Kool G Rap Bio

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Ever heard the remix of J. Cole’s “Let Nas Down”? Quick story: Cole wrote the song because he had apparently displeased Nas, who felt that the young fella threw lyricism out the window with his radio hit “Work Out.” Taking an apologetic, regretful tone, Cole shouts out his childhood idol in the song’s chorus: “Long live the idols, may they never be your rivals/Pac was like Jesus, Nas wrote the bible”

In a plot twist worthy of a Tom Hanks flick, Nas released a response just days after “Let Nas Down” (and the rest of the Born Sinner album) came out. In the remix, Nas switched out a couple of names to pay tribute to his idols: “Slick Rick was like Jesus, G Rap wrote the Bible.”

So what can we conclude from this? It’s simple: Nas must really like that G Rap guy. (Notice how, in the Bible-writing part, Nas replaced his own name with this dude.)

Here’s the thing: hip hop greats like Nas (and Cole, for that matter) understand the divine providence that Kool G Rap bestowed upon the hip hop genre. As a technical master and true ambassador of the streets, Kool G Rap set the standard for what an emcee should represent.

And boy, what a standard he was. The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and members of the Wu-Tang Clan are just some of the icons that have shown him mad love over the years. It’s almost like he wrote Scriptures in his raps or something.

Forget what I said about hip hop greats. Kool G Rap deserves the adulation of just about everyone who claims to be a fan of rap. It’s not a stretch to say that the genre wouldn’t have been the same without Genius.

(Which, incidentally, may or may not be what the G stands for).

Kool G on stage

Quick Facts

Birth Date July 20, 1968
Birth Place New York City
Nick Name G Rap, Kool Genius of Rap
Nationality American
Zodiac Sign Cancer
Most Successful Songs “Road to the Riches” (with DJ Polo)


“Streets of New York” (with DJ Polo)

“Fast Life” (feat. Nas)

Net Worth Estimated value of $1.5 million (as of 2022)
Social Media twitter.com/therealkoolgrap




Last updated November 10, 2022

Early Years


He was born Nathaniel Wilson on July 20, 1968 in New York City. Nathaniel spent his formative years in Corona, Queens—a neighborhood that he would later describe as “very segregated” into the Hispanic and Black groups.

Throughout his youth, Nathaniel was surrounded by poverty and other social ills. In a 2020 interview with Wax Poetics magazine, the Corona native shed light on what he frequently dealt with in his home environment: “You have the dope, the coke, the violence, stickup kids, the dudes that just robbed houses, dudes that robbed banks, dudes that killed cops.” At one point, Nathaniel himself would resort to selling drugs, as his own family didn’t have much money to go by.

In the midst of all these harsh circumstances in Nathaniel’s life was a musical genre in its infancy. Nathaniel may not have known it at the time, but he was bearing witness to history as a new form of art began to emerge in NYC. I daresay that, had it not been for this fresh form of music, the young man’s life may very well have been consumed by illicit activity enveloping his childhood.

In his foreword to the 2009 book How to Rap, G Rap waxes nostalgic about his first encounter with his true love: “I had to be about 9, 10 years old when I first started hearing hip-hop music being played out in the parks, out in the neighborhoods. I saw the DJ on the two turntables scratching, and I saw dudes on the microphone just really keeping the party amped and charged up.”

Those “dudes on the microphone,” of course, were masters of ceremony—emcees, for short. Fascinated with the rhymes he heard, young Nathaniel began mimicking the verses that the older emcees were spitting as they hung out at the local parks. As his adolescence raged on, he became attracted to the music of artists like Grandmaster Caz, Melle Mel, and Kool Moe Dee.

With his passion for rap growing with every emcee he encountered and every record he listened to, Nathaniel now had a strong alternative to the life of hustling that had constantly beckoned him since his childhood. He was still immersed in the rough street lifestyle well into his teenage years, but as he stood on the brink of adulthood, a formal introduction to a certain neighbor in Corona would permanently alter the trajectory of his life.

First a Duo, then a Crew

Actually, there were two Queens natives that led Nathaniel to his turning point. The stage names of these three men are now etched in immortality.

First things first: Nathaniel had befriended a lad by the name of Louis Eric Barrier, who was five years his senior. Eric first pursued his ambition of being a hip hop act by DJing at a local roller rink; he would eventually take his talents to a New York radio station, which would lead him to greater heights in the industry. Today, hip hop fans around the world know him as Eric B., one half of the iconic tandem that also includes the God MC also known as Rakim.

I can only fantasize about the hit records that Kool G Rap and Eric B. would have made if they decided to band together. The thing is, they didn’t. But Eric was responsible for formally introducing Nathaniel to another hip hop head from Queens. Like Eric, this new friend was a DJ who would greatly benefit if he discovered an emcee that could rap over the records he played.

So who was this new friend? His legal name is Thomas Pough, but he is better known in the hip hop community as DJ Polo.

“Polo was from my hood, but I just knew of him because he used to play music in the park,” G Rap told Wax Poetics. “Once we were formally introduced, we clicked right away. He took me to Marley [Marl’s] house, and everything snowballed after that.”


