In this interview with the legendary lyricist Kool G Rap, he talks about his new album Royalty, Riches, and Respect, reuniting with Marley Marl, to the way Big Pun greeted him when they first met. It was an honor and pleasure to have been able to interview a legend and this writer’s favorite emcee of all time.
By William Hernandez


WHO?MAG: Talk to me about your new album?
KGR: The new album is titled “Riches, Royalty and Respect”.  It has fifteen songs on it.  I got production with Marley Marl.  That’s definitely the foundation reunion right there.  I got with a track Alchemist with a guest appearance by Havoc that I premiered on my free EP download that I put out two months ago.  Those are two of the highlights out of others.  The album mostly consists of some underground hungry cats, maybe with the exception of my man DJ Supa Dave, who I was told did some work with De La Soul before, my man DJ Kane who also works with Young Jeezy, and my man Infamous who’s a Grammy award winning producer.  It’s a good album.  I feel real good about it.  I don’t think the fan base will be mad at all.

WHO?MAG: What is behind the title of the album “Riches, Royalty, and Respect”?
KGR: It’s basically things that all people desire.  That’s just how I was feeling at that moment.  Riches don’t necessarily have to be as far as financial.  Every man is rich in his own way.  You can be rich with happiness.  Some people have all the financial in the world, but they’re not happy.  I wouldn’t want to trade places with a person like that, to have all the wealth in the world and still not be happy.  To me, that’s a collision. (laughs)
Everybody wants financial success because they feel it will bring them happiness.  As far as Royalty, I feel I am royal in a sense, but I feel we’re all royal in sense. I feel we’re all a nation of kings and queens.  As far as respect, that’s something I worked hard for to obtain over the years.  I just compiled all the words that began with the letter “R” and put them all together “Riches, Royalty, and Respect”.  That’s what this album is about.

WHO?MAG: How was it working with Marley Marl after all these years?
KGR:  It’s always good to work with Marley.  Marley is the foundation like I said.  That’s where I started.  He’s one of the producers out of three producers that I ever worked with on any project that basically covered the whole project.  When you have a producer that you work with to that extent of time, you gain a bond and a relationship.  So with Marley, that’s like having a family reunion.  That’s what that was like.

WHO?MAG: What’s your thought on today’s current Hip Hop artists?
KGR: I think hip-hop it broke up into many forms.  You got what you people would classify as backpack.  You got hardcore, underground.  You got mainstream.  You have all these different categories of hip hop.  You got what they called back-in-the-days conscious rap. You got Mafioso rap, gangsta rap, street rap. What I would say that today out of all those different spectrums, it’s mainly just focused on the commercial form of hip hop right.  I’m going to put it like that, because I don’t want to knock what the young cats are doing today, because G Rap is never about knocking other artists and put people down.  It’s one spectrum that all the artists are focused on today.  It’s mainstream, but it’s also the same subject matter.  The glitz and glamour.  I got this and you don’t, which is cool because hip-hop is based on bragging and boasting.  That’s how it started. Dudes was talking the mansion and the yacht all of that in their rhymes when the was out there in the parks powering up the equipment from the street lamps.  All that is cool, but it’s only one expression of music.  This is something else.  What I didn’t want to do with this album was be one-dimensional.  I wanted to be multidimensional with this album and I think I achieved that.  I didn’t just come from one angle.  Really, I don’t think there would have been another G Rap album right now.  If that’s all G Rap could be about right now.  You got a variety of different things.  You got a track called “Sad”, a track called “Pages of my Life”.  Then you got stuff dealing with concepts like “Harmony Homicide”.  I think the artists today got to get back to being multidimensional and learn to not be afraid to talk about more than just the upside of life.  Nobody has a life where everything is on the upside.  Life is ups and downs for everybody.  Sometimes you’re happy, sad, and angry.  That’s what music is about.  Expressions that everybody could relate to because everybody can’t relate to buying out the bar every night at the club and hoping in that Phantom.  Things of that nature.  You got to express yourself in more than one way.

WHO?MAG: How did you ending up working with Rick Ross on a mixtape?
KGR: I think it actually happened on twitter.  His manager and one of the people from my camp contacted each other.  It got back to me that Rick Ross camp got love and appreciation for G Rap.  I expressed the same thing because I be rocking Rick Ross’s music as well.  I appreciate him as an artist.  One thing led to another.  It got to me and Rick talking.  He asked what I was doing at the moment?  I said free agent right now.  He wanted me to come down to Florida and talk business and see what we could put together.  He also wanted me to appear on a track.  We did both things.  It was a trade off. He ended up featuring the track that he gave me for my album on his mixtape that he put out.  Everything was still going back and forth at the time.  Actually paperwork was in my lawyer’s hands with the intention of presenting that Rick Ross/G Rap affiliation, but it didn’t pan out or materialize one hundred percent.

