Ras Kass is a rapper’s rapper; he was an amazing lyricist when he made his debut in 1996 and he’s still an amazing lyricist today. There’s no doubt he will go down in history as one of the best emcees to grace the art form.
And yet, out of all the material he’s released (officially and unofficially) over the years, only one of his albums has been called a classic. The rest were either damaged by label drama or suffered from beats that couldn’t live up to the rapper’s technical abilities, or both. Ras Kass has never truly found the perfect formula for delivering us his talent and delivering us classic albums, not just classic songs.
Still, we here at Dork Mustache are big fans of the Waterproof MC and we wanted to do a Best of the Best Ras Kass edition, to count down the top 5 Ras Kass albums and the top 5 songs from each of them. It wasn’t easy, but here it is (click the song titles to hear them).
Released on Babygrande Records while Ras Kass was in prison for violating his probation, this was his first project since finally being released from his contract by Priority/Capitol. I put it above the first volume, because the good songs on this are better than the good songs on vol. 1. Ras Kass is never weak lyrically on the album, but unfortunately the familiar problem of weak beats that don’t suit his style does rear it’s head again on a few songs.
Our favorites are:
Ras been through a lot of bullshit, both in his personal and professional life, but he kept bouncing back and he’s still here; lines like “see I would make “Nature of the Threat,” but I’m grown now, color blind, If you been a real friend in my life, dog we brothers” show how much Ras has grown as a man. It’s a good intro to the album.
Quotable: I done had a harder career, than most of my peers / Never got thrown a life preserver, cause most of ‘em feared / Niggas got on off my shoulders, and turned they back / Guess you don’t introduce fiends to other dealers if you servin’ crack”
Actions speak louder than words. Real recognize real. You get the message.
Who the fuck is John Austin? Ask about him and you might get hilarious answers like this: “He still live like Larry King / hot boy, I mix crunk juice with carosine / I seen a little bit of everything / bitches that like turkey basters up their asshole on methamphetamines”
Jesus Ras, what the fuck kind of parties are you going to?
Can I come?
No matter how much bullshit the industry puts him through, Ras Kass stays sick with it–if you don’t know, now you know.
Quotable: “I’m hip hop, I’m commercial rap / I’m trying to pay my bills, work with that / I’m paid one day, I’m broke another / I’m Grey Goose vodka and Magnum rubbers.”
I never get tired of Ras Kass airing out the industry, and it’s no surprise he has so much to say considering everything he’s been through. It’s fully understandable how such a long frustrating career can make you hate this music shit just a little bit as Ras says on the intro: “I spit for the cabbage, grind with a mission / and put Capitol Records in missionary position / used to love H.E.R. like Common, but then you get signed / (Behind the Music) now I just fuck the music from behind”. Sounds depressing and jaded as fuck, but its real.
Quotable: “L.A. radio quick to suck out of town dick / South support they own, create international hits / Out of regional records, East coast create the buzz / Music capitol of the world, thought it wasn’t when it was / And somehow managed to screw us / called West coast gangster rap whack, then sold it back to us…”
Van Gogh and Goldyn Chyld were highly anticipated albums but at this point it seemed like Ras Kass was cursed. Both albums ended up being shelved by Priority after they were bootlegged like the last case of whiskey during the Prohibition. Neither were ever officially released but every Ras Kass fan has heard them thanks to the interwebz.
We have them tied at number four because Goldyn Chyld is in largely made up of Van Gogh songs and because the two albums are pretty much the same in terms of quality. They feel like the same album; both contain a couple of really dope classic Ras Kass tracks but much of the rest–and it hurts me to say this–is forgettable. The reason? Label drama. Budget issues. Incarceration for a DUI (his third strike). Just a series of unfortunate incidents that fucked up any hope for the “return to Soul on Ice form” that was promised. Still though, the songs that are dope, are really dope and to this day some of my favorites. Take the best songs from each, combine them, and you have a badass tape.
