Longevity’s not something enjoyed by a majority of Hip-Hop artists. This is why we — as fans and culture — should make room in our hearts for the legends still in the game. Queen’s native and father of mafioso rap, Kool G Rap falls into the category of veterans who deserve their roses in the present.
In a perfect world, nobody who claimed to be a head would have to be schooled on the hand that both Kool G Rap and The Juice Crew played in and championing the late 80s, early 90s golden era of Hip Hop. For those who forgot, or never knew, Kool G Rap is back with Return of The Don, his latest solo album produced exclusively by MoSS, a Canadian-based producer.
From the Mob inspired intro, which is also the title track, Kool G Rap sets the mood and mindset for this project. This is gritty, NYC, crime rap; a genre that has fallen to the wayside over the past decade or so. “I spit a lot of gangsta shit, but I’d like to refer to it more as reality rap… If you ask me how long that’s gon stay around? That’s always gon be around.” G Rap says candidly before the half triumphant, half eerie production kicks off the album. “It’s the return of the don/got nothin but dick for the world to kiss for mixing me wrong”… and there it is.
MoSS’s production is pretty straight forward, but Kool G Rap and his contemporaries deliver the kind of bars that don’t require a lot of experimentation. Speaking of which, the features, which include the likes of Fred The Godson, NORE, Saigon, Raekwon, and a slew of other heavy hitters, all raise the bar with their respective features.
“Schoolboy is how I handle you/ Your MacBook was a computer, to me it was a manual/” Fred spits on the flute-y second track, “Mack Lean.” NORE comes right after with one of his more inspired verses on the following “Criminal Outfit.” “I ain’t into teaching, leave that shit to KRS” he spits, furthering the narrative. This is not heal the world music; it’s “get ya shit pushed back” music.
Ultimately, though, too many features may be the album’s biggest flaw. While all the guests fit well, and G Rap certainly holds his own, 9 out of the 11 tracks feature other emcees. This makes it seem more like a Mob familia reunion than a proper solo album from someone with the status of Kool G Rap. Also, while the production certainly fits the aggressive, braggadocious bars, it can get a little bit repetitive in a time where the sound of a Hip-Hop record can be so broad and vast.
The highlights are meant to be the verses, which shine. But, the stripped down production along with the (sometimes) uninspired hook could be a task to listen to for an ear that is not from the era to which G. Rap is obviously paying homage.
Small hiccups excused, Return of The Don is a welcome time capsule. It’s a relic to was once the prominent soundscape of Hip-Hop as well as a reminder that the sound, attitude, and grit of early NYC Hip-Hop is here to stay.