WHO?MAG: Talk about the “Giancana Story” album?
KGR: That album I recorded for Rawkus Records and ended up getting released on Koch due to Rawkus had lost their distribution and financial backing around the time the album was being completed.  They couldn’t put me out just straight Rawkus Records because they had to through a major distributor.  They had to find another situation that kept my album from being released for an amount of time because I had to wait for them to get a whole new situation.  By then, the album was getting messed up because they put out one single.  Then they put out another single.  They weren’t able to follow up in an appropriate time.  You put a single out there and it starts buzzing and then “My Life”. It lost momentum.  The ball got dropped.  They ended up giving Koch the licensing right to put out the project.  By that time, it was pretty much stale.  I was sitting on the album for a long time.

WHO?MAG: Talk to me about the song “My Life” and the video?
KGR: It was supposed to be the single to lead to the “The Giancana Story” album.  It was getting added daytime rotation.  Funkmaster Flex was bumping it.  DJ Enuff was bumping it.  It just got lost in the sauce because of the stuff behind the scenes.  It featured my man G Raz who did the actual vocoder part of the record, not auto-tune.  He did the vocoder, the original equipment that  Roger Troutman used for “Computer Love” and songs like that.  The video was symbolic like have the audience mourning that G Rap is supposed to be dead.  You see the funeral thing going with the horses pulling the coffin through the streets and everybody mourning.  At the end of the day, it turns out that he didn’t die.  He just popped up on the scene and celebrates life again with his friends and family.  It’s supposed to be the reemergence of G Rap.  That was the whole symbolism behind it.  The part of the funeral was shot in Queens Blvd.  It might have been Long Island where we did the house scene, where I walk in the house and the maid is startled because I’m supposed to be dead.

WHO?MAG: Whose idea was it to use Billie Joel’s sample for “Road to Riches”?
KGR: I think it was 52nd Street and Stilettos or I might have it backwards.  Anyway that’s where the sample came from.  It was my idea to use that sample.  As far as the first album with Marley Marl, I was very active with the production of the album because I was bring in the majority of the records that were used as samples for that album I brought into the studio.  I would tell Marley I want this with that, not to take anything away from Marley because Marley is great producer and a legend.  It was his touch that he put on top of my ideas that made it come out the way it came out.  I was very active with input.  I basically knew what I wanted to do with every song except for “It’s a Demo”.  That was something Marley and DJ Polo put together and I think “I’m Fly” because that idea was mine and Marley together.  “Men at Work”, and “Truly Yours” were records that I was bringing to the studio like I want this loop to go over this drumbeat.  Marley would then put it together.  He would put the high hat and the pattern he wanted it to go in like “It’s a Demo”.  He made that shit echo out every time I would say “It’s a Demo”. To me, that made the record.  It was his touch that made the record what it turned out to be.

WHO?MAG: I was hearing an interview you did and were asked about Big Pun when he first met you he knelt down and kissed your ring.  Can you speak about that experience and how did you feel?
KGR: I was blown away and honored. because I’ve met a lot of people and fans have said different things, but that was the first time somebody displayed their honor and respect for what G Rap do: talent-wise, creative-wise and just being an artist.  That’s the first time somebody displayed their respect to that level.  I was just honored by it and especially by the fact for him to come out later and do exactly what he did, to become considered one of the greatest lyricist, one of the greatest artists to ever do it with the just the release of two albums.  I had to gain that with a series of albums and decades. Not a series of decades, a series of years.  More than one decade to establish that and he was able to establish that kind of respect and honor and legendary status in the course of two albums.  He wasn’t here to enjoy the success of his second album.  Rest in Peace to Big Pun.

WHO?MAG: Speaking of Big Pun how was it working with him and the X-Ecutioners on the song “Dramacide”?
KGR: We weren’t together in the studio during that time.  I think Pun was somewhere else working or recording in another state.  I’m not really sure what was the reason why he wasn’t in the studio.  I’m just going by what I think I was told at the time.  It was so long ago I might not be one hundred percent accurate.  I just came in and laid my parts and left blank parts open.  I did a 16 bars, then I did an 8 bars, and then another 8 or something like that and that was how that record was formed.

WHO?MAG: How did you feel with Bell Biv Devoe sampled you for the song Poison?
KGR: I mean (laughs) Once again; honored.  This is like the kids from New Edition. These dudes are bigger than life.  Even as BBD they were bigger than life.  “Poison” was one of the records that helped them transform from New Edition to BBD.  A whole new group and entity, even though it’s the same artist it helped establish a whole new brand. They were successful at it and it was a lot for some contributions to the “Poison” single, which still is bumping on radio to this day.  They requested for me to be in the video. They didn’t come to me personally.  I think it got through my management and my label at the time and word was passed to me that they would like to me to come down to the video shoot.  I got a little fraction of second cameo. (laughs)  That was cool.  I love New Edition’s music and I love BBD’s music.  It was an honor to be in the presence of those dudes.  It was more of an honor that they would want to be in the presence of G Rap as well.  They looked at G Rap the way I looked at them.  The simple fact that they even noticed a G Rap was an honor to me because they were bigger than life to me.

WHO?MAG: How did the song you did with Frankie Cutlass, Mobb Deep, and M.O.P come about?
KGR: That turned out to be a helluva track.  I wasn’t really aware of who Frankie Cutlass was at the time.  At that time it was just work to me, but I was happy to work with Cutlass because he showed a lot of respect towards me.  He embraced me with his energy.  It was really a respectful kind of approach.  I was more than happy to do the track with him.  I wouldn’t have even known the track would turn out to be as fire as it did.  It’s hard for somebody to know that G Rap, Mobb Deep, and M.O.P are going to be on the same track.  The expectations are pretty much going to be high.  I knew it would be hot, but it couldn’t imagine it would come out exactly the track is fire.

WHO?MAG: Talk about the song “Two to the Head” with Ice Cube and the Geto Boys?
KGR: Those are two artists I like a lot.  I was always a fan of Ice Cube and Scarface.  I think if I wouldn’t have done that track that day, it would have to been done at some point in my career, but I’m glad it was done back then because it was a real good time for all three of us.  We had similar subject matter and similar feel to our music.  Even though it was still different, but a lot of similar approaches.  It was great to work with all them dudes. I felt the same way about Bushwick Bill.  I didn’t just like Scarface. I liked Geto Boys.  Just like I just didn’t like Ice Cube; I liked where they came from and what they brought.  I liked N.W.A as well as Ice Cube.

WHO?MAG: Talk to me about the song “Lifestyles of The Rich and Famous”?
KGR: That was a track I actually recorded that track in my home studio.  I had a 16-track studio and I bought a one inch 16 track recorder Reel to Reel from Marley.  I had a 16-track Tascam board and all that.  I was doing my thing back then. (laughs)  That was actually the equipment I would record material with Nas on it and stuff like that and use that to shop Nas around.  That was the time I did “Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous”.  It was just G Rap doing his thing.  It was a track that was right up the alley with “I’m Fly” talking about the glitz and glamour part of it, one of the dimensions that I talk about.

WHO?MAG: How did you end up on the song “Don’t Curse” by Heavy D?
KGR: Heavy D reached out and he wanted me on that song.  Heavy D and I have a mutual respect for each other.  We made it happen with a great producer Pete Rock.  It don’t get no better than that.  You have to bring up the other greats to be in the comparison with a Pete Rock. You have to bring up the Marley Marl’s, the Premier’s, the Large Professor’s to be in that same category to be with a Pete Rock.  The video shoot was in a studio.  All the scenes were done in a studio.  It was fun.  It was like a big party. (laughs) It was a bunch of us there clowning around and stuff.  A lot of good people on track.  It was entertaining at the same time, I’m working.  I’m being entertained watching everybody perform their scenes whatever artist I respect like Grand Puba, Big Daddy Kane, Heavy D, Pete Rock, CL Smooth.

WHO?MAG: Talk about the song “Fast Life” you did with Nas off your 4,5, 6 album?
KGR: That was the track produced by my man Buckwild, a platinum producer.  He produced the “Whoa” track for Black Rob.  I loved the track and Nas ended up coming to the studio where I was at.  He just put together in record time.  I wrote my part.  He wrote his part and then we collaborated on the third verse.  It just went back and forth. To me, that track means a lot because when Nas was first brought to my attention, I wanted to see Nas shine. I wanted to see him do his thing because I thought he was an artist that was very promising and I wanted the world to acknowledge him.  Because I knew he was going to do exactly what he did in the game.  He was just that talented.  Nas had already made his mark in the game at this point.  Somebody that I was trying to present to the world and now he’s out there; now the two come together to create something that’ll turn out to be classic.  That was a good time.  That was real good looking with Nas.

