Johnny Nunez, WireImage
The rap icon and member of the legendary Queens, N.Y., rhyme collective the Juice Crew has released seven albums and influenced everyone from Nas to Jay-Z to the late Big Pun. With the news that G. Rap is set to drop his eighth studio album, 'Riches, Royalty, and Respect,' on April 19, the Godfather of East Coast Street Rhyme is reuniting with his mentor and one of hip-hop's most celebrated producers -- Marley Marl.
According to G. Rap, the surprising reunion with the studio pioneer, who recruited the two-fisted rapper into the Juice Crew and featured him on the seminal 1988 posse cut 'The Symphony' -- a track that also included stand-out MCs Big Daddy Kane, Masta Ace, and Craig G -- almost didn't happen.
"I just got the track back from Marley the night before last," G. Rap tells the BoomBox. "I wasn't sure he was going to make it on time. Working with Marley is like coming back home. It's like coming back full circle again. He has done a lot to contribute to my legacy. So I got a lot of love and respect for him."
It was on his classic 1989 debut album 'Road to the Riches' that G. Rap's fast-paced, labyrinth-like flow and gangsta-fueled storytelling on landmark tracks like 'Men at Work,' 'Truly Yours' and the title cut were driven by the dusty funky samples of Marley Marl. On 1990's 'Wanted: Dead or Alive,' G. Rap showcased a young, up-and-coming producer who called himself the Large Professor, highlighted by the straight-no-chaser single 'Streets of New York.' And 1992's 'Live and Let Die' saw the ambitious rhymer connect with the West Coast, a groundbreaking move that produced an unlikely musical alliance with Ice Cube and DJ Jinx, led by the harrowing track 'On the Run.'
But unlike previous efforts, G. Rap says 'Riches, Royalty, and Respect' features mostly newcomers on the boards. "I have a lot of up-and-coming names on this album," explains G. Rap. "I really didn't do brand name chasing on this album because the young hungry cats were so available. I got a lot of heat from names like Level 13, my man DJ Super Dave and the Insurgency. They are hungry, and when you are hungry like that, your firepower is at its maximum. But I also have Infamous, who works with Lil Wayne and my man DJ Pain, who did tracks for Young Jeezy. I'm bringing it on all levels."
While listening to G. Rap speak, a sense of humility can be heard in his trademark lispy voice. Indeed, when he discusses the loss of some of his hip-hop peers over the years, his tone turns somber. "It's a blessing to still be around," he says of his more than 20-year career in which legends like Cowboy of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Tupac, the Notorious B.I.G. and Jam Master Jay have passed away before their time. "There's a lot of cats in our business that didn't make it because of street violence," he continues, "So for me to be here in 2011 is a blessing."
G. Rap then pauses and adds, "To still be embraced and accepted by the public as one of the greats keeps me going."
Kool G. Rap's eighth studio album, 'Riches, Royalty and Respect' hits stores on April 19.
Watch Kool G. Rap's 'Road to the Riches'