Kool G Rap is a legend in the hip-hop world. He was a member of Marley Marl's Juice Crew and is constantly named as a major influence of many of the thugged out/gangsta emcees of today (and yesterday). He is one of the Godfathers of the thugged out hip-hop. From "Talk Like Sex" to "It's A Demo" to "Streets Of New York", Kool G Rap and DJ Polo made classic hip-hop. When Kool G Rap went solo, he was still respected but never made a huge mark with his solo albums "4,5,6" and "Roots Of Evil". Even though "Fast Life" featured Nas on the "4,5,6" LP and he made a myriad of guest collaborations, he never hit as hard as he did with his work with DJ Polo. Fast-forward to the late 90's and the new millennium. Rawkus Records signs him and promotes his return as if he was the hip-hop messiah. DJ Premier produced "First N*gga", which made plenty of noise in the underground circuit and received critical acclaim. The true underground heads were hungry for the return of Kool G Rap. We all thought his next LP would be up there with the rest of the very well done Rawkus releases (Mos Def, Black Star, Talib Kweli, Hi-Tek, Pharoahe Monch, etc). "The Giancana Story" got pushed back over and over again and then, Rawkus closed up shop. Koch Records picked Kool G Rap up and finally released "The Giancana Story" after years of dead end promotion, bootlegging, and waiting. Sure, it has all of the ingredients of a dope album but some of the generic themes and overused references sometimes water down the LP along with some generic sounding beats. Kool G Rap has not changed. His songs are littered with references to guns, drugs, violence, Mafioso vernacular, and the word "Thug." Most of all, Kool G Rap does hold his own and finally released a solid album.
Some songs hit very hard and are instantly enjoyable while others take time to grow on the listener. The best track on the album, "The Streets" (produced by Buckwild) is an incredible track that possesses vivid grit. "...My n*ggaz ride where it's rough at, and die where they bust at / My murderer guys, slinging the pies where they lust at / On corners where they hang most, name boast and bang toast / Drive with the thang close, slide where the dames post / Empty clips and dumb out, coke fiends are strung out /Broke n*ggaz bum out, Jakes holding their gun out..." Buckwild's beat pounds in the classic sense. It's a perfect, underground, hardcore hip-hop track that is bleeding with realism and honesty. Everything works from the lyrics to the beat and all the way down to the hook and the delivery. "Where You At" features Prodigy Of Mobb Deep and was produced by Bink. Here, P and G go back and forth for the chanted hook: "…It ain't where you from, it's where you at…" The dark and moody beat is quite fitting as Kool G Rap paints another vivid picture of the ghetto with his lyrics. Prodigy delivers his usual serious crime-related performance. It's a dope track. "Drama (B*tch N*gga)" (produced by Amar) is a very energetic track with thick keyboard-driven beat. For the hook, some un-credited man sings with a ghetto twang about hustling, drugs, and money. The true gem of the track is Kool G Rap's lyrics and energy. Every verse is not only interesting but is delivered with a rock star emotion. "Thug Chronicles" (featuring Havoc of Mobb Deep) is produced by Ghetto Pros. While it is not as catchy as the other Mobb Deep collaboration, this is still a cool track. The dark and serious melody is made more sinister by a hard clapping drum track. Havoc does a good job on the chanted hook, which is not catchy in anyway. "Good Die Young" (produced by Younglord) is another serious ghetto sounding track. Kool G Rap chants the energetic hook and a female singer croons the title for the last line. It's a well-done track that is focused and very vivid. Rockwilder produces "Blaze Wit Y'all" (featuring Jinx Da Juvy) and gives both emcees a forum for their chemistry to shine. They do work well together. The typical sounding hook is corrected by their energy. The opening track "Thug For Life" (produced by Younglord) immediately has that overused "thug" word chanted again and again but it's Kool G Rap's energy and performance along with Younglord's pounding beat that drives this track. "…Thug for life / Ain't no changing me / I pop off guns and live dangerously / I'm a lot more n*gga than you aiming to be / Thug for life / Ain't no changing me…" While at first listen, the generic references may feel overdone but Kool G Rap brings a charisma, an energy and personality to this gangsta world. He is the real thing and that cannot be denied.
Some songs have a more generic sound and theme but still have a personality and interesting quality. The single "My Life" was produced by VIC and Mike Heron. At first listen, it sounds extremely trite and typical but the song does grow on the listener. The voice box sung hook has that Roger Troutman and Zapp sound along with some typical thugged out lyrics: "…All of my life I live / I'll be thugging with you / Thug it out baby! Thug it out baby! / Won't stop till I die / I'll be keeping it true…" It is actually very catchy and will not get out of many listeners' heads. The beat is also very well done and has that addictive feel. If you can get past the typical generic "thug" mannerisms and remember that Kool G Rap helped to start all of the thugged out rap, the song can be enjoyable. The album ends with "My Life (remix)" featuring Capone-N-Noreaga. The beat and hook are exactly the same but Capone and Kool G Rap deliver stellar verses. Ghetto Pros produces "It's Nothing" (features Joell Ortiz). This piano-loop driven track is extremely gritty and hardcore. The verses are well done and delivered with a ghetto authority but the scratchy hook has that generic thugged out references once again. Still, it grows on the listener. The Buckwild produced, "Holla Back" (featuring AZ, Tito and Nawz), originally had Nas on it but his verse is replaced. Kool G Rap and AZ deliver very cool verses and Buckwild's beat is not only sinister sounding but also creative. Rolling drums are used for a fill in. Unfortunately, the unknown guests do not have interesting lyrics or a strong energy. Also, the hook does have a trite and overused theme along with annoying woman chanting. The Frank Nitti produced "Fight Club" (featuring Shaqueen) has that Southern double-time rhyme bounce rhyme flow. Using the same beat as Half A Mill's incredible "What U Ridin", Nitti gives more exposure to a very slept-on and very cool sample. Kool G Rap pulls the Southern double-time delivery off too. The only problem is the weak hook and the annoying voice of Shaqueen.
While Kool G Rap uses most of the more generic themes and references in a creative or original way, some songs just do not work. "Gangsta Gangsta" (produced by Dr. Butcha) is by far the worst track on the album. Not only is the hook edited, but also the un-credited guests chant some inane lyrics about being gangsters. The edits are so blatant that the rhythm and flow of the hook is literally stifled. Dr Butcha's beat is decent and should be appreciated. "Black Widow" (produced by Jaz-O) is a well-written storytelling track. Even though Kool G Rap's verses and storytelling skills are all strong along with his delivery and lyrics, the female sung hook ruins the track.
"The Giancana Story" by Kool G Rap is an LP with decent production and entertaining aspects but does have a somewhat dated sound. The long wait, label problems, and bootlegging seriously caused problems. The absence of the Premier-produced "First N*gga" is a travesty. There were also rumors of Michael Stipe of REM being on a track but I think we were lucky that it did not see the light of day. To enjoy Kool G Rap and this album, the listener must appreciate his contribution to the Mafioso / thugged out style that Kool G Rap help create. Nowadays, it does seem overdone but G Rap can still keep it fresh for most of the album. It almost becomes a guilty pleasure. The word "thug" is overused almost as much as it is on a Noreaga album. From songs like "Thug For Life" to "Thug Chronicles" or "My Life" with the voice-box sung hook where they sing "Thug it out baby!", the listener is saturated with the word "thug".
On "The Giancana Story", Kool G Rap covered all the bases. He has some decent production, good guests, some storytelling tracks and some straight hardcore joints along with a couple of more commercially accessible songs. The main problem is that it does not live up to the hype and some of it sounds dated. While it is much better than "Roots Of Evil", it does not have the thickness of "4,5,6" even though it does have more variety. Rawkus should have put this album out a whole year ago. Now, it is somewhat chopped up and as little watered down in some places. Kool G Rap is legend and emcees like Jay-Z, Big Pun, Fat Joe, Mobb Deep, Jadakiss and Gangstarr all owe (and pay) the man a great deal of respect and admiration. While to some it may sound like Kool G Rap is trying to change and suit his vernacular with the times, he is really doing what he always did. "The Giancana Story" is a tale of a hip-hop legend who lives that gritty ghetto criminal life and Kool G Rap is truly the Godfather of gangsta / Mafioso hip-hop.