Kool G Rap Explains How Record Label Politics Made Him Lose Like The Ill Street Blues
Twenty-five years ago today, Kool G Rap & DJ Polo released their third album, Live & Let Die. Featuring singles “Ill Street Blues” and “On The Run,” the Cold Chillin’ Records release marked a shift for the Queens, New York MC and DJ team. The release would be the final duo album for G and Polo, before the Juice Crew MC left the Warner Bros. Records system for Epic/Sony on 1995’s 4,5,6.
The reception of Live & Let Die likely contributed to that move. G Rap spoke at length with Mass Appeal about the anniversary. At the close of the Q&A, G Rap explains why he feels commercially slighted by the distributor on what some consider his finest body of work. “Warner Bros. got cold feet due to the whole Ice-T ‘Cop Killer’ controversy. People started coming down on Warner Bros. like C. Dolores Tucker, and Reverend [Calvin] Butts, and all these characters start speaking out against Gangsta Rap. So, the execs up at Warner Bros. was getting nervous like, ‘We don’t know what to do with all these offensive rappers and their offensive music, and now they’re talking about it in Congress.’ You got people holding rallies in the streets, and running over CDs and burning CDs. It was like a witch-hunt for so-called ‘Gangster Rap.’ So, we got caught up in that witch hunt and it delayed the release of the album,” admits G. The LP was released more than two years after Wanted: Dead Or Alive, an album that had many songs that were sequels to those on L&L.D. The MC continues, “Warner Bros. didn’t want their name attached to the sh*t, so Cold Chillin’ Records just released it on their own. But if Warner Bros. would have put it out, it would have been released on a much bigger scale, it would have had a bigger machine behind it, and it could have went further than where it went. I actually could have caught a gold album off just the singles ‘Ill Street Blues’ and ‘On The Run.'” The LP would be G’s first to reach the Top 200, entering at #185. It featured Geto Boys’ Scarface and Bushwick Bill as well Ice Cube on one song.
Notably, Kool G Rap has never created a gold-certified song or album. In the last week, Drink Champs aired its latest episode with record executive Steve Stoute. In the conversation, the Queens, New York native Stoute explained trying to mold a post-Illmatic Nas into a star. Of the period surrounding 1996’s #1 It Was Written, Stoute described the push-back. “It’s almost like nobody wanted Nas to do it. That’s the part that bothered me. Like, ‘Oh, he’s not supposed to be successful? He’s supposed to just be [Kool] G Rap?’ Like, G Rap did something with Rap lyrics that was dope, and everybody appreciated what G Rap did. Nas had the G Rap thing, but Nas also is a superstar. G Rap could write his ass off; he wasn’t a superstar. Nas was a superstar.” Notably, G Rap mentored Nas in the early 1990s and even delivered his demo to Def Jam Records.
Earlier this year, Kool G Rap released Return Of The Don (still available for free, full stream) on Clockwork/Full Mettle Music. The album features the late Sean Price, along with Raekwon, M.O.P.’s Lil Fame, and Freeway, among others.
Read the full “Making Of” Live & Let Die interview with Kool G Rap at Mass Appeal. He describes cold chilling with Big Daddy Kane at Jim Brown’s L.A. mansion, rolling with Tupac Shakur during the riots, and teaming with the Trackmasters, early.