Kool G Rap Poised To Reclaim Throne

Street-rap pioneer is currently completing his first album in three years.

LOS ANGELES -- Kool G Rap is moving his head in the horizontal motion that is usually interpreted to mean "No."

But the rhythm of it, coupled with the smile on the legendary rapper's face -- which, in breadth, rivals the smile of the Mickey Mouse face on his gray T-shirt -- seems to scream the opposite.

Make that several times the opposite: "Yes, Yes, Yes."

As a scorching cut called "Cannon Fire," from his upcoming album, Roots of Evil, blasts in the control room of Enterprise Studios on the evening of July 16, the 30-year-old rapper shows self-approval in subtle, but revealing, ways. Wearing a tan fisherman's cap -- which also displays the face of Mickey Mouse ("He's my man," G Rap proclaims later) -- and blue jeans, the Kool Genius of Rap (a.k.a. Nathaniel Wilson) looks relaxed and invigorated as he listens to the song, which merges an Isley Brothers melody with hip-hop beats as it grooves on resonant bass and electric piano.

G Rap, a pioneer of street rap with a metaphoric rhyming style all his own, has been away from the scene for a few years now -- three to be exact -- since he released his first solo album, 4, 5, 6, in 1995. Though he recognizes the game has changed somewhat since then, he insists there's no better time than now to reclaim his throne.

"There's a lot of more acts now, there's people coming out left and right, so there's more competition," G Rap said. "But the same street-element type of rap is still on top, and the things that would have been considered more hardcore and underground back in the day are starting to become more mainstream. So it's the perfect time for me to come back."

Roots of Evil will be released in late September or early October on a new label, Illstreet/Down Low/KTD, which is partially owned by G Rap.

Since he began working on the album in November of last year, G Rap has recorded 14 of the planned 16 or 17 tracks, doing the work in New York and in his newly adopted home of Phoenix, Ariz. He will record the remaining songs in New York, he said.

One of them is the title track, for which he has yet to write the rap. "I'm gonna talk about all the different kinds of tragedies that money brings -- that's 'Roots of Evil,' " he said.

Raised in Queens, N.Y., G Rap burst onto the scene with DJ Polo in 1986, with their single "It's a Demo." The pair later released Road to the Riches in 1988, further opening the doors to street rap -- doors that have since given way to floodgates. The underground duo followed with Wanted Dead or Alive (1990) and Live and Let Die (1992) before parting ways in 1993.

G Rap's landmark moments, such as "Road to the Riches," "Illstreet Blues" and "Streets of New York," have been endlessly appropriated by rappers ranging from Busta Rhymes to the late Biggie Smalls (a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G.). "It makes me feel good that something I did years ago is still very popular today," G Rap said. "I didn't do something that died out. I wasn't a party rapper back then, I wasn't a pro-black rapper, none of that -- not that there's anything wrong with that."

One of the upcoming album's standout tracks is "Tekilla Sunrise," which brings together Latin-influenced acoustic guitars and hip-hop beats as Kool G delivers a vivid rap about a drug deal gone bad. "I heard the beat, and it just made me write those lyrics," he said. "The beat just made me think of the back streets of Mexico kind of thing."

Meanwhile, the album's first single, "Foul Cats," is a bit of a throwback, with its street-inspired lyrics and thuggish style recalling G Rap's still-pertinent earlier work.

"My biggest thing with G Rap is that he was always ahead of his time, with lyrics and his style of rapping," said Fade, who is producing several cuts on Roots of Evil. "I think the times have now caught up to him, and right now is G Rap's time."

In the meantime, before Roots of Evil's release, G Rap can be heard on a song called "40 Island," on fellow-rapper Noreaga's recently released album, N.O.R.E.. G Rap also appears on the opening track of the upcoming Mo Wax Records remix project Psyence Fiction, on a song called "Guns Blazing (Drums of Death Part 1)." The project also features Radiohead's Thom Yorke, The Verve's Richard Ashcroft and Beastie Boy Mike D.