Today a gangster rap classic turns 20. It’s Kool G Rap’s 4,5,6, the seminal debut solo album by an MC many argue to be the most influential rapper of all time. Its subject matter was certainly steeped in that of the time period, rife with mafioso imagery and luxurious crime raps, but it would become one of the central albums to crystallize that aura and make it commercially successful. 4,5,6 was his best-charting album, peaking at 24 on the Billboard Hot 200 with the help of the Nas-assisted “Fast Life” single.
To celebrate the album’s 20th birthday, we give you some facts about the project you might not have known. Kick back and spin the album while you read up on some history.
1. The title is in reference to a winning combo in the dice game cee-lo.
2. G Rap retreated to the “rural wilds” of Bearsville, New York to record the album.
It was in Bearsville Studio, founded by Bob Dylan’s infamous manager Albert Grossman and used by artists like The Rolling Stones, The Isley Brothers, and The Band, that Kool G Rap recorded the entire album. There, according to Vibe, he was able to capture the “deep urban dread” you hear on the album.
The studio, two hours outside of New York City and considered a “retreat” for those that recorded there, was also where Nas recorded his sophomore album It Was Written at the suggestion of D.I.T.C. producer Buckwild. Buck would of course go on to produce the hit single “Fast Life” from the album featuring Esco.
3. The record label wanted a single for the radio, so Buckwild made “Fast Life.”
Plus, peep the remix he did later on:
4. Nas is on the album cover.
You might not have noticed, but that’s Nas on G Rap’s righthand side. Escobar has always cited G Rap as one of his main influences, but by ’95 he was a much bigger star than the Juice Crew legend. His appearance on “Fast Life” certainly helped propel that single to popularity, so it was a smart marketing move to put him on the album cover too. As G Rap said, “By the time 4,5,6 came out, he had already made a name for himself. I was so proud! It was in a sense, like the student coming back to surpass the teacher. He was the new hot kid when I first saw him years ago, but he’s now a solidified legend in the game.”
5. It’s one of Action Bronson’s favorite rap albums.