Autopsy of a Verse: Kool G Rap
While Jeff is being nursed back to reality in the decompression chamber, I thought I’d take some time away from my curator duties at floodwatchmusic.com to share a story with you. You see, back in the day, I used to catch terrible hell from my friends whenever the subject of the “greatest rapper ever” was broached. It was all in good fun, of course, but my vehement insistence that Kool G Rap was greater than Nas, Biggie, Kane, KRS, and yes, Rakim, was always met with laughter and ridicule. In my daydreams I envisioned a different scenario: I would quickly locate the nearest stereo, pop in a cassette of “Men at Work,” hold my arms out in a cocky “what?” pose, and watch in delight as they scurried around the floor to pick up their jaws. It never really happened that way, of course, but I refused to be swayed, and I still feel the same about the Kool Genius to this day.
Everyone generally acknowledges in some way or another the man’s undeniable importance in the development of hip hop, but few truly comprehend the gravity of the following fact: Kool G Rap is one of the rare few MCs who excelled at every aspect of lyricism. Deadly battle rhymes. Multi-syllabic wordplay. An endless stream of metaphors and puns. Visceral storytelling. Humorous punchlines. Raunchy sex raps. Violent gangster fantasies. The only item missing from G Rap’s legacy is a solid, start-to-finish classic album, which is why it hardly came as a surprise when he was nowhere to be found on the final tally of Jeff and Joey’s Top 25 Greatest Hip Hop Albums a month ago. Regardless – and I hate to play the “if it weren’t for x there would be no y” card – but suffice it to say that if you can recite every lyric from Ready to Die, Illmatic, or 36 Chambers, you would do well to familiarize yourself with G Rap’s early trilogy of releases with DJ Polo and gain some insight on the genesis of the much-heralded mid-‘90s New York era of hip hop.
Among the multitude of his supreme lyrical abilities, perhaps what I love most about G Rap is the way he could take any beat with a fast tempo and, seemingly without any preparation, suddenly launch into a furious tirade of crass obscenities, hilariously outrageous braggadocio, and a predilection for the most brutal and grotesque ways in which he will take his opponent’s life. By the end of one of these unstoppable tongue-lashings, one would have to be out of their fucking skull to cross Kool G Rap, unless they needed to satisfy some masochistic death wish. “’Nuff Said,” from 1992’s criminally underrated Live and Let Die, is one of my favorites, a two-minute verbal asswhooping that’s so wildly over the top it frequently borders on comic. Let’s dissect G Rap’s form, blow by blow.
Here's the motherfucking magnificent,
I'll even bag innocent motherfuckers, see suckers like they was ten a cent.
So if you come in my way, great, I pull out the trey-eight,
Kool G Rap's your fate and not your playmate.
Producer Sir Jinx opens the track with a four-bar intro of drum teases and scratching before letting the track loose. G Rap patiently waits for his cue, that downbeat for him to begin by titling himself “the magnificent” and claiming to coldly take out innocent bystanders. There are two techniques of note here. G Rap’s substitutes “motherfucking” or some similar variation to act as ‘filler’ syllables, which some may claim as lazy, but rarely does he overdo it (see GZA’s “Swordsman”). He also introduces his proficiency at stringing together vowel sounds (“great/eight/fate/playmate”), a now-required lyrical skill that he practically invented back in '88. He continues:
So all you niggas on the floor bitching that shit is dead,
Tell it to the motherfucking mortician.
So get ready to let the lead out, I'm knocking niggas dead out,
And blowing the back of your fucking head out.
Cooking niggas better than mama's dinner,
So let the drama enter, I'm sending niggas to the trauma center.
Because I'm rolling with force, tearing niggas out the frame
Like they was pictures of a bitch that I divorced.
At this point in the track G Rap is already on a roll, and the punchlines begin to tumble out uncontrollably. In the first couplet, he eschews a comparable end rhyme for “dead” to instead rhyme “bitching” with “mortician,” a technique that provides some variation to his pacing, which he then follows with a triple rhyme scheme. While the compound rhyming of “mama’s dinner” with “drama enter” and “trauma center” is staggering enough, G Rap follows it with one of my personal favorite lines, the “tearing niggas out the frame like they was pictures of a bitch that I divorced.”
Boss, so come on nigga, get wild and loose,
I whoop your motherfucking ass and get arrested for child abuse.
Even your bitch can get it, nigga,
I shove the barrel of a nine up her behind and pull the fuckin’ trigger.
Going psycho like Norman Bates, G, you better sedate,
Because lately niggas ain't able to take me.
It ain't a man in the land that can stand G Rap,
Save that candy rap shit for the handicapped.
