear to the floor, you can hear the roar
They take you out of BC, they now found you a cage
All eyes are glued to you like you're up on stage
If you're soft as a leaf, don't get into a beef
And God be with you chief if you got gold teeth
Some try to be hard, front and say I'm God
Don't know a lesson say a blessin’, you're gonna get scarred
(Yo call the C.O.) That won't be necessary
He'll watch him beat you down, and take your commissary
Inside the lunchroom, you meet your doom
Someone is lookin at you sharpenin’ a tablespoon
Use your hands like a man, don't go out like a chump
Never 'fess, bench press so that you can be pumped
If you don't got a game, you get beaten as lame
And scared as a mouse in a house of pain
So to all the jailbirds that listen to hip-hop
Move your pelvis like Elvis do the Jailhouse Rock
You might be coolin, you might be stylin
But you won't be smilin on Riker's ISLAND"

A compelling and cautionary tale, ‘Rikers Island’ paints a vivid picture over an edgy, hard-hitting Marley production that fits the subject matter perfectly.

Kool G Rap's lyrics at The Official Hip Hop Lyrics Archive
Kool G Rap at Wikipedia
Kool G Rap, still going strong at My Space
Search Amazon for Kool G Rap and DJ Polo
You can buy a great value double CD, featuring both 'Road to the Riches' and 'Wanted: Dead or Alive' from eBay here - it only advertises it as 'Road to Riches', but it is in fact this
Information on Rikers Island