Wanted:Dead Or Alive review by Dennis Lehto

Due to my focus on giving you all the best show possible every week, The class blog is suffering. I was thinking since it is OUR blog why not get more of US involved in it. With that being said there are some contributing authors that will be stopping in from time to time and the first one comes to us from our northern neighbor in Canada. Dennis Lehto is not only an MC but also a card acrrying member of the Universal Zulu Nation and one of my favorite writers.  Seeing as though Kool G Rap will be our special guest this week, Mr Lehto took it upon himself to review a very slept on classic from Kool G. Rap, Wanted:Dead or Alive.  Thanks Mr Lehto and we are looking forward to hearing More from you.


  “Road to the Riches” is among the greatest debut Hiphop albums of all time. “Live and Let die” seems to be the peoples choice, featuring one of my top G Rap singles with “Ill Street Blues” (as well, sporting a top 10 album cover in my books, if not top 5. You know the one, if not, google it) … But the purpose of this entry is to focus on perhaps the most slept-on Kool G Rap album in the entire catalog …

Wanted: Dead or Alive

To start, this isn’t so much an album review as it’s a way for me to give praise to the very record that essentially made me want to pick up a microphone my damn self so many moons ago.

“Wanted” is sparked off with “Streets of New York” with its Fatback Band sample implemented quite nicely. You can hear its influence on everyone over the years from Nas (NY State of Mind) to Company Flow (Last Good Sleep). To this day it remains one of the illest tracks on the subject ever written. Honestly I could write an entire entry about that one track alone, but you already know, so for the sake of saving on letters lets keep it moving…

Next, the albums title track comes in at a blistering pace in ways only possible in the early 90’s, lyrically showing off G Rap’s gully side … This rapid pace continues on tracks like “Play It Again, Polo” and “Kool Is Back“, both on the more braggadocio side of things lyrically.

The record has two notable posse cuts, the first being “Money in the Bank” featuring Large Professor, Freddy Foxxx and Ant Live. Bumpy Knucks and G Rap in the same vocal booth? That lineup says it all … The other is “Erase Racism“, a Juice Crew affair featuring Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie and a bassline that’ll blow your mind. Lyrically, it isn’t as angry or aggressive (for lack of better words) as other G Rap tracks, but the wordplay is top-shelf and the topic is covered thoroughly. Produced by Biz and Cool V, it’s a nice change of pace. I’d put it right up there with “Symphony” for greatest Juice Crew posse cuts.

Of course I couldn’t write this without special mention of “Talk Like Sex“, still to this day among the most gloriously vulgar rhymes ever written. Not an easy task considering how desensitized we as a people have become over the years. In the world of so-dirty-its-funny misogynistic Hiphop records, Kool G Rap still holds the title 21 years strong with this one. The Booker T sample alone is worth the price of admission. Chris Rock even parodied “Talk Like Sex” in CB4, in case you missed it.

While perhaps not as notable in the history books as those previously mentioned, the vibe remains in tact on tracks like “Bad to the Bone” and “Play it Kool“, showing off G Rap’s verbal dexterity … One track I was always feeling in particular that never gets enough credit is “Jive Talk“. From the playful beat to some of the most slept-on G Rap lines ever written, best multi-syllable flows recorded up to that point, “Jive Talk” is a diamond in the rough, and that’s just verse 1. The rest of it sounds like a studio session I’d like to see footage of.

Second to last is “The Polo Club”, the obligatory DJ cut featured on many a Golden Era classics … Capping off the record is “Rikers Island“, produced Marley Marl. It sounds like it could have been an outtake from “Road to the Riches” as it was previously released a few years prior. If you’re like me, that “Rikers Island” hook will be stuck in your head for weeks upon every listen.

To recap …

With his patented lisp, I’m always amazed as to how Kool G Rap could keep it so fresh and so on point so consistently (of course I say this with nothing but the utmost respect). This record serves as a lyrical clinic to all rhyme writers with an affinity for wordplay. If you want to understand why Kool G Rap is your favorite MC’s favorite MC and often appears on “most underrated of all time” lists, do yourself a favor and check “Wanted: Dead or Alive” with a pair of fresh ears. Finally, while I didn’t speak on it much, the production (handled mostly by Large Professor, Eric B, Kool G Rap and DJ Polo, for the record) is also on point throughout.

Ya Man,

Dennis Lehto


~ by Professor Mike on January 6, 2011.

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