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‘Breaking Dawn’ Vampire Contacts ‘Kill’ Kristen Stewart

'That is one thing I can't wait to say goodbye to,' she tells MTV News.
By Kara Warner, with reporting by Josh Horowitz


Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1"
Photo: Summit Entertainment

The dedicated Kristen Stewart fans out there are likely very well aware that she wears colored contact lenses for her role as Bella Swan in the "Twilight" movies. And in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2," Stewart dons the amber lenses her co-stars Robert Pattinson, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Jackson Rathbone and Kellan Lutz have been wearing for years as part of their official Cullen vampire clan costuming.

When MTV News caught up with Stewart recently, we asked about that experience and she revealed that, although she's experienced with contacts, her new vampire ones weren't much fun to wear.

"They are worse. The yellow ones sort of limit your vision even more, and so you feel a little bit more closed off," she said. "That is one thing I can't wait to say goodbye to, is the contacts. They just kill you. [They give you] dead face."

Pattinson recently told us he was delighted that his co-star had to suffer with the rest of them. "She's like, 'I wear contact lenses. Why do you always complain about yours?' " Pattinson said. "When she finally wore them and then was complaining about them every second of the day, it was kind of satisfying."

Stewart said the yellow lenses were totally worth the trouble, because she was so excited to play the vampire version of Bella.

"I've been waiting. To see her thrive anytime, it's — she's always so full of something that she knows, and it's like, at this point, you finally go, 'Oh, she was right,' and she can also go, 'OK, great, I'm not crazy, this was supposed to happen.' "

Stewart said Bella's previous feelings that she was different from others are validated in the final film. "The whole vampire thing, I wasn't excited to be white and all that; I was really more excited to finally get her there, because she wants it so bad."

Tonight, join MTV.com live from the "Breaking Dawn - Part 1" red-carpet premiere as we talk to your favorite stars about all things "Twilight"!

Check out everything we've got on "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1."

For young Hollywood news, fashion and "Twilight" updates around the clock, visit HollywoodCrush.MTV.com.

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Robert Pattinson Relishes Kristen Stewart’s Contact-Lens Discomfort

Stewart didn't understand why her co-star complained about his 'Twilight' vampire contacts until she had to wear her own.
By Kevin P. Sullivan, with reporting by Josh Horowitz


Robert Pattinson in "Breaking Dawn"
Photo: Summit Entertainment

Aside from ending what has been roughly five years of hard work and incredibly pale skin, "Breaking Dawn" brought a different type of satisfaction to Robert Pattinson. The end of the "Twilight Saga" meant that his co-star Kristen Stewart would finally understand the pain he's had to endure the entire time they've spent shooting the films.

It's not a great spoiler to say that Stewart's Bella will become a bloodthirsty, red-eyed vampire at some point during the two-part finale, whose first installment opens on November 18. This has been a long time coming for Bella, the fans and, it turns out, Pattinson.

Getting into character meant a change of eye color for Stewart and some vindication for her co-star. In the nicest way possible, Pattinson explained to MTV News' Josh Horowitz that knowing Stewart would have to experience the discomfort of his vampire contact lenses was "a great feeling."

Stewart had her own set of contacts to wear as the human version of Bella to turn her eyes brown, but those apparently did not hurt, unlike the gold contacts that Pattinson had worn since the beginning of the series. "She's like, 'I wear contact lenses. Why do you always complain about yours?' " Pattinson said.

When Stewart finally did change into her vampire eyes, Pattinson got what he had been waiting for. "When she finally wore them and then was complaining about them every second of the day," he admitted, "it was kind of satisfying."

Check out everything we've got on "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1."

For young Hollywood news, fashion and "Twilight" updates around the clock, visit HollywoodCrush.MTV.com.

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Teen Mom’s BF — Can I Drop ‘No Contact’ Order?

