Kool G Rap and DJ Polo
Wanted: Dead Or Alive


4.5
superb

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
March 8th, 2013 | 20 replies


Release Date: 1990 | Tracklist


#94: Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, Wanted: Dead or Alive (1990)

Now we’re cookin’. Wanted: Dead or Alive is one of the very best “Golden Age” hip-hop albums, a vivid prophecy of just about everything the genre could represent. This seems to me indicative of a shift in rappers’s creative faculties around the early ‘90s, wherein a sort of division of labor gave rise to a newly specialized rap. Kool G Rap exists as the converse to such a process: he's an “everything” rapper, a lyrical kaleidoscope of influences and desires, of both sermonizing (“Streets of New York”) and seduction (“Talk Like Sex”). This places Wanted in stark contrast to later classics like Illmatic (1994) and Reasonable Doubt (1996), both fantastic but siphoning their prestige from a sensibility that moves in only one direction.

Kool G Rap, meanwhile, is interested in the flux state of the gangster life, or perhaps all of life itself. Listen to the album’s opening one-two punch of “Streets of New York” and “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” in which he bemoans the crime-ridden state of his beloved city and then seems to implicate himself as the cause. That a gangster can be both the facilitator of and in thrall to his own constant moral transgressions may seem by now a cliche--cf. Biggie’s “Suicidal Thoughts” and its legion of copycats--but here it is shaped into something big and important-seeming. This is first and foremost because Kool G Rap is one of the greatest rappers of all time, lyrically precise, vicious, and dramatic (“Blood stains all on my Ballys / A sucker got rowdy, so I shot him in the alley”). And then suddenly, on “Talk Like Sex,” he’s the funniest rapper alive (“You ain’t ready for the bed / You still got a pussy like Isaac Hayes’s head”). The guy could probably rap over some kids banging on trash cans and it would still be engaging.

He doesn’t, though, which just edges the album ever closer to masterpiece status. The beats here often sound dated but satisfyingly so, well-fit to the album’s texture as a gem of the early ‘90s (check out the awesome DJ Polo showcase “The Polo Club”). Some of them even seem a little timeless, like Large Professor’s fantastic “Money in the Bank” production, the hook of which could probably bring down any club worth its salt. Mostly the beats here are sharp and driving, matched perfectly to their rapper. That’s what makes Wanted: Dead or Alive stand out among its peers: it seems effortlessly tossed off, but upon further listens reveals itself to be as painstakingly considered and sequenced as something like The Wall (1979). Unlike that album, it doesn’t have a coherent storyline to bring you from a definitive Point A to its corresponding Point B. But like all the best stories, you’ll want to hear it again as soon as it’s done.



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4.2
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This album, is further proof that Kool G Rap, "Dead or Alive", is one of the top 10 best emcees of a...


Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 8th 2013


15082 Comments


i woke up at like 7 and started writing this so i'm too tired to read it over so fixes and whatnot are appreciated. i will look over it later maybe



kingsoby1
Emeritus
March 8th 2013


4957 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yes this is a classic

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 8th 2013


15082 Comments


money in the bank

woaaahhoohhh

robin
Emeritus
March 8th 2013


4261 Comments


god i hope these all get published in a big book when you're old wrinkled have glasses and start grading things C-

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 8th 2013


15082 Comments


i used to despise him because i was 12 but i think these days i litearlly aspire to be robert christgau by the age of 30 or something

almost there

those run-on-ish sentences are totally copped from him. you know the ones. The Christgau Sentences

robin
Emeritus
March 8th 2013


4261 Comments


For Jon Spencer to make fun not of old black bluesmen but of the white hippies who emulated them so crudely just makes him an asshole coming and going. Given his cultural-chronological advantages, what right does he have to dog, oh, Bob Hite, who did scour the South for lost artists and recordings as well as conceiving Canned Heat, a pretty decent band in the end, even if they were less heply dissonant than Jon's? And do you really believe he doesn't relish the excuse to play-act a racist stereotype that increases his stupid sex appeal? Irony--an excuse for anything and a reason for nothing.

B-

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 8th 2013


15082 Comments


see i liked that does that make me a mere prison of flesh

robin
Emeritus
March 8th 2013


4261 Comments


i think he's great

i just love how he gave that a B-

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
March 8th 2013


10383 Comments


You've gone much further with this than I think I ever would've. Props, Robertsona.

Digging: Thou - Heathen

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 8th 2013


10584 Comments


alex is doing pretty well some more XP and a thunder stone or something and he might reach christgauian levels

Digging: Charli XCX - Sucker

Gyromania
March 8th 2013


16089 Comments


christgau's reviews are pretty nonsensical, whereas i can actually read and understand this. so, you're not there just yet!

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
March 8th 2013


4507 Comments


What are you counting down here Rob?

kingsoby1
Emeritus
March 8th 2013


4957 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

2 the rapocalypse

PeterKlaven
March 8th 2013


280 Comments


To the 36 Chambers

bloc
March 8th 2013


35024 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Only heard Road To The Riches

fromtheinside
March 9th 2013


19172 Comments


are you going to be reviewing any will smith albums in this process?

here's to me hoping so

Digging: Techno Animal - The Brotherhood of the Bomb

MO
March 9th 2013


19078 Comments


fuck yes

InHumanForm
March 9th 2013


316 Comments


Word

Funeralopolis
March 9th 2013


11894 Comments


this sounds like something i would like

Digging: Owen Pallett - In Conflict

LambsBread
October 10th 2013


3912 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

up stairs I cover my ears in tears
the man downstairs musta drank too many beers
cus everyday of his life he beats his wife
til one night she decides to pull a butcher knife



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