WHO?MAG: Talk about the intro you did for Paul Edward’s book “How to Rap”?
KGR: To be honest with you, I don’t really remember what I said in the book.  I mean I read it a couple of times.  It’s not my book personally, so I wouldn’t have memorized what I put in there. (chuckles)  Whatever I said it came directly from the heart and straight up honesty.  I really can’t recall what exactly I said, because I haven’t memorized the book like I memorized my songs that I hear repeatedly over during the course of mixing them or playback.

WHO?MAG: How’d you hook up with DJ Honda and how was he in the studio?
KGR: I think DJ Honda reached out through my man Domingo.  He had a contact through him through somebody else.  I know of DJ Honda’s work.  His name was one of the ones you knew of in the Hip Hop community.  It was a good look for home.  It’s good looking for all the people that I work with.  Hip Hop has brought so many nationalities and cultures together and closed a lot of racial gaps and things of that nature.  It’s like every time I see that it shows me how far hip-hop has come.  It’s done what politicians and activists couldn’t do with speeches.  Hip Hop bridged the gap between races.  Every time I see that, it’s wild because I see hip-hop from its infancy grow up to be that.  It’s wild to be doing something with a Japanese producer.  He was focused on what he was doing and I was focused on what I was doing.  Real good chemistry.  He’s very talkative, but more on the quiet side because it’s two artist that take what they do seriously.  When we focus, we focus.  That’s when he kind of gets quiet.  At the same time we’re still interacting with each other.  We have a mutual respect.  That’s how it is working with DJ Honda.  I’m doing something for DJ Honda.  This dude is like legend in his own right in the game.  I’m focused.

WHO?MAG: You’ve always had an ear for picking solid beats. How do you do it?
KGR: Whatever grabs my soul or imagination?  Some times it might be something that might not grab me from the depths of my soul, but it’ll be something that’ll grab my imagination.  Like the melody or the track will take my somewhere.  Then you got other tracks that just grab me from the soul.  You feel the rhythm, baseline, and the drums it just takes over you, whether you like it or not your head is going to bob to it or tap you foot; whatever it is.  It’s a force that’ll grab every molecule in your body and you feel it.  I look for a track that’ll do that.  Grab my imagination or grab me from the depths of my soul.  Everybody might not feel what I feel, especially the tracks that capture my imagination.  The track that I pick might not capture somebody else’s imagination until they hear what I do it.  They see what angle I was coming from.  Sometimes you got to put all the pieces of the puzzle together for people to see the picture.  They’re not going to be able to see the same picture you see by maybe seeing eight pieces out of a twenty puzzle.  I’m an artist where I can hear something, and even if it’s three pieces of a twenty-piece puzzle, I can see what it takes to complete the picture. Not only with my music, I can hear that with somebody else’s music.

WHO?MAG: Talk about the song “The Streets”?
KGR: It was G Rap doing what he does.  That hardcore street rap, nothing more than that. That wasn’t a depth of the soul record.  It was to come across grimy, the grimy side.  All the things that I absorbed from being in the streets, I’m just putting it lyric form and putting it in on a track.

WHO?MAG: Talk about the song you did with Jedi Mind Tricks “Animal Rap”?
KGR: That’s through the guy who owns Babygrande records Chuck Wilson.  Chuck reached out through Rawkus at the time that he wanted G Rap to feature with a group of his.  I accepted to do it.  I went to the studio and laid my verse down.  I think I wrote the verse right then and there on the spot because over the years, I would say going into the late ‘90s all the way up to now, I’ve transformed to be that artist that’s Johnny on the spot. Writing verses or a chorus or something; whatever somebody wants me to do, I’m pretty much Johnny on the spot.  When I first started out, I didn’t really want to do that because I think it would be like rushing a project.  I would always want to take the track back home and vibe to it, so I could give the best I could possibly give for another artist that wanted me to collaborate.  I just gained this ability to be Johnny on the spot with it and still produce what people today would consider classic material.  Like the song I did with Mobb Deep on the Murda Muzik album. The verse I laid on that people consider to be classic. So many other verses ,but that’s one of the highlights when it comes to G Rap collaborations. That comes to anybody’s mind for that time frame.