Filed under: Gary Shirley, Amber Portwood, Celebrity Justice, Teen Mom

Amber Portwood 's baby daddy Gary Shirley is "interested" in getting Amber's "no contact order" dismissed ... and he's already reached out to the court to make it happen ... TMZ has learned. Law enforcement sources tell us Gary called court officials… Read more

FBI Contacted Over Threats to Lindsay Lohan

Filed under: Dina Lohan, Sam Lutfi, Lindsay Lohan, Celebrity Justice

TMZ has learned ... the FBI is now in possession of threatening and harassing messages sent to Lindsay Lohan and other members of her family. As we first reported, Lindsay has been receiving a variety of ominous messages ... some of which her people… Read more

Capri Anderson’s Lawyer Contacts Sheen’s Attorney

Filed under: Charlie Sheen, Capri Anderson, Celebrity Justice

TMZ has learned ... Capri Anderson 's lawyer has already contacted Charlie Sheen 's attorney who specializes in settling messy situations with celebrities -- but Capri's attorney got an icy response. Sources connected with Capri Anderson , aka Christina… Read more

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Chris Cornell: Inside Soundgarden, Audioslave Singer’s Final Days

The last time Serj Tankian saw Chris Cornell, everything seemed great. On March 25th, the two friends – Tankian, the singer in the alternative-metal band System of a Down, and Cornell, the founding singer-guitarist of the pioneering Seattle grunge band Soundgarden – were guests at a star-studded 70th-birthday gala thrown by Elton John in L.A. 

"We had this long chat, sitting next to each other," Tankian remembers. He and Cornell talked about composing for movies and the prospect of Cornell doing concerts with an orchestra. Tankian, about to go on the road with System of a Down, asked Cornell if he was tired of touring. "For myself, it's fun but nothing new under the sun," Tankian admits. Cornell "was just the opposite: 'I'm really excited. I'm doing this tour with Soundgarden. I've got these other ideas.' He had plans, man."

Then on April 12th, Tankian and Cornell attended a red-carpet premiere in L.A. for The Promise, a historical drama about the Armenian genocide. Both men had recorded music for the film. "He was doing great, doing press – fighting the good fight" for the project, Tankian says. Cornell was "one of those guys," he adds, who "tried to make everyone in the room feel comfortable with themselves. He was generous that way, with his emotions and time."

Barely a month later, on May 17th, Soundgarden – Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil, bassist Ben Shepherd and drummer Matt Cameron – played for 5,000 people at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. After the show, shortly past midnight, police officers responded to a call about an apparent suicide at the MGM Grand hotel and casino. They found Cornell in his room, on the bathroom floor, with an exercise band around his neck.

The singer, 52, was pronounced dead at the scene. In a statement issued on the afternoon of May 18th, the Wayne County medical examiner's office confirmed Cornell's death as suicide by hanging. Tankian's response to the news: "Disbelief," he says, speaking just over 24 hours later. "I'm like, 'No fucking way.' "

There were certainly no warning signs on April 19th, when Cornell performed "The Promise," his theme song for the film, on The Tonight Show with Cameron, a string section and record producer Brendan O'Brien on guitar. Cornell and O'Brien had worked together in the -studio since the mid-Nineties, when the latter mixed Soundgarden's 1994 multi-platinum breakthrough, Superunknown. O'Brien produced Cornell's latest solo album, 2015's Higher Truth, and had recently done sessions with Cornell for a potential record of cover versions.

"He didn't seem any different to me," O'Brien says of Cornell's mood at The Tonight Show. "I felt like we had a good time there. He was in good spirits." O'Brien notes that the volume on his guitar was mistakenly cranked up during the taping. "The next day I sent an e-mail: 'You sang great. Sorry about being so loud.' And he was, 'All great. Love you. No worries.' "

Guitarist Tom Morello played with Cornell between 2001 and 2007, when Cornell formed Audioslave with Morello, drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford, the instrumental backbone of Rage Against the Machine. Morello last saw Cornell on January 20th, when Audioslave reunited in L.A. at the Anti-Inaugural Ball, a protest concert held on the night of President Trump's inauguration.

Cornell was "shining" at that gig, Morello insists. "We hung out after the show – just laughed, took pictures. The last thing he said to me was, 'I had such a great time. I would love to do this again. You just let me know.' I was like, 'Yeah, let's figure it out!'

"It's unbelievable," Morello says of Cornell's death. "I don't know what the phases of mourning are, but I'm in the first one. I still expect this to be some kind of mistake" – that Cornell will soon be in touch with a text or phone call "where it's 'I'm cool. I'm so sorry. That was a scare. Everything is going to be all right.' "

At 7:06 P.M. on May 17th, after pulling into Detroit for Soundgarden's show, Cornell fired off a jubilant message on Twitter – "Finally back to Rock City!!!!" – with a photo of the band's name on the Fox Theatre marquee. Four hours later, Cornell finished the encore as he frequently did, closing an epic version of "Slaves & Bulldozers," from Soundgarden's 1991 album, Badmotorfinger, with a bellowing-vocal flourish of Led Zeppelin's "In My Time of Dying."