By this point in the mid-’80s, Marlon “DJ Marley Marl” Williams had already joined forces with producer John “Mr. Magic” Rivas to form a hip hop ensemble called The Juice Crew. Nathaniel and Polo would earn the trust of both Marley and Mr. Magic, who would subsequently allow the young duo to use their own studio to get some work done. Taking advantage of the chance to showcase their talent, Nathaniel and Polo wrote and recorded a demo in one night. Funnily enough, the title of their output is as straightforward as they come: “It’s a Demo.”

As it turned out, their unambiguously named demo was their ticket to full-fledged membership in The Juice Crew.  Let’s take a moment to appreciate the roster that Mr. Magic and Marley Marl put together in the ’80s: Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, MC Shan, Roxanne Shante, Masta Ace, and Craig G, among others! The inclusion of DJ Polo and Nathaniel (now donning the name Kool G Rap) had the potential to make this powerhouse team even more formidable. The question was, could Polo and G Rap live up to that potential?

The Road to the Debut Album

From 1986 to 1988, G Rap and Polo began to make their presence felt through the release of singles like “It’s a Demo/I’m Fly,” “Rikers Island/Rhyme Thyme,” and “Poison.”

In their 2010 book The Anthology of Rap, scholars Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois describe the poetic merits of one particular single: “[G Rap] verbally paints the portrait of a prison cell on ‘Rikers Island’ with such harsh brushstrokes that you can see the cellmate ready with the shank as you hear the bars lock shut.” No surprises there, professors! Surrounded by harsh social realities since his childhood, G Rap effortlessly infused his verse with this kind of realistic imagery.

It’s one thing to try to get your hip hop duo established in a particularly cutthroat environment within the music industry. It’s another thing to make this attempt while you’re standing next to three other verbal assassins. In 1988, Kool G Rap found himself rubbing shoulders with Big Daddy Kane, Craig G, and Masta Ace on the posse cut “The Symphony.”

Proving that he was no weak link, G Rap held his own and gained even more star power for his performance on the song. By this point, it was crystal clear that he wasn’t just lucky to be in the Crew. G Rap brought plenty of juice, and there was more where that came from.

Road to the Riches ALBUM COVER

On March 14, 1989, Kool G Rap and DJ Polo finally released their debut album Road to the Riches. To say that this record was defined by braggadocio would be an understatement; it was as if G Rap was battle rapping for his life. Aided by the impeccable scratching of Polo and the inventive sound of Marley Marl, G Rap essentially crafted the curriculum for Boasting 101 that the emcees of the upcoming decade would study with gusto.

Oh, and did I mention that G Rap helped to make multisyllabic rhymes sound cool, starting with this album? Though Rakim was at the height of his powers when Road to the Riches dropped, G Rap let the world know that he could pull off that technical brilliance as well.

Two Scintillating Projects

The sequel came quickly enough. On August 13, 1990, G Rap and Polo released their second album Wanted: Dead or Alive. If G Rap’s fans fell in love with his confidence and rhyming skills on Road to the Riches, their fascination for his work would grow exponentially with his bold new direction. Let me put it this way: if I had to pinpoint the moment in time when mafioso rap was thrust into the limelight, it would have to be the day that this record hit the shelves.

With haunting images of organized crime, gang violence, and poverty in the urban jungle, G Rap might as well have crafted a Mafia flick in IMAX. There is no way that you can listen to Wanted: Dead or Alive and not realize the blueprint (pun intended) that would inspire Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt and Nas’ Illmatic. (Listen to “Streets of New York” and follow it up immediately with “N.Y. State of Mind”. Catch my drift?)

G Rap continued to weave rich urban tapestries in Live and Let Die, which turned out to be the last project that he would release in tandem with DJ Polo. Released on November 24, 1992, Live and Let Die sees G Rap doubling down on his picturesque portrayal of street violence, while sprinkling some horrorcore and sex rap as well. In my opinion, the duo was smart to make “Ill Street Blues” the lead single, as that track gorgeously blends G Rap’s sublime story-telling with a jazzy loop by way of Joe Williams. (Sure, the narrative is about a crime partners carrying out a hit and executing their boss, but one can’t deny that this song is smooth as hell.)

Live and Let Die, however, would spawn controversy that would signal a pivotal shift in G Rap’s career. Due to the violent content of the album’s lyrics and the cover artI don’t want to have to describe it, but I will say that it involves a couple of nooses—Warner Bros. Records refused to participate in the distribution of the album. In the aftermath of this issue, G Rap and Polo ended up parting ways. By this time, The Juice Crew’s run as a collective unit had run its course as well. Kool G Rap would now have to make his mark as a solo artist.

A Prolific Solo Career

Last of a Dying Breed KOOL G

In 1995, G Rap would release his solo debut entitled 4,5,6. With a dark soundscape that presented even more tales of the urban jungle, 4,5,6 managed to peak at number 24 on the Billboard 200. I’m very much fascinated with the album’s second single “Fast Life,” in which mafioso rap proponent Nas spits verses side by side with the OG. (If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m a sucker for these mentor-protégé combinations. G Rap and Nas, Nas and J. Cole…does Cole and 21 Savage count?)

4,5,6, however, would be G Rap’s last release under the imprint of Cold Chillin’ Records, which had been the platform of several Juice Crew projects in the past. As a matter of fact, among the next five albums released by G Rap, there would be no two consecutive albums released by the same record label. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a flaw, though; on the contrary, I’d say that his decision to go the independent route for a number of his projects was, well, a very hip hop move. The man’s keeping it real and focusing on the music, ya heard?

The collaboration with Nas was certainly not the last time that G Rap bridged the gap between different generations of hip hop. I’d like to think that, every time he decided to team up with a younger emcee, he was espousing a constructive mindset that was helpful to the genre. He could have easily been an old geezer who’d yell “Get off my lawn!” at the newcomers, but he didn’t. As a result, he’s helped make “dream match-ups” come to life.

Some of these partnerships include:

  • “Home Sweet Funeral Home” feat. Papoose on 1998’s Roots of Evil (This was Papoose’s recording debut.)
  • “Where You At” feat. Prodigy on 2002’s The Giancana Story (Prodigy, by the way, is G Rap with the dark mentality turned way up.)
  • Basically the entire Click of Respect album, which was released in 2003 (Look, G Rap has hip hop babies! This album was a collaborative project with a group called 5 Family Click.)
  • “With a Bullet” feat. K.L. of Screwball on 2008’s Half a Klip (The bigger story on this album, though, was G Rap’s reunion of sorts with Marley Marl.)
  • “American Nightmare” feat. Havoc on 2011’s Riches, Royalty, Respect (This track was produced by The Alchemist. Yep, we’re in that era now.)

Aside from Riches, Royalty, Respect, G Rap released three more albums in the 2010s: 2013’s Once Upon a Crime (where he teamed up with horrorcore pioneer Necro), 2017’s Return of the Don, and 2018’s Son of G Rap (In case you’re wondering, the “son’s” name is 38 Spesh. He’s the New York emcee that teamed up with G Rap on this project.) All told, G Rap joins an elite clique of emcees that have been able to release studio albums in four separate decades. This illustrious list includes KRS-One, LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, and Method Man.

In August 2022, G Rap announced that his next album Last of a Dying Breed would be coming out in two months. Though G Rap hasn’t dropped the album to date, I wait in eager anticipation to see if he can make history by releasing a full-length project in a fifth decade.

It doesn’t even matter if Last of a Dying Breed will be his swansong. Though his commercial releases will inevitably come to a permanent halt, the wordsmith from the mean streets of Corona has left an artistic and cultural impact that knows no bound. For as long as the poets of hip hop push the linguistic boundaries of their form and harness it to convey the realities of street life, the influence of Kool G Rap shall endure.


Kool G Rap will go down in hip hop history as a trailblazer that elevated the artistic dimension of the genre. While a number of his peers established the commercial viability of rap music—LL Cool J and the N.W.A. come to mind—G Rap essentially bred generations of poets with his uncanny mastery of hip hop fundamentals. Whether he intended it or not, G Rap became a mentor and idol that any emcee in any decade can look up to.

Why is Kool G Rap Influential?

As far as the hip hop community goes, the two most significant contributions coming from G Rap were his complex rhyme schemes and his mafioso world-building. Just how influential were these? On the one hand, you have Eminem fanboying in a 2022 XXL story: “Kool G Rap would put fuckin’ 10 words in two lines and it would rhyme, and they would fall right into each other.” On the other hand, you have Jay-Z giving mad respect in his 2003 track Encore: “Hearin’ me rap is like hearin’ G Rap in his prime.” Really, that’s all that needs to be said.


Question: Does Kool G Rap Have a Family of his Own?

Answer: G Rap shares a son with his ex-girlfriend Karrine Steffans. Their son’s name is Naim Wilson.

Question: Does the G Really Stand for Genius?

Answer: In his 2002 track “Drama (Bitch Nigga)”, G Rap tells us: “Everybody always wanna know what the G in Kool G Rap stand for/Giancana nigga, gangsta”. I don’t blame anyone for being confused by this line, as it gives two possible options! There’s gangsta and there’s Giancana, the last name of infamous mobster Sam Giancana. But, in a 2020 Wax Poetics interview, G Rap finally puts the matter to rest: “It stands for “Genius” and always will.”

Question: Which Emcees Does G Rap Have in his Top 10?

Answer: In a 2013 appearance on Hot 97, G Rap rattled off these names: Nas, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, Jay-Z, Eminem, Big Pun, Black Thought, Ice Cube, and Scarface. Mind-blowingly, when Peter Rosenberg asked him about Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., he called each of them “a good rapper” but admitted that he couldn’t put either Pac or Big in his Mount Rushmore of lyricists. (Wow. Just…wow. Gotta respect the OG!)

Bottom Line

If hip hop is essentially another incarnation of poetry—that is, an art form that bends language to create images—Kool G Rap may as well be Wordsworth or Tennyson. The next time you hear an emcee demonstrate mastery of both form and content, know that G Rap paved the way for rappers to reach unprecedented heights of genius.

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