Kool G Rap has fought tooth and nail to maintain his position as crime rhyme progenitor. Death Rap king Necro numbers among a legion of rappers influenced by G. Rap and joins him as duo The God Fathers to release Once Upon A Crime.
The album plays as a Necro love letter to Kool G Rap. Necro’s delivery, complete with multisyllabic rhymes and internal schemes are directly descended from The Godfather of Crime Rhyme. While Kool G. Rap is no longer as fluid as his apex, and occasionally behind the beat, he is still sharp lyrically, if not the aggressive presence he once was.
Necro mans the boards on the album, delivering motley production that ranges from interpolations of music classics to head nodding, face screwing tracks. Some tracks conjure the feeling of Scorsese mob movies while others are awkward with their R&B choruses.
At 18 tracks, Once Upon A Crime is too long but there are a number of strong tracks that make listening to the album worthwhile. American Sickos is the most daring composition on the album, with its jazzy undertones and rapid pacing. Cymbals crash and blaring horns stab in the back ground. G. Rap declares fuck all the hooks and choruses, I’m taking it back to Nautilus. Amen brother. The lack of hook and the consistent bars make this a true album highlight. Ironically G. Raps’ lengthy chorus strengthens Wolf Eyes, which flaunts a really slick Jackson 5 vocal sample to round out a simple, but effective composition.
Album opener, Teflon Dons is a high energy, Scareface-driven romp through the underworld with references to mob boss Roy Dimeo and threats of violence from an unseen hand functioning as a “second government” ruling the street society. The title track, with its somber, melodic intro finds Necro in full character, chronicling the many different permutations of Mob life, from the beginnings of Vegas to the cliché “waste management” front. “Menages in massage parlors and brothels in apartments” add color to the gangster fairy tale.
Omerta features the infamous Godfather background music and “Just when I thought I was out” vocal sample.The Pain is more along the lines of that hard shit with dynamic piano tinkling with deep methodical keys atop a basic but steady drum. Hustler leans more on sampling than most of the tracks on the albums. The bassline and the seventies vocal are right in Kool G Rap’s wheelhouse and he sounds almost as good as he did 20 years ago. Necro delivers his best technical performance of the album with an alliterative flow.
All is not good, however. We’ll Kill You, with its novel hook, rock drums and acoustic guitar work, saunters a little too far from the grime to take seriously. The rhythm of Heart Attack is disjointed and the low energy delivery of the chorus render the track filler. Crook Catastrophe & the Gunblast Kid adopts a Spaghetti Western feel as G.Rap kicks the crime rhyme narrative. The hook is dreadful but both verses are crisply delivered, including a very slick nod to Prodigy’s chain by Necro.
Once Upon A Crime is a solid album that is ultimately untracked by its enormity. Had it been pared down to 12 joints with more production uniformity, the narrative would have been furthered and a strong concept album would have been nailed. As is, you will bump more tracks than you skip. Call it a win from an aging legend and perhaps his biggest fan.
3.25 Out of 5
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