This is the 6th full-length album from Queens icon Kool G Rap. Coming up as a member of the Juice Crew collective & dropping 3 classic albums alongside DJ Polo from 1989-1992, he would eventually go on to build a solo career for himself in the fall of ‘95 beginning with 4, 5, 6. Last we heard from G Rap was in the summer of 2017 when he enlisted Canadian producer MoSS behind the boards for Return of the Don, but has seen fit to re-emerge a little over 5 years later in the form of Last of a Dying Breed.
“Dying Breed” is a horn/boom bap opener with G Rap talking about how there ain’t many like him left this day in age whereas “Scared Money” works in some synthesizers to talk about not fearing a goddamn soul. Royal Flush & Vado tag along for the dusty piano-laced “Never Be” bragging that they be sippin’ on the finest champagnes just before Big Daddy Kane comes into the picture for the glistening “Fly ‘Till I Die” talking about being those motherfuckers until they both stop breathing.
Meanwhile on “Critical”, we have NEMS & the Genius of Rap coming together on top of some keys welcoming you to the dark side leading into the AZ/38 Spezh-assisted “Born Hustler” detailing the mafiosi lifestyle. “Official” hooks up some organs talking about being too certified with some jazzy undertones throughout the book, but then “Donald Goines” embraces a more triumphant sound taking you in as to how them boys be cooking.
The song “Million Reasons” with Al Skratch finds the 2 over a trap instrumental with an eerie vocal sample talking about being off the deep end while the penultimate track “Winning Hand” lets y’all know who you dealing with & the Lil Dee verse has gotta be the weakest feature on the album respectfully. “Born n Raised” with Grandmaster Caz & Doo Wop however ends things with an old school-flavored closer representing New York proudly.
Return of a Don was a great comeback for G Rap considering the mediocrity Riches, Royalty, Respect when it came out in the spring of 2011 & he goes back-to-back with Last of a Dying Breed here. A couple lackluster features here & there, but Domingo’s production is on par with MoSS’ with one of the greatest MCs in the history of our culture Giancana sounding like he has a fire under his ass lyrically.
Just a few months after the release of the Stabbed & Shot collab EP with Griselda Records’ very own Benny, Rochester MC/producer .38 Spesh is now teaming up with the legendary Kool G Rap for a full-length collab album.
After the intro, we go into the first song “Upstate to Queens”. Here, the 2 get confrontational over a soul sample. The track “Land Mind” is the first of 5 without G Rap, but Ransom fills in for him & they both spit about their closets being filled with fabrics as well as their skills over this somber Alchemist beat. The track “Shame” is basically Spesh solely freestyling over the instrumental of the classic G Rap song “It’s a Shame” while “G Heist” sees the 2 reuniting to talk about a robbery over a Daringer beat with a faint soul sample in the background.
While the song “Dead or Alive” with Cormega does see the 3 vividly talking about the street life, the beat is just alright. “The Meeting” is definitely a big improvement though, as the duo talk about making either problems or peace over a grimy DJ Premier beat. The song “Binoculars” is the 3rd without G Rap, as it’s basically .38 Spesh with Benny, N.O.R.E. & Vado talking about drug dealing over a boom bap beat with some eerie strings. The track “Nothin’ Gonna Change” contains more mafioso bars over a decent instrumental as does the song “Bricks at the Pen”, except I feel like the Showbiz instrumental on the latter suits the vibe a lot better.
The track “Flow Gods” with Meyhem Lauren & Freddie Gibbs is a lyrical onslaught with a soulful boom bap beat from Pete Rock while “Heartless” displays their individually compelling storytelling skills over some sinister piano chords. This is also the last song on the entire album to with G Rap on it. The song “Honest Truth” is basically Spesh & AZ “showing cats how to rhyme” over a gloomy beat while the penultimate track “Young 1s” with Che Noir reminisce about growing up over a DJ Premier beat that’s almost as hard as the one he provided earlier. The album then finishes with Spesh freestyling over “Last Name” off of Smoke DZA’s 2016 magnum opus Don’t Smoke Rock about his aborted child.
Wasn’t expecting this around the corner, but it’s pretty solid for the most part. Other than the freestyles being ok & some of the beats being a bit generic, the chemistry between G Rap & .38 Spesh is definitely there on the tracks they appear on together & most of the instrumentals suit them both very well
With the 6 year anniversary of his last album Riches, Royalty, Respect passing by just a few days before it’s release, former Juice Crew member Kool G Rap is finally returning with his 5th full-length album & he has enlisted MoSS to produce it in it’s entirety. The album opens up with the title track, where G Rap reminds us why he’s one of the illest lyricists ever over a grimy ass beat. However, my only issue with this track is that it was way too short. The next track “Mack Lean” has a really smooth flute sample throughout & while I do love how G Rap flows over it, I think AG da Coroner’s verse compliments G Rap’s better than Fred the Godson’s did. Mainly because of how husky his voice is. The following song “Criminal Outfit” with N.O.R.E. sees the 2 talking about raising the slums up & throwing a chick named Sharon inside an Uber over a really cool piano sample but just like with the title track, I feel like the song is way too short. The song “Wise Guys” has a fantastic scratch hook from Statik Selektah along with a soul sample throughout & even though Freeway’s verse is nice, Lil’ Fame’s fits into the track a lot more perfectly. The track “Out for That Life” is a braggadocious song with some somberly tension building horns & it was only right for him to get a verse from Raekwon on here. The track “Time’s Up” has a nice organ sample & the rhyme schemes are just bananas from start to finish. Not just that, but it actually sounds finished in contrast to the title track. The song “Capitol Hill” with Cormega & Sheek Louch sees the 3 delivering vivid street bars & the beat on here sounds purely evil. The song “Running” with Saigon & Termanology talks about following protocol no matter how long they’ve been around & I love how uplifting the instrumental is. The song “World’s Mine” may have a decent hook, but G Rap’s verse in the middle of the song along with the guest verses from KXNG CROOKED & Willie the Kid at the beginning & the end respectively make up for it. Especially with how you can hear the passionate emotion in KXNG CROOKED’s voice throughout the duration of his verse. The penultimate track “Popped Off” with Ransom & the late Sean Price has some aggressive verses & the instrumental fits them like a glove, but’s really the verses from G Rap & Sean that make the track so hardcore. The album then closes out with the appropriately titled “Rest In Peace”, where Kool G Rap’s talking about feeling like the black Axl Rose & how the strong never fade over a bass guitar with a little bit of an electric guitar too. Also can’t forget that while Shady Records’ most recent signees Hall ‘N Nash are trading bars back & forth with each other during the last minute of the song, you can just tell that their verse together was heavily influenced by G Rap & I don’t mean that in a bad way at all. To me, the appropriately titled Return of the Don is a much needed & near perfect one. Yeah I wish that some of the songs could’ve been stretched out a little bit longer & there’s a lot of features too, but I believe most of the guest verses served their purpose. On top of that, Kool G Rap’s pen game is as strong as ever & MoSS’ production is WAY more rugged & hard hitting than the production on Riches, Royalty, Respect was. Despite the small flaws, I think this is a serious contender for Album of the Year