RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Wednesday, May 16

EWA100 - #46. Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo - Ill Street Blues

46. Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo - Ill Street Blues (Cold Chillin'. 1992. From the LP Live And Let Die)

Mike Dikk: I wish I had a story about how I discovered Kool G. Rap, but much like Santa Claus, I don’t remember a time when he wasn’t in my life. Sometimes your mind bookmarks very specific memories, and other times you’re left with this kind of blur where as far as you know, you’ve always been down with something and it doesn’t matter when you found out about it.
Like I said in the write up for “Road to the Riches”, Live and Let Die was when I became an active fan of Kool G. Rap, and it was all because of this song. I don’t even know if the memory I’m about to recollect was physically possible, but it’s the only specific mental bookmark I have under “Kool G. Rap”, whether it’s a real memory or something my drug addled brain conjured up, I’ll never know.
There was this discount shopping place, much like a Big Lots, called Stratford Town Fair where I grew up. It’s still there, but I haven’t been there in decades. I remember it being a real grimy type of place that always smelled like glazed doughnuts and dirt. They had arcade games near the door that I’d play whenever I was there, which was usually with my friend Kenny’s family when they went shopping there and I tagged along because I had nothing better to do. For some strange reason, I remember hearing “Ill Street Blues” for the first time while I was playing video games at Stratford Town Fair. It’s not really the type of song you would expect to hear over a supermarket’s speaker system, and I’m not even sure if Stratford Town Fair had an Electronics section, but that’s what I remember and I’m sticking to it.
It was like I was Woody in White Men Can’t Jump and for the first time, I didn’t just listen to Kool G. Rap, I could HEAR Kool G. Rap. The song had so much going for it: the tricky ass rhyme scheme, the bluesy beat and a lot of violence. It’s no surprise I immediately fell in love with the song right there in the games section of Stratford Town Fair in my memory, which may or may not be real.
It may come as a surprise to you, whoever YOU are, but I don’t really talk much about music in real life. I do with my good friends, but I won’t just start blabbing about shit with people I don’t know that well. I don’t know why, but talking about music with someone you don’t know that well always turns into a big dick measuring contest where the people involved will try and one-up with you with some crusty old inconsequential music fact that you didn’t know because you went outside when you were little. I’m not saying I wouldn’t be guilty of this, because I probably would without even knowing it, but that’s the exact fucking reason I don’t participate in such nonsense. I don’t want to be THAT guy.
Furthermore, the internet (yes, I know I’ve mentioned “the internet” a lot) has allowed everyone to share their opinions and views with everyone else, myself included. This sometimes causes me to second guess my own opinion, and then I have to go back and rethink my own fucking opinion that I developed without the help of the internet to see if I really think my opinion is better than the consensus opinion. I hate this, because it makes me feel like a douche and a dork all at the same time.
I don’t want to have a meticulously planned argument on why Song A is better than Song B ready at all times. When I’m thrust in situations like this, I sometimes resort to an ignorant third grade frame of mind, and say something like “Song A is better than Song B because it just is, asshole.” My point being, whether or not my memory of hearing this song is correct, and whether or not you agree with me, “Ill Street Blues” is the best Kool G. Rap song because it just is asshole.

Raven Mack: I had heard some Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo stuff before this, but not with my wholeheart into listening to it, but when this came out, I was hip deep into weed-sales money, so I had fresh issues of The Source and Rap Pages and Rap Sheet, and a stack of vinyl singles and full-length cassettes every Tuesday to sink my stoned-out ears into. I bought this single first, and not only did the piano sample beat just fuck me straight up, to where all we did was sit around and want to freestyle to this beat, but Kool G. Rap's lyricism was like a cyborg from the future hanging out with a bunch of cavemen. We never really did freestyle over it much, and thinking back to that point, when other songs like "'93 'til Infinity" or "L.I. Groove" would get heavy spins on the turntables for freestyle sessions, this one never did, because you knew you couldn't just freestyle and not think about how much you sucked compared to Kool G. Rap. I ended up buying the full length tape strictly because of this single, and to this day, I would say this is one of my all-time favorite rap albums. It has a concept running through it, the beats all relate to each other and it's not a pack of hired guns - at least it doesn't sound that way, and the guest rappers complement the tape, as spice rather than just a steady stream of other dudes to help you forget it's just one rapper's album, like most modern CDs are, more of a mixtape than an actual album.
To this day, it amaze me how so few people realize how great Kool G. Rap is. I mean, the internet is on his dick for a few years now, but the internet doesn't really count in real life, because everyone knows that internet cool is real life fat fuck sucking on a Super Big Gulp, and real life cool uses his mom's Gateway computer to check his hotmail once a month. But the only person in real life I've ever had a conversation with about how great Kool G. Rap is was this dude I used to roll with Hlad Cess. We grew up together, and then went to college and shit, but he ended up living with this chick in Richmond and I went over to her house where he was chilling and we got mad high and were watching videos on BET before like an NFL wild card game, and "Ill Street Blues" came on and he was like, "That's the shit," and I was like, "I got that single with the instrumental," and he was rolling another fat joint and saying, "No shit man. You gotta hook me up with that shit." And I was like, "Yeah man, I will." And then we smoked the joint he rolled up and walked to the store to buy a couple of tallboys before the wild card game, and I don't think we got up too often after that.

EDIT: After thinking about this, my fake memory might have been of "Streets of New York" because the timeline just doesn't add up right. I don't know. it's not important. - mike d.

Download: Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo - Ill Street Blues

Watch A live version of Ill Street Blues from a TV show I don't recognize. There wasn't a real video for this song, was there?

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