Now he’s angry. G Rap continues with a misogynistic couplet that admittedly has some juicy alliteration, then constructs one of the most impressive quadruple compound rhyme schemes of his career, the glorious “Bates, G/sedate/lately/take me.” Rappers have always loved to drop some sort of reference to Hitchcock’s Psycho in their battle rhymes, but rarely in a context as intricate as this. The last couplet, from a technical standpoint, is absolutely breathtaking, as he crafts a complex rhyme pattern using the “-and” and “-ap” sounds. One would think that G Rap had completely exhausted the possibilities of rhyming his name, yet he executes not only one but two compound rhymes (“candy rap/handicapped”).
Niggas will get slayed like a bunch of play pirates.
Fucking with me, ya’ll would rather fuck with the AIDS virus.
Cause I set ‘em up, wet ‘em up like sprinkles,
And put niggas to sleep longer than Rip Van Winkle.
The thicker the shit, the quicker the hit, I'm kicking a fit,
Leaving niggas sicker than Liberace's dick.
Good luck, another hood bucked,
I kick you so far up your ass I get my motherfucking foot stuck.
I don’t believe there has been a more creative warning of the dangers of HIV than rhyming “play pirates” with “AIDS virus.” G Rap dips into his bag of similes here with a literary allusion, then a pop culture reference to ‘70s Vegas icon Liberace that’s just laugh-out-loud cruel. He also varies his cadence here, ranging from hyper-syllabic (“set ‘em up, wet ‘em up”) to a polyrhythmic juxtaposition against the beat (“thicker the shit,” etc.).
See, I manage to give niggas more than a bandage,
Blue Cross and Blue Shield couldn't cover the motherfucking damage.
‘Cause I'm bold and bigger, putting manholes in niggas
And holding triggers up to them gold diggers.
So if you all over my dick just like a rubber,
My rap is so fat, I make sales from fucking whale blubber.
You better duck, ‘cause like a volcano when I erupt,
You bitch ass rappers are getting fucked.
G Rap continues with the verbal slaughtering, his uninterrupted flow mowing down armies of opponents like a Gatling gun. He drops another phenomenal quadruple rhyme scheme beginning with “bold and bigger” before venturing into the nonsensical (the bizarre “whale blubber” line). I know it’s somewhat simplistic compared to its surroundings, but I love the way the beat drops out for the slightly obvious “You bitch ass rappers are getting fucked” line.
And you'll be one hoe, like Marilyn Monroe,
Left on death row because I let the gun go bang,
Blow your motherfucking brains out,
And you need more than detergent to get that motherfucking stain out.
‘Cause I serve more crabs than Red Lobster's,
When I pop shots I leave lots of dead mobsters.
Put down the microphone, whether unknown or famous,
You're out of luck and I don't give a fuck what your name is.
Boy, you better split, cause I'ma house shit,
My dick will be rich if you niggas wants to put your money where your mouth is.
Again, we have another quadruple rhyme scheme that almost qualifies as compound before G Rap drops a quick sequence of similes that rank among his best; he’s probably used that “detergent” line somewhere else, but it sounds so good here that I don’t care. By now, his internal rhyme patterns have grown into a labyrinthine complexity known only to him. It bears emphasis: the last couplet here is one of the most amazing lyrical constructions in the canon of hip hop. In its most basic form, these two lines are merely a series of syllables and sounds, but it’s the combination of each internal element – the delivery, inflection, rhyme scheme, the utter imagination of this diss – that trumps the entire rhyme books of 95% of rappers before or since. Hear it, read it, memorize it, repeat it like a mantra; it is truly the Kool Genius at his finest.
Gassed up-ass nigga, come set it,
‘Cause when I pick up the gun, that be the end of the unleaded.
Now you could be a gold or a platinum artist,
But deep down, you fucking silly clowns know who's the hardest.
Niggas I watered down with the quarter pound,
‘Cause my slaughter sound can be caught around and found to slaughter towns.
For the clowns, got eighty rounds worth of ammo.
Play it again Sam, put on my jams, fuck a piano.
I'm leaving lame niggas brain dead…
Aw, fuck it, ‘nuff said.
By this point in the track, one is almost numbed by the continuous onslaught of G Rap’s verbal dexterity. After exhausting every permutation of the “–ound” assonance, he suddenly breaks out of his lyrical trance and realizes that he established his point a long time ago: G Rap simply cannot be defeated. Congratulations – you’ve made it out alive from a straight 56-bar bloodbath delivered by the incomparable Kool G Rap.
MP3: Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - "'Nuff Said"