WHO?MAG: You’ve influenced a lot of emcees, but I want to know who influenced you?
KGR: Ah man! It was the great names like Kool Moe Dee, Melle Mel, my man Silver Fox, Grandmaster Caz.  These are the dudes that shaped and molded G Rap to who the world would know G Rap to be.  It was the inspiration and the names that those artists instilled in G Rap.  Silver Fox played the most part and the reason why G Rap would be different from so many other artists.  As far as flow being multi-syllabic, Silver Fox made me want to push the envelope.  Hearing him back then in the early to mid 80’s was like  hearing a rapper from the future to me.  Moe Dee, what I got from him was the ability to sound intelligent. It’s cool for people to know you’re smart and you rap at the same time. It’s cool not to be an idiot basically.  Melle Mel is what instilled the street part of me, talking about the topics that have to do with the everyday life in the inner city, growing up in the boroughs and painting a picture for people.  Silver Fox would instill in me the flow.  He was the person that made G Rap want to have his flow unlike any other and just keep pushing the envelope and put as much bends and turns and twists as possible for it to be different in a good way.  Grandmaster Caz had those stories and painting thing cinematic, sort of like a movie but rapping.  I got so many different things from different artists.  I’m just a compilation of all those artists rolled into one.  Then you have artist that came out during my time and after me like a Nas who’s capable of doing the same thing.  You had a Biggie and Jay Z who are capable of doing the same thing.  2pac to me is in a class by himself.  2pac was a lyricist that could be simple, but have a helluva flow. His main standout was his passion.  His main quality that caught the world’s attention in my book was his passion.  That’s what made everybody gravitate towards him.  You could tell that everything 2pac did was from the heart, even down to his interviews.  You could tell everything that came out of the man’s mouth was directly from his heart.  His passion was crazy.

WHO?MAG: I want you talk to me about artists you’ve influenced starting with Pharaoh Monch?
KGR: I can tell about the part of inspiring Eminem.  I was one of the name’s he mentioned at one of the Grammy events.  Nas, Jay Z, 2pac of course.  I’m in 2pac’s documentary Resurrection.  I’m the only rapper name you see in his own personal notes.  He had Marvin Gaye and right up under Marvin Gaye he had Kool G Rap.  That’s crazy because in a recent interview that I did, I said 2pac is like the hip hop Marvin Gaye.  It made sense that he wrote Marvin Gaye in his own personal notes, because to me that’s what he was in a hip-hop form because of his passion and his subject matter, like what he chose to rap about.  Dealing with the struggle and stresses of his people and oppression and all that.  It sounded like Marvin Gaye with “What’s Going On”?  Mobb Deep’s Prodigy just put out a book and said that it was my verse in “The Symphony” that made him want to rap.  It’s so many it’s hard for me to think of every individual off the top of the head.  Game on the first song on “The Documentary”on the first song “Westside Story”. He said something like G Rap over these Dre beats.  Obvious that I had some effect on Game as well.  Treach told me that himself that he was influenced by me.

WHO?MAG: Talk to me about the song “It’s A Shame” off of the 4,5,6 album?
KGR: Ah man!  That was one of those tracks, I think that was a CJ [Moore] and [Dr.] Butcher production as well.  That was one of those tracks like I said that grabs the depths of your soul, where it did that.  It just made me want to come from a street point of view, but more of a 70’s kind of flavor because that’s what the track was to me.  When the cat that’s featured on there did the singing, I can’t remember right now, he brought like a Curtis Mayfield type of presence to the track.  I was like “Oh my God!  This shit is sickening”. (laughs) “This shit is bananas”.  What I got from it?  It just blew me away. Dude comes in [Kool G Rap starts singing the chorus to the song] it gave it a Curtis Mayfield kind of presence.  That shit just blew me away.  It grabbed the depths of my soul.  The video shoot a lot of it was done in Brooklyn, except the part we did in the mansion. I’m not sure if that was in [New] Jersey.  I think that was one my first videos that the budget started to get bigger.  The production started looking like they spent a little paper for that.  It was my first experience of being on a video shoot that was more like a movie set.

WHO?MAG: What do you remember about working with Large Professor on the second Kool G Rap and DJ Polo album?
KGR:  It was a good chemistry between me and Paul.  I’m talking about the way I feel about him.  He played an everlasting impression on me.  I always got love for Paul.  It was a lot of fun working with him and watching him work.  I would be amazed every time. The way he was working the SP1200, I’d never seen nobody work it like that.  He would tap on the buttons like it was fucking typewriter.  I’d never seen nobody produce like that.  It was show just watching him truncate the kick and the snare.  It’s like a show.  I’m sitting there amazed, not only by his production, but by the way he works, by his dedication and work ethic.  The dude was so talented beyond.  His skill level was beyond any other producer I’ve ever worked with.  That is no understatement at all.  Paul was like the most skilled producer I’ve worked with.  I’m not just talking about the finished product.  His name is already set in stone as a legendary producer.

For more info on Kool G Rap go to: