The Legend Returns
Hip-hop is a fast-moving machine that doesn’t wait for anyone. New trends come to light and fade away with every major album release, and artists are forced to choose between adapting to a new sound or sticking with what’s made them successful so far. Snoop Dogg is one of those who chooses the former, switching styles on projects like BUSH and rebranding himself as Snoop Lion at one time. On the other hand, Kool G Rap is one who’s stayed true to his musical roots and on Return of the Don he reassumes his godfather role with mixed success.
There’s a laundry list of emcees who cite Kool G Rap as an influence in their respective careers, and for good reason. The Queens rapper’s place in hip-hop’s upper echelon is well deserved, especially for his role in pioneering the fast-paced street rap that would dominate New York’s hip-hop culture. Throughout Return of the Don, Kool G embraces every opportunity to flex his status, such as on the standout track, “World is Mine” where he rhymes, “This is like the Bible and Qur’an, every verse real / I ain’t talking breakfast when I say I’ve seen my first mill.” He shows more clever wit on “Running,” in the lines, “I hurt your feelings buddy, we working with silly money / you playing with Silly Putty, your nose is still bloody.”
Kool G creates street rap and it’s not for the light-hearted. Even still, some of his lines fall harshly on the ear in 2017, such as, “Big rolls, twenty inch rims on the Benzo / flash room, shorty put your tits up on the window,” on “Times up.” Despite such outdated lines, he shows good awareness at other points on the album. On “Capitol Hill,” he speaks on the gritty lives he and others in his circle have led, before culminating the chorus with, “Shit is beautiful on Capitol Hill, but down here shit get ugly.” He later rhymes about the long odds he faced to succeed in his life on “Rest in Peace,” saying, “Where I’m from son, it’s poverty stricken / for you to make it out is like a nigga having to win a lottery ticket.”
Beats on the album are equally spotty. Produced entirely by MoSS, Return of the Don is certainly a cohesive project with a consistent sound, but one that eventually muddles together even in the short thirty-eight minutes of runtime. Near the middle of the album, Kool G invites Raekwon to rap on “Out for That Life,” yet the stagnant droning horn in the background keeps the combo from reaching their full potential. Perhaps the best beat is on “World Is Mine,” where MoSS uses a stop-and-go electric guitar to create a funky loop. However, the following song, “Popped Off,” kills all the momentum as Kool G begins the song by repeating, “You wanna get it popped off?” for what feels like an eternity over two, dreary, organ chord progressions.
It’s been six years since Kool G Rap’s last solo album, and the 2017 follow-up unfortunately comes out sounding a bit outdated. If you’re new to his music, you’re better off starting with one of his earlier works, such as 4,5,6, to appreciate what made him such an influence in the game. However, while Return of the Don may not clear the bar he set for himself decades ago, there are still enough quality songs that deserve a spot on your hip-hop playlists.