The rest of the 20-song set list ran the full length of Cornell's progressive-metal legacy with Soundgarden, from the angular-hardcore fury of their 1987 debut 45, "Hunted Down," to 2012's King Animal, the band's triumphant studio comeback after more than a decade's hiatus. Soundgarden also played nearly half of Superunknown, their bestselling album and – in the dark, psychedelic adventure and lacerating self-examination of the hits "Fell on Black Days" and "Black Hole Sun" – Cornell's personal quantum leap as a songwriter.

Cellphone footage from Cornell's final concert is troubling but inconclusive. In Detroit, his between-song raps veer from grateful to cryptic, including a bizarre reference to crosses burning on lawns. At times, his singing – at its best a dramatic tension of vintage rock-lord howl, bluesy melodic poise and seething, syrupy menace – sounds too far off the beat, lagging behind the band. And in that encore, Cornell punches the air with triumph – before turning his back to the crowd as he and Thayil face their guitar amps, unleashing a last firestorm of feedback.

After signing some autographs outside the Fox, Cornell went to his hotel room, where he spoke to his wife, Vicky, on the phone. "I noticed he was slurring his words; he was different," she said in a statement issued May 19th. "When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him." Soundgarden bodyguard Martin Kirsten kicked in the hotel-room and bedroom doors – both were locked – and found Cornell "with blood running from his mouth and a red exercise band around [his] neck," according to a police report.

Cornell had a prescription for Ativan, an anxiety medication that has been used by recovering addicts. Adverse reactions, especially in higher doses, include drowsiness, mood swings, confusion and thoughts of suicide. In a 1994 Rolling Stone interview, Cornell confessed to being "a daily drug user at 13" and quitting at 14. But there were subsequent battles with alcohol and substance abuse, which led Cornell to check himself into rehab in 2002. Tankian attests to Cornell's sobriety in recent weeks: At the Elton John party, Cornell joined in a champagne toast – raising his glass – but did not drink.

The surviving members of Soundgarden declined to speak for this story. A full autopsy and toxicology report had not been released as Rolling Stone went to press. But in the May 19th statement, Vicky Cornell and family attorney Kirk Pasich disputed the verdict of suicide. Chris "may have taken more Ativan than recommended dosages," Pasich said. But, Vicky said, "I know that he loved our children" – the couple had a son and a daughter, Christopher and Toni – and "would not hurt them by intentionally taking his own life." Chris also had a daughter, Lily, from his previous marriage to former Soundgarden manager Susan Silver. They divorced in 2004.

Until that Wednesday in Detroit, Cornell was "the last guy in the world I thought that would happen to," says guitarist Jerry Cantrell of the Seattle band Alice in Chains, who lost their original singer, Layne Staley, to a drug overdose in 2002. "That's not the way that book was supposed to end. And it was not the way that book was going."

In and beyond Seattle, Cornell was a widely respected native son: an elder statesman and charter survivor of the city's pregrunge underground in the Eighties – he and Thayil started Soundgarden as a trio in 1984 – and its turbulent commercial boom in the wake of Nirvana's 1991 smash, Nevermind. Dave Grohl recalls being struck by the contrast between Soundgarden's roaring futurism and Cornell's thoughtful, soft-spoken manner offstage the first time they met, at a party at Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic's house. "There was a bunch of the Seattle gang there," Grohl says, "and Chris just seemed so quiet and mellow compared to the rest of the maniacs."

But Cornell was frank and fearless in his songwriting, addressing the lessons in loss that repeatedly shook him and his hometown. In March 1990, Andrew Wood, the singer in Mother Love Bone and Cornell's former roommate, died of a heroin overdose. The death would continue to haunt Cornell through the years. He soon wrote a pair of thundering memorials to Wood, "Say Hello 2 Heaven" and "Reach Down," that became the cornerstone songs for 1991's Temple of the Dog, a Top Five collaboration with members of the then-unknown Pearl Jam. 

Wood also figured in "Like Suicide," a Superunknown track that took on more weight and healing with the 1994 suicide of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, a month after that album's release. "The emotional possibilities" on that record "were now emotional realities," Cornell said in 2013, looking back at his own interior war of feelings in songs such as "Let Me Drown" and "Limo Wreck." He described "Like Suicide" as "about all of these beautiful lives around us, twice as bright and half as long, careening into walls." But, Cornell went on, "after the funerals, we feel better about ourselves when we're able to get up the next day."

Cornell was candid, in interviews as well as his lyrics, about the allure of the abyss. Part of it, he once said, came from "growing up in the Northwest. You're always moving between the creepiness of everyday life and this natural beauty that surrounds you all the time." In a striking 1999 exchange with Rolling Stone, Cornell admitted to a habit – "something I've done since I was a kid" – of opening windows and imagining what it would be like to jump. "But I never take it seriously," he added right away.

"I always felt like Chris had a lonely place inside of him that he went to creatively," says filmmaker and veteran Rolling Stone writer Cameron Crowe, who gave Cornell a cameo as himself in Singles, Crowe's 1992 romantic drama set in the erupting Seattle scene. "Sometimes he laughed at the whole rock-god thing, like [in the Soundgarden song] 'Big Dumb Sex.' He had that thing: 'I know how to mock this.'

"Chris had the right attitude to survive," says friend Cameron Crowe. "I never thought he'd go all the way into the dark place."

"I never thought Chris – given family and a certain sunniness, the humor and soulfulness in the way he talked about his life privately – would go all the way into the dark place," Crowe says. "I thought he would access it, write about it and mock it too well."

Tankian points out that "The Promise," the last song Cornell released before his death, "is about survival – to survive and thrive. . . . I've seen people in a bad place. You wish they would find a way to the light and find peace with themselves." Cornell, Tankian insists, "wasn't that guy. He was gracious, standing in the light."

Until Detroit.

Cornell was born Christopher John Boyle in Seattle on July 20th, 1964, the fourth of six children. His father, Ed, was a pharmacist; his mother, Karen, was an accountant. Chris dropped out of school at 14, after his parents' divorce (Cornell is Karen's maiden name), and worked in a seafood warehouse and as a cook. Cornell also turned to music for release, starting on drums at 16. His first favorite band was the Beatles; Cornell later described the diversity of texture and attack on Superunknown as Soundgarden's "White Album period."

In the early Eighties, Cornell played in a covers band, the Shemps, that at different times included Thayil and founding Soundgarden bassist Hiro Yamamoto. "When I met Chris," Thayil said in 1992, "my first impression was that he was some guy who had just got out of the Navy or something. He had real short hair and was dressed real slick." Cornell also "had a great voice."

In 1984, the three started Soundgarden, minting a unique heavy metal that combined the hypersurreality of hardcore bands like Minutemen and Meat Puppets with the British post-punk existentialism of Wire and Joy Division. Shepherd, who became Soundgarden's bassist in 1990, was already a fan; he saw the original trio's second gig, opening for Hüsker Dü. "They didn't play the usual punk rock," he said in 2013. "And they weren't butt rock or heavy metal, the way people tried to label them later because they had long hair. To me, the music was black, blue and overcast with lightning." Cameron joined in 1986, after Cornell – who also played guitar and was emerging as the dominant songwriter – became Soundgarden's full-time frontman.

"Soundgarden took the riff rock I love and made it smart," Morello says, recalling that band's profound impact on the early sound and direction of Rage Against the Machine. "Cornell's dark, poetic intellect was not something you found in heavy metal."

Grohl vividly remembers the first time he saw Soundgarden live – before he immigrated to Seattle, at a Baltimore club in 1990. "It was as if all of our punk-rock and classic-rock dreams came true together," Grohl says. "Everybody, whether it was in Washington, D.C., or Washington state, looked up to Soundgarden as this force of nature."

The first band to release a 45 with the iconic Sub Pop Records and the first act from the Seattle underground to snare a major-label deal, Soundgarden were "a beacon to follow," Cantrell says, for the local groups in their wake. "Our town's not that big. Everybody kept an eye on what those guys were doing. And it was inspiring." For a time, Alice in Chains shared management with Soundgarden. "We loaned each other money so our bands could tour," Cantrell explains. "We had the same T-shirt guy. It was all intimate shit."

Cornell, in particular, represented "a strong strain running through our whole town – he was always so honest, from the moment I met him," Cantrell says. "I share a lot of the issues Chris communicated" in his songwriting. "And there's a power in sharing your weakness with the people who need to hear that, so they can consider, 'Fuck, that guy's dealing with it.' You don't feel so alone."

"Great art comes from generosity," Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard said last year, recalling the genesis of Temple of the Dog. Gossard and Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament, who played in Mother Love Bone, were devastated by Wood's death. Cornell wrote the songs for Temple of the Dog "from as pure a place as you can find," Gossard continued. "And then he reached out, letting us in."

Gossard, Ament and Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready became Cornell's core band in Temple of the Dog with Soundgarden's Cameron. Cornell also took a paternal interest in Pearl Jam's singer, a recent San Diego emigré named Eddie Vedder. "Ed was super-shy back then – we were just getting to know him," McCready said in 2016. At one Temple of the Dog session, Cornell brought in a new song called "Hunger Strike." As he ran down the arrangement, Vedder jumped in, taking the lower melody against Cornell's soaring vocal.

"Suddenly, it was a real song," Cornell later remarked. "Hunger Strike" became Temple of the Dog's breakout single; it was also Vedder's first featured vocal on a record. "Chris' heart was big enough," McCready said, "to let him do it."

Soundgarden broke up in 1997, overwhelmed by internal tensions and private trials; Cameron soon joined Pearl Jam. Cornell later acknowledged that he was drinking heavily "to get through things in my personal life" (his first marriage was dissolving in acrimony) – and "a pioneer," he noted ruefully, in abusing OxyContin.

"It was the most difficult part of my life – I'm lucky I got through it," Cornell conceded in 2009. "I'm not sure if it was the best place for me," he added, referring to rehab. "But it worked."

"I spent the last week and a half in a room with no windows, just doing Soundgarden demos," Cornell told me during an interview for Rolling Stone in August 2015. "We're going to meet in four days and spend a week together. By the end of that week, we'll have a lot of stuff, a lot of ideas to work with."

That month, Cornell was also preparing for the release of his fifth solo album, Higher Truth, and fall concerts – the latest leg of his Songbook Tour, a one-man evening of new material, greatest hits, surprising covers and relaxed storytelling, launched in 2011. "Now, I kind of get Neil Young," he admitted. "He goes on tour with Crazy Horse, then he's out with Booker T. and the MG's. Then he's on tour by himself with seven guitars. It makes sense to me now. He's not trying to find out who he is."

Young is, I suggested, all of those things. "And all of those things," Cornell replied, "are me."

Thayil confirmed to Rolling Stone last year that Soundgarden were still inching their way to a new studio album, their first since King Animal, while touring and pursuing a campaign of deluxe archival projects. Expanded editions of Badmotorfinger and Soundgarden's first full-length album, 1988's Ultramega OK, have come out in recent months. Cornell, on his own, had started recording the covers album with O'Brien. And Paul Buckmaster, who created the string arrangement for "The Promise," says that Cornell was "great in the studio" and "totally fascinated" with the process of recording with an orchestra: "He'd never seen anything like this before." Buckmaster reveals that the 2016 session for the film song went so well that, in recent weeks, "there was even talk of me doing orchestrations" of Soundgarden material for live shows, possibly with the band.

In recent years, Cornell "seemed to be on a mission to work all the time," O'Brien says. "And I mean all the time. He always seemed to be doing something – and a lot of different things. Chris was also a guy," O'Brien adds, "who liked being someone who was on their game. He liked people to see him that way."

There were misfires. Cornell's 2009 album, Scream, made with the hip-hop producer Timbaland, was the singer's first Top 10 solo effort but was savaged in the press – and by some peers. "Seeing Chris do that record felt like a blow to me," says Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. "I thought, 'He's above that, man. He's one of the 10 best vocalists of our time.' " 

Reznor went public, blasting Cornell on Twitter – "which," the former says now, "I immediately regretted." Five years later, as Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails were about to start a co-headlining tour, Reznor wrote Cornell an e-mail, apologizing for that outburst. "He was very cool and generous about it – 'It's the past, fuck it. Let's go on.' The Chris I met on that tour was a gentleman that completely had his shit together."

Cornell lived at various times in Los Angeles, Paris and Miami. But he always had time for Seattle. In January 2015, Cornell was part of a small army of local heroes – including Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan and members of Pearl Jam – at the city's Benaroya Hall for a tribute concert to Mad Season, a short-lived mid-Nineties group fronted by Staley and McCready. Cornell personally asked Alice in Chains drummer Sean Kinney to join the show.

"I wasn't thinking I could be able to handle it," Kinney says, alluding to the continuing hurt of Staley's death. "But Chris really coaxed me to come out. I went as far as rocking the bongo," he notes, laughing. "And it was a beautiful thing. He told me how he had to get into it, how hard it was for him. And I just told him, 'Layne would have loved the shit out of it.'

"I have a lot of experience with what's going on here," Kinney says of Cornell's passing. "Every time they write about your band from now on, it will always be there: 'X died.' I just go to the music and what's left. We're lucky that we have that."

"There's going to be people that are going to mythologize this – 'the grunge curse,' " Tankian says. "I wouldn't do that." Cornell "was 52 years old. He made it through the woods of whatever he was suffering with his life – his youth and later."

"He was open about being vulnerable," Crowe points out, "with a certain amount of pride that he had been able to make it through tough times. I never had a conversation with him where he said, 'I'm lost.' It was always, 'I had a tough period, but I'm having fun now.' "

Cornell "always had it, the same thing as when I saw Layne for the first time – the commitment to take that ride," Cantrell says. "There was something that I recognized and aspired to – to have your own voice and sound. Nobody else sounds like that guy. Nobody will.

"There is a space now and forever empty because of that," Cantrell says of Cornell's death. "It's never going to make sense. It's never going to feel right. And it's always going to hurt."

Additional reporting by Kory Grow and Ashley Zlatopolsky

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Kool G Rap on the Highly Technical Rap Style That Influenced Generations

Queens rhyme-stacker Kool G Rap has never been in the Top 40 – unless you count the boisterous two syllables of "Poison" sampled on the Bell Biv DeVoe New Jack Swing classic – but his rap style has an influence greater than any metric could show. Coming up with the Queens-based Juice Crew collective in the late Eighties alongside artists like Biz Markie, Roxanne Shanté and Big Daddy Kane, G Rap was a technical stylist who practically solidified the toolbox of modern-day "lyrical" MCs: internal rhymes, repeating syllables and effortless cool. As early as 1988 he was spitting lines like "making veterans run for medicine 'cause I put out more lights in a fight than Con Edison," a progenitor to the tricky wordplay of modern artists like Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt, T.I. and Lupe Fiasco. In songs and interviews, Jay Z, Nas and Eminem have all acknowledged his influence, as has Raekwon, who joins him on "Out for that Life," a new track you can hear below.

The song comes on his fifth solo album – eighth including his pioneering work with DJ Polo – Return of the Don. It's a cohesive, street-centered record made entirely of beats by Canadian producer Moss, whose dusty breaks-style beats sound time-warped from the era of puffy coats and Timberlands. The massive guest list includes tons of artists whose motormouth style and/or Mafioso energy run parallel to the rap royalty that kickstarted it all: Sean Price, N.O.R.E., Freeway, Cormega, Lil Fame of M.O.P. and more.

Rolling Stone caught up with the legendary MC to talk about lyrics past and present.

How involved were you with the guest list on Return of the Don
Dan [Green, executive producer] was pretty much making the collaborations happen, but they just happened to go right along the lines of people I was actually planning on doing new product with. He got Sean Price, rest in peace. Sean Price just told me, "Yo, G, if you ever need me for anything, yo, all you gotta do is say the word." And I kept that with me, 'cause, you know, me being a lyrical artist, I have a lot of respect for Sean Price. 

Is there one rapper on the album that you could point to as best version of what you tried to accomplish in the Eighties and Nineties, of what "rapping" meant to you?
Psh. Conway the Machine, Westside Gunn right now, you know what I mean? The material I heard on them dudes is straight fire. And to me, what I heard, it does keep the tradition going of G Rap and M.O.P., maybe even similarities to a Mobb Deep. Another person I would say definitely is Crooked I, you know, lyrical beast right there. A flow master. A lot of skill with that cat.

What are your goals when you go into a studio to make a rap album at age 48? What do you want to accomplish with a record like this?
Still being able to sound relevant in a sense to my fan base, to my audience. Not outside of that. Because I know it's a totally, totally different definition of "relevance" to the younger generation right now. That's a totally different production, different approaches, there's a lot of Auto-Tune. You know what I mean?

So we're not gonna catch you using Auto-Tune anytime soon …
You never know because, hey, look at back in 2001. I did a record called "My Life" that was Auto-Tuned. People probably just don't remember that, but it's a reality that happened. G Rap had an Auto-Tuned record.

The whole crime aesthetic and Mafioso themes, these things people know you for, this is still the stuff you rap about. You haven't haven't changed that element ever.
No.

Why is that still so important for you?
'Cause that's what moves G Rap, you know? That's what motivates G Rap. That's what I grew up around. Not to say, I've been through all, everything I ever rapped about. You know what I'm saying? But no, I did experience a lot of things growing up in Corona, Queens. There was a lot of major cats out there – serious dudes. They got movies about 'em. They got documentaries about 'em. And I was subjected to a lot of things, so it's like a part of me. I love the art of being able to still talk that gangsta shit, the street shit and still do it in a different way, which it keeps being interesting every time. When I hear another artist that does it well, I get it every time. It's never repetitive. It's always hot to me.

And still, when you hear rappers do that, it's still exciting to you.
Yeah. It's keeps its potency to me. Hey, you ever get tired of watching gangster movies?

If you go back and listen to what rap music was in 1989, what you did was like a quantum leap stylistically. Just the way that you stack the syllables internally in "Road to the Riches." Maybe like a little bit of Treacherous Three, maybe a little bit of Big Daddy Kane was doing that before, but it feels like the intensity you brought to that was unlike anything that was around back then. What is the origin point for the complicated technical stuff?
To me, it was the influence of hearing artists when I was younger. To me, they was one step into the future, outside everybody else at the time, and that was Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, Silver Fox from Fantasy Three. A lot of people are not aware of them, but Silver Fox was a dope, dope rapper. It was listening to those guys and see how they didn't just settle for being just like everybody else. They wanted to go the extra distance to stand out and be better than everybody. I was an artist that had the same desires. I didn't want to blend in with anybody else and what they doing. I wanted to be technical. I wanted to be complex. I wanted to make my act a hard act to follow. Bottom line. And so I just kept pushing and pushing myself. Just do more than what everybody else was doing.

Melle Mel, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five came out with a record as earlier as I was maybe 11 years old. Oh yeah, that was my record right there. And it was rapping. [Raps opening bars from 1979's "Superrappin"] "It was a party night, everybody was … and the bass was." Yeah yeah, that was crazy. But I was listening as early as that, all the way up to [raps bars from 1984's "Beat Street Breakdown"], "Newspaper burns in the sand, and the headlines say, 'Man destroys man.'" You know what I mean? To me, he was advanced. He wasn't rappin' like nobody else. I wanted to be that person like Melle Mel. Be different, rap about something that's, like levels beyond what dudes is doing right now. Everything ain't about a party all the time. He would be my influence for incorporating the street. Kool Moe Dee would be my influence for incorporating the rapping fast and sounding intelligent. And then Silver Fox would be the influence behind tricky flows, complex patterns.

Right now, it feel like being a complex rapper is kind of uncool.
Yeah, it reversed.

Well, why did being complex appeal to you? Like why was that something you wanted to be?
Because that was cool back in the days. It's cool to be smart. It wasn't so glorified to sound as ignorant as you could possibly sound. But now it's like, oh, you know, "You're being too lyrical." I don't know why it went reverse like that. I do honestly think it was just the dumbing down of society in general.

I mean there's still definitely room out there for lyrical rappers. The biggest MC in the world is Kendrick Lamar and he's as lyrical as it gets.
Oh, absolutely.

You were on some of the best posse cuts of all time, like Marley Marl's "The Symphony" in 1988 or Heavy D & the Boyz' "Don't Curse" in 1991, both of which featured some of the most formidable MCs of their era. Did you go in being like, "OK, I really have to bring my …"
A game. Absolutely!

Do you treat it like a competition a little bit?
All the time! All the time! I feel like if somebody approached me to do a service like, "G Rap, I need your presence on this," you know, I'mma go all out. Like no holds barred. Yeah, I'mma go in. I'm definitely gonna try to decapitate whoever's in the way.

Can you listen back to those songs and feel like the winner?
I do feel like the winner. I feel like the winner on "Don't Curse." I feel like the winner on "Symphony." And I've got all the respect and admiration for Big Daddy Kane and Ace and Craig G. Craig G's a problem. He's really a problem. It took me longer than just the Juice Crew days. To hear what he started doing like even years later. To really notice the monster he was, like, yo, Craig G was really a problem, yo. He was a real beast. But um, yeah, I pretty much felt that I got it.

What you did on the Sway & Tech "Anthem" posse cut in 1999, just sticking to the same syllable pattern. It really went over my head for a while what you were doing on that track ...
[Raps] "I sway the TEC with the Tech and Sway, step away, wet and spray ..." [Laughs]

Unbelievable. Do you feel like you won that track?
That one was hard to call 'cause it was so many phenomenal dudes on that track that just destroyed it. Psh. ... Tech N9ne, oh, my God, yo. I was just happy to be a part of that one. I was content not feeling like, "Oh, I killed everybody on the track this time." I was just glad that I was a part of it 'cause it was a great track. RZA caught a body on that.

You can almost visualize that rhyme on graph paper. Did you sit down and visualize that, or was it a little more instinctual?
Yeah, it was pretty much instinctual. Just getting those first two lines, you know what I'm saying? Then after that you could just keep the momentum going. I just needed that to lay the groundwork, the rest would come easy.

Shortly after that Rawkus Records gave you $1.5 million. What did you spend that money on?
Well you know, it's not like I pocketed the whole 1.5. [Laughs] A lot of it went to the record. A lot went to the record [2002's The Giancana Story] and the production of the record. I just made my deal structure $1.5 million. That's what G Rap did at that time. I made my deal structure $1.5 because I never had a deal budget that huge and I wanted to give myself that opportunity, you know what I mean? A feeling like, "OK, I'mma have everything with this one."

So how much of that went to the record?
Psh. At least a good million dollars. Some of the money didn't get tapped into because Rawkus had lost their distribution situation and their investor, all at the same time. And my deal structure was in a way like they couldn't release G Rap unless it was through a major distribution. And this led to Rawkus selling the album to Koch Records because they couldn't fulfill the commitment. Yeah, I think they was trying to hurry up and do a quick situation with MCA. But, it just wasn't quick enough. And then the album began to just sit and sit. …

It just took the initial hype of, "We signed Kool G Rap! We signed the dude who invented all these flows and we are gonna make him the star he always deserved to be." And then they just imploded.
Yup. The ball got dropped and another bad break for G Rap. Unbelievable.

Was there ever a rapper where you heard a song and you said, "This dude is doing something lyrically that I could not have done, and this surpasses my many achievements."
Maybe not so much "couldn't do," but certain dudes might have beat me to saying a particular thing. Like, "Damn, I know I could have thought to say that." For instance, the Big Pun "Little Italy" [line from "Twinz (Deep Cover '98)"]. I was like, "I know I coulda thought of that, dogg! Come on, that's right up my alley." But I love the fact that Pun came out and took something that G Rap would do.

"I don't remember what I was doing or where I was at, but I think I heard 'Poison' on the radio. 'Hol' up, that sound like me right there. …'"

What was the first time you heard Bell Biv DeVoe's "Poison?"
Maybe on the radio. I don’t remember what I was doing or where I was at, but I think I heard it on the radio. "Hol' up, that sound like me right there. …" And then I kept hearing it, I kept hearing it. They eventually got in contact with me. I think they just wanted to me to just get in the video to shut me up, you know what I’m saying? Like, "Yo, we used this dude’s voice like 80,000 times on the record. You know, give him a little cameo in the video. Keep him cool."

How does it feel when you hear that song? You are officially a part of ...
A smash. I’m honored. I still be hearing it to this day.

Do you have a favorite name check or line check in a song, like another rapper paying homage to you? 
The intro to my show is a whole collage of Big Pun, Jay Z, Nas, when they quoted my name or something like that. That's how my show starts. And the simple fact that R.A. the Rugged Man lives by the slogan, "I don't want fans that don't know who G Rap is." I just did a show up in New Hampshire Saturday and the promoter was telling they had R.A the Rugged Man not that long ago and when he got onstage, he said, "Listen. Whoever out there don't know who G Rap is, get the fuck out the room." [Laughs] He's a beast. He's a problem.

Do you listen to contemporary rap music?
I just now started opening up to the Migos, you know what I'm saying? [Laughs] I'm so, like, out of the loop with what's going on right now. And, uh, I kept getting a brush with the Migos here and there in little spurts. To the point where I heard something and it really caught my ear, and I was like, "Yo, I gotta give these dudes a listen" I like 'em. So far ... I'm still not deep, deep into them yet, I'm just getting there. They just turned on the G Rap button, you know what I'm saying? I'm just getting started.

They're such a unique case because they get known for these really catchy, simple hooks, but then when they start rapping, it's this really intensely lyrical ...
They go hard. Yeah, they got the balance of having that catchy chorus and what's going on right now and then, like you said, when they come time to spit, they going in. So they make a nigga like G Rap appreciate them, not just the 17-year-old kids, you know what I mean?

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