The standout songs are:
There is no explanation needed for why a song with Monch and Ras Kass is in the top 5. The fuck is wrong with you?
Quotable: “I fall through parallel universes with a gun / and murder myself to gain strength like Jet Li in The One”
Ras gives praise to a few emcees like Eminem, Jay-Z, Nas, 2Pac and spits venom at the rest.
Enjoy life while you have it because it will go by much faster than you think. Young people—you are not immortal. Be thankful for what you have, it can always be worse. It’s obvious this song was at least partially inspired by 9/11.
The first version on Van Gogh was supposedly produced by Dre, but the second version on Goldyn Chyld was a remix by DJ Premier. Both are classic Ras Kass tracks and if you ask me which one is superior you’d probably get a different answer each time you ask. Must haves for any Ras Kass fan.
Quotable: “Wanna know the reason why white people seem to laugh at blacks? / Cuz brothers in South Africa slaving to death in diamond mines / Meanwhile, we spending every penny to overshine / Tell the next nigga he lesser / Cuz he can’t afford to buy ice from his oppressor”
For a frustrated artist who often says things like “genius is misunderstood” on his songs, this was the perfect analogy and lyrically the most impressive song on Van Gogh—a diamond in the rough. Along with Goldyn Chyld, it is one of Ras Kass’ post-Soul On Ice masterpieces.
Quotable: “Complain when I speak, fuck Priority Records / Like Prince, I’m writin’ “slave” on my cheek, cause my kids gotta eat / Meanwhile A&R’s sniffin’ coke, gettin’ kickbacks, fuck that! / My written’s like Christ wit a cross on his back / I’ll breathe a total Black experience on a track / What use to be hot was what a emcee said / Now Hip-Hop don’t respect you unless you platinum or dead”
The follow up to Soul on Ice featured guest appearances from RZA, Twista, Xzibit, Mack 10 and Dr. Dre and somewhat improved production but many fans were left feeling let-down, accusing Ras Kass of trying to sell out. It’s clear Ras Kass did attempt to appeal to a wider audience with Rasassination, but calling him a total sell out is way too harsh. Upon fresh examination, Rasassination is not the wreck some originally described it as. Most of the album is various shades of “decent”, with a few gems shining through. There are a few genuine stinkers though that even Ras Kass lyrics couldn’t redeem, and this has hurt this album’s overall reputation. It’s also a fucking travesty “Understandable Smooth” wasn’t included.
This LA anthem is the first single off the album, featuring a Dr. Dre verse and Mack 10 on the hook. It‘s a fun song with Dre and Ras rapping about west coast life and bragging endlessly about how badass they are. It’s a banger to wild out to., but that doesn’t mean it’s lyrically weak; Ras still drops two good verses laced with his usual comical punchlines. The video even had a cameo from the legendary Ice-T.
Produced by Klev, this smooth laid back beat combined with typical Ras Kass braggadocio and intellectual lyrical snobbery (I mean that in a good way, really) sounds like it would feel more at home on Soul on Ice than it does here.
The title track is just an emcee going to work, addressing some of his haters and spitting “shit so nasty it’ll make Lil Kim blush” over a Stu-B-Doo beat. I find myself reciting the hook in my head an hour after listening to the song, so I guess something went right.
As far as the battle raps and punch lines go, this is the nicest track on the album. Ras goes hard on on this joint and by the time he’s done, you have learned one undeniable fact: “you ain’t wettin’ the waterproof MC”. Rumor has it this song played Saafir’s rent that month.
Quotable: “The closest I ever been to ass was cigarette butts / I’m nice, that’s probably why I don’t be fuckin with Sprite / Cause thirst is nothin, image is everything on the mic / These days, these DJs get paid under the table / Pay the most popular producer on the most popular label / Pay for full page ads in the most popular magazine / Now you got the most popular new artist, guaranteed…”
Easily the most memorable song on this album, and one of the most memorable Ras Kass songs in general, this spiritual successor to “Nature of The Threat” boasted two of the most impressive guest features in hip-hop history: God and Satan. Seriously, that’s what it said on the album. At seven minutes long, the song played out an incredibly ambitious concept: Ras Kass conversing with God and Satan about the nature of man, the universe and existence. It’s just a classic.
Quotable: [Ras Kass] “So what you saying is, you the one that created sin“
[God] “What you call mother nature, was the nature of me / What you call evil, ultimately, was the force inside of me / Matter can’t be created or destroyed it just changes shape / One God, many people, and many faith / And this is how I wanted it done”
[Ras Kass] “Wait, wait, hold up, father tell me, who is God’s son?”
This 26 song double album featuring production by Alchemist, Mr. Porter, DJ Cannon, DJ Babu and DJ Rhettmatic to name a few, was probably Ras Kass’ way of making up for all the years he couldn’t release the music he wanted to due to label drama and incarceration. The reviews were generally positive; ironically, the major complaint was that if the album was trimmed down it would’ve been even better. Even though, for me personally, there isn’t many songs that have stuck in my memory as vividly as Interview With The Vampire or H2O Proof, there’s still no doubt that this was his most consistent album since Soul On Ice and that’s why it is ahead of Rasassination at #2. A few weak joints aside–every double album has them–ADIDAS is solid and there isn’t much to complain about.
Two lyrical monsters with “fucked up attitudes” dropping dope verses over a smooth beat–what’s not to like?
Quotable: “my daddy used to say I was obstinate / then my papa split, so why be the opposite / the judge sentenced me, said I don’t respect authority / yea probably true, just ask Priority”
Long before Slaughterhouse became the premier super-group of lyricists in hip-hop, there was The HRSMN. Although some of their work didn’t quite live up to their individual talent in the past, “This Shit Right Here” is exactly the kind of grimy sound and content you’d expect from this lineup.
Quotable: “I wish granny would’ve lived to see president Obama / instead of seeing her hometown under water / at least she’s in a better place / learning is a gift, pain is my teacher, two steps ahead of faith”
The sequel to the sickest song(s) from the Van Gogh and Goldyn Chyld albums. Nuff said.
Quotable: “Doc Dre’s top five, Wendy Day’s favorite / the rest of yall niggas just happy I ain’t made it”
This is one of those creative Ras Kass concepts in the tradition of his 90′s work. It’s not only dope to listen to him manipulate the English language for witty punchlies, but you also might learn about the origin of some every day words while you’re at it.
Quotable: the whole song.
There couldn’t be a more appropriate song title, as the Muses were the Greek goddesses of inspiration for music and poetry, and Ras Kass seems to be channeling them here as he uses mythology as a metaphor for his own creative process and abilities as an emcee. I dare call it epic, though I wish he had more than one verse on it.
Quotable: “my inspiration instrumentated by harpies / so I sail over the rockies, and muddy waters as choppy sirens invite me / to crash into the pad nightly, so I spas slightly / these modern rappers dislike me, these critics beneath me so bite me / still want my psyche, I’m sicker, iller than Mikey / I’m thrilla, I’ll radioactivate the Geiko gekko to Godzilla”
I used to be obsessed with this album when I first got my hands on it. Ras Kass was the epitome of a lyricist and I studied Soul on Ice with the fascinated eyes of a scholar studying an ancient scroll. Turns out I probably should’ve studied things like math instead so I could graduate high school with the rest of my peers. Now I’m a broke blogger. Thanks Ras Kass, you ruined my life!
Named after the Eldridge Cleaver’s memoirs, Soul on Ice covered everything from religion, history and racism to “ho’s and tricks” and introduced Ras Kass to the world as a lyrical monster. The album’s content was very impressive but suffered from some mediocre production. Few albums are perfect though and I always felt the hate for the beats on Soul on Ice was exaggerated . It takes an emcee of high caliber to make you forget about the weak beat he’s spitting over, and fortunately Ras is among the highest, so a few weak beats didn’t hurt the album’s status as a stone cold classic. It was extremely hard picking my top 5 because I love every damn song.
It’s fucked up that an emcee like Ras Kass didn’t become one of the bigger names in hip-hop–and Ras Kass is painfully aware of this injustice. Sure, hardcore heads know him and other rappers respect him, but he never achieved mainstream success and his continuous label drama is now the stuff of legends. There’s no doubt about it—Ras Kass got fucked up by the music industry. Reelishymn sums up his frustrations with hip-hop and the music industry and the damn near impossible task of staying true to the art form while still actually making money off this shit.
Favorite quote: “Make a radio hit – heads criticize it / Underground classic – nobody buys it / So rap is fucked and everything blowing up sounds redundant / But money talks and bullshit does 9 flat in the hundred”
By far the most controversial song of Ras Kass’ career, this nearly 8 minute long history lesson in verse form has been dissected, praised and ridiculed ever since it dropped—especially on the internet. Ras Kass attempts to trace the origins of racism from the beginning of human history to present day, rhyming about racial origins, the caste system, slavery and the general relationship between whites and blacks.
Now I’ll be the first to tell you this song is not 100% historically accurate—that is to say most historians would scoff at some of Ras’ claims. Its strongly Afro-centric in some parts, as is the album itself, but this was 1996, Ras Kass was young and it was after all, just a song. See what Ras thinks about the song 15 years later. It offended many people but it was an impressive achievement that also made them think–something we desperately lack in mainstream hip-hop today. Any way you look at it, it was one of the most prominent songs Ras Kass made and can’t be ignored.
Today we’re aware of how stupid it all was, but back in the 90′s when the east coast/west coast tensions in hip-hop were at their peak, some east coast heads callously dismissed their western kin as weak lyricists and simpletons. Ras Kass wasn’t having any of that shit; he was a true emcee and he was representing the West. In fact, every hip-hop head worldwide who didn’t come from the American east coast felt like Ras was standing up for them on Sonset:
Quotable: “It takes classic material to make phat shit / Not proof of New York residence and an accent / Who expresses the freshest, the West Coast was resurrected / By me, I’m the motherfuckin’ man like homoerectus / So why it matter where rap started? / If I wanted to hear from the asshole I would have farted / I’m a west coast artist……”
Intelligent conscious hip-hop–this was it. Race, politics and the rap game; the title track personified what the whole album was about. This wasn’t just a song, it was the manifesto of a young black emcee who was hungry as hell, reminiscent of early Ice Cube, but more sophisticated. It reminds me of Big Pun describing his own style as “sophisticated hardcore” but the label sounds even more fitting for Soul on Ice. The remix to this song even had a video, and it easily rivaled if not exceeded the original in quality, but it wasn’t on the album.
Quotable: “Walkin’ on skulls cause I’m two steps ahead / So I started at square three / Now I’m Cubed like O’Shea Jackson be”
I don’t know if this song is 100% autobiographical but it’s a brutally honest, introspective dose of reality that I can’t help but admire. When I listen to this joint I hear about the evil done to the artist; the evil he’s done to others, and the evils all around us that we eventually grow numb to and accept. Also as men, we can be major fucking assholes.
Quotable: “In eighty-one I remember the night / I covered myself with baby powder, so my black ass could be light / Cause God is white, and Bo Derek is a ten / I hate my black skin, it’s just a sin to be a nigga / Then again, I’m like the Frenchman, cause Granny’s creole / And therefore, we’re black French people / So I think it’s best if I go to Catholic school / And study under nuns and then I’ll be a Catholic fool”
Well there it is folks, the top 5 Ras Kass albums and the best songs from each album. These are my personal favorites of course and even though my opinions are incredibly accurate and factual, they are still in fact just opinions, so if you really take issue with the list, holla at us in the comments section below and call me an idiot, or give me the time and place you want to fight me to the death.
I will show up.