Release Date: 11.26.02
Record label: Koch Records
Genre(s): Rap, Hip-Hop, R&B, etc.
by: terry sawyer
Indie gangsta rap? I can't tell if that's more or less impressive for advocating stupid things without the possibility of making any money from it. Is that keepin' it real? I've always considered the edification of gangsta rap a form of white condescension, holding up the sociopaths of African American culture and then saying something like "that's how they have to live" or "in their world, those are the rules". Silly me, I'm so white I think you should probably avoid killing other people whenever it's humanly possible. I also have this rule I use to evaluate the lyrical content of a hip hop album. If the lyrics could be translated into conversation, would I want to get stuck at a party talking to this person? With a lot of pop rap, the answer is almost always a resounding no. How long would you talk to someone who blathered about the people they've killed, the drugs they've sold, all the expensive shit they own, and the daisy chain of ho's that ride their dick like one of those vibrating quarter-operated spaceships out in front of your favorite grocery store? If your answer is more than two minutes, congratulations, you're what cynical A&R people call "a demographic".
Kool G Rap is very angry, boys and girls, his delivery never fails to break its percussive, bruising thud on to each track. If amorphous rage is your bag, there is much to enjoy throughout The Giancana Story. Is this satire? Every once in awhile, it got bad enough for me to ask this, but even satire requires a moment where you're let in on the joke, if only to catch your breath. "Drama (Bitch Nigga)" breezes through a day in the life of Kool G which he succinctly summarizes as "guns, ho's, drugs and ice . . . aight". "Thug Chronicles" continues in the same vein, a list of everything that gets you killed in Kool G's universe, which is basically "for every wrong done, a man to be killed". It'd be different if the music and the rhymes had some independent draw of their own. Despite his tackily trailer Oedipal rage, I think Eminem has a twisted mastery of language and an ability to build a track that is infectious and commanding. Kool G's beats plod and smack each song like a bowling bowl thunking down concrete stairs. Instead of creating some kind of landscape that might showcase the sheer force of his rhymes, the music competes for your already fleeing attention by grating against his vocals, fucking up the flow by suffocating his voice. There is one notable exception on this record and it's the song "Fight Club". Perfectly constructed, it's a sad promise of what this record could have been. It flows like liquid lightning and guest vocalist, Shaqueen has a deft rhythm much like Bahamadia's. Not to mention, the beat on "Fight Club" actually does right by the rest of the song: thick, deep, and something that would sound incredible played at abusive levels in your car stereo. That's the best I can do for a compliment.
I loathe this kind of music. If you don't, you're welcome to it. But indulge me for a moment, while I toss out a few caveats. What exactly is it about this kind of lowlife violence that is so impressive? Why is it less impressive when skinheads do it, or for that matter suicide bombers, who at the very least seem to murder without pillage and do so for a cause slightly more significant than someone not holding up their end of a drug deal. American culture has always had a perpetual fantasy attachment to those outside the law, believing them to be ciphers for all our unfulfilled dreams. It's bullshit. Gangstas, mobsters and criminals are only sexy when filtered through a dull Hollwood lens, where you can pretend to be one or fuck one, but never be the victim of one. In real life these anti-heroes don't subvert the system, they're tools of its worst failures and sometimes just shitty people who revel in bad choices. Even if I could get over my disdain for the heavily dated pimp roll of The Giancana Story, there is nothing underneath to make enduring these thug platitudes worth my time. 01-Jul-2003 11:09 PM