Ras Kass – What Could Have Been?

(Many hyperlinks contain actual MP3s)

It was October 1, 1996, a Tuesday to be exact. I ran to my local music spot (then called Peaches) to pick up the most anticipated album of that year, to me at least. If you recall ’96 was chock-full of releases such as Ironman, Illadelph Halflife, Stakes Is High, It Was Written, The Score, All Eyez On Me, Hell On Earth, Reasonable Doubt, Dr. Octagon and Entroducing just to name a few.

But there was one album that had me marking off my calendar since the start of the year. None other than John Austin hailing out of Carson, California, a pint size ferocious lyricist, at the time was still relatively unknown, debuted with Soul On Ice. I remember back in ’94 landing a promo copy of Remain AnonymouS b/w Etc and instantly labeling it my prized possession. Shortly after that Ras appeared with Ahmad and Saafir on the track “Come Widdit” found on the Street Fighter soundtrack, then followed the official 12″ release of Remain AnoymouS (I bought a few copies from Sandbox) that had “Won’t Catch Me Runnin” on the flip.

[click to download]

By this time, those like me who were in need of a true west coast lyricist were finally about to get their wish. The early 90’s was pretty dominated by the left coast and while they spit out tons of classics, there wasn’t an artist out from Cali at the time that displayed sheer lyrical supremacy like Ras Kass. He was their Rakim, their Nas, their Pharoahe Monch. And at one point, Ras Kass was the future of lyricism.

Prepping the release of the Priority debut, we (the fans) were given an appetizer. In addition to the leaked S.O.I. demo, we also had the sampler tape which featured the infamous “Jack Frost.” The combination between Ras, Nat King Cole and the precise DJ Rhettmatic laced sample of Nas’ “I’ll leave them froze like heroine in ya nose” was perfection. By this time people got hip to Ras Kass and magazine like Rap Pages and The Source were getting ready to call him the second coming. I must admit, once Soul On Ice dropped it took awhile to warm up to.

Many of us were expecting something Illmatic-like. There was a lot of fence sitting but for the most part you either you loved it or you hated it. To this day the most common discussion about the album is its production. Whether you thought it was lackluster or lustrous, the reality is the album left heads wanting more. In retrospect, the album was indeed a lot better than the credit it originally received but I’ll let you decide should you revisit Soul On Ice 13 years later.

Fellow Carson native and Stanford stand-out pro-football player Bob Whitfield (Atlanta Falcons) agreed to help out Ras Kass when he opened up his Patchwerk studios to him, which also allowed Ras Kass to align with the Western Hemisphere alongside Meen Green, Bird & Vooodu, who by the way are largely responsible of the production found on Soul On Ice. There was plenty of promise for Western Hem when Key Kool & Rhettmatic dropped “E=MC5” featuring Vooodu, LMNO, Meen Green & Ras Kass. But the group projects (super or not) that have included Ras Kass never seem to pan out (see: Golden State Warriors, Four Horsemen).

So while the jury is still out on Ras Kass’ career, it’s pretty evident that in the mid 90’s if you weren’t up on Rassy Kassy you just weren’t up on hip-hop. And despite what your opinions may be about him, his career decisions, or his inability to stay out of trouble with the law, you cannot deny the fact he was one of the best lyricists to ever come out of California. If there was ever a West coast lyricist with an east coast mentality it was Ras Kass.

Not proof of New York residence and an accent
Who expresses the freshest
The West Coast was resurrected

By me, I’m the mother fuckin’ man like homo erectus
So why it matter where rap started
If I wanted to hear from asshole I would have farted
I’m a West Coast artist down wit’ clicks from 510 to 516
But dis indiscriminately and you gets me
Fundamentally is the ability to smother suckas
So if rap was born to another then that makes me your muthafucka
Cause I’m the type of nigga to go to yo’ show
Fuck yo’ ho
Then nut on yo’ promotional T-shirt
Eternally, verbally I fucks your head up like
Florence and Normandy normally (Easily I approach)


Now I’m a rap fan who never saw Bam Rock the park in the Bronx but I still snap skulls in the dark

What are your thoughts on Ras Kass?

T.R.O.Y. related links:
Ras Kass – On Earth As It Is…Remix?
All The Ras Kass Singles That Really Matter
Ras Kass – Soul On Ice Demo (Remastered)

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