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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77 Responses to “Ras Kass – What Could Have Been?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    FUCK Ras Kass! He's a has been who never was and just sux the ballz of an ape. He should be kicked out of hip hop for all of his bitchassness!!!! I bet if a rapper such as Illah Ghee has his chance, he wouldn't fuck it up. Soul On Ice, that shit melted long before he started rapping

  2. Anonymous says:

    ^^^fucking idiot. ras kass is still to this day the best lyricist in hiphop history and soul on ice is lyrically the best album in rap history. ras is the rap equivalent to penny hardaway or even harold miner. flashes of brilliance but never consistent,but with that being said he is one of my very favorite mc's of all time.

  3. Phil says:

    Ras Kass had tremendous potential, and convinced me of the viability of the West Coast as a true Hip-Hop entity. His career has been crazy, though.

  4. Pooch says:

    WOW!!! Do get me involved with the arguement of these two. I don't know about the best lyricist in Hip Hop history. He is up there, and very deserving of this write up. It is very unfortunate that he has had the legal issues that he has had, and made the poor decisions as well. It's a shame that he got caught up with label politics and BS at Priority. He is the apitome of "what could've been" had everything fell right, production, life, etc.

    The Come Widdit (Fred Wreck Remix) is my joint, I bump that constantly. You all need to put together a Fred Wreck production post, B.U.M.S. and all his other material.


  5. vincentlopez says:

    I've always said that Ras Kass needed to be signed to another label back in '93/'94. Had he signed to say Loud Records back then, can you imagine what he would have done with his career?

  6. T.R.O.Y. says:

    Just want to be clear, I never said he was the best lyricist in the history. He was one of the best "westcoast" lyricists at the time. He had the potential to be great but his doesn't have the career to back it up.

  7. Omar Francis says:

    Agree with Vincent, had he signed for Loud in 1993 his amazing joints would have made a bigger impact.

  8. Pooch says:

    T.R.O.Y. I was referring to the first two anonymous posters.

  9. Skyzoo says:

    Fuck the West Coast! I hate those dam khakahi wearing crip walking sons of bitches. Stupid ass muthafuckaz! The West Coast sux and Ras Kass is part of that reason

  10. Werner von Wallenrod says:

    Sadly, I think the jury came back in on Ras Kass's career in the early 2000s, and the verdict was "it's all downhill from here."

  11. Anonymous says:

    Nah he's pretty much the best lyricist ever. I don't think you can make a strong argument for anyone else, really. Ras Kass had every element of lyricism down pat.

    He didn't master all forms of lyricism, but he was a jack of all trades, and mastered the art of metaphorical rap, which is what seperates him from the Nas and Rakims, imo.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Ras is a Master Emcee. That's it. His ear for music, terrible. Business/label decisions, unfortunate. An unequeled Emcee in many respects though and that is unarguable. Check his WHOLE catalogue. PEACE

  13. John M. Piorkowski says:

    Haven't heard the SOI demo in a long time. Cheers, Phila.

  14. dev4mil says:

    His rhymes look great on paper, sound good in stereo, and SUCK once paired with terrible beats. He's definitely not without talent, and I'd never say he was wack. Unfortunately, when it comes to making music, his songs just never really did it for me. He had a few, and that "Soul On Ice" remix is immortal. But if he made more "Soul On Ice" remixes or "Won't Catch Me Runnