Saturday, October 17, 2015
Kool G Rap and DJ Polo "The Streets of New York"
One of the great things about the digital age in music has been being able to find songs I thought were long gone. Back around 1989-1991, watching Yo! MTV Raps was the highlight of coming home from school for me. The local radio stations in rural Nebraska simply didn't play rap music, and I found it so much more interesting and appealing and vital than the hair metal the preppies preferred and the death metal that the stoner burnouts listened to at my school. (Metal ruled the Great Plains in those days and it still has power there it has lost in other places.)
Occasionally a song would come on and I would immediately glue my eyes to the lower left hand corner of the screen to find out the name of the band and their album. One such song was 1990's "The Streets of New York" by Kool G Rap and DJ Polo. As their MC and DJ moniker would suggest, they were old school back when old school was still the current thing. The song grabbed me right away, with its spooky guitar sample and midnight gut-bucket piano beneath rhymes describing a low-life tableau on Gotham's streets worth of Baudelaire. I was fascinated by New York City, a place where I now work every day, but would not set foot in until five years later at the time I heard the song. It confirmed my vision of it as a place completely foreign from my small town existence, but in a thrilling way.
The next week after hearing Kool G Rap I dutifully went to the Musicland in the mall (the only record store in my hometown) to get Wanted: Dead or Alive, the album with "Streets of New York." I soon realized I had a problem. This album had the dreaded "explicit lyrics" sticker on it, meaning that I would not be able to purchase it. The Musicland had a strict policy of carding potential buyers of explicit CDs and not selling them to anyone under 18. I didn't know anyone who could buy it for me, and since Kool G Rap and DJ Polo were not household names, there was no "clean" version I could buy, as I later would for Cypress Hill. I also searched in vain for a cassingle, which had been my substitute in other cases where I loved a song that had unfortunately been on an album bearing an explicit lyrics label.
While I never had a chance to hear the song much again, it stuck in the back of my mind. Once I got my first iPod "Streets of New York" was one of the very first songs that I purchased on iTunes, and now I get to enjoy it whenever I want to. Apart from the synthesized saxophone, it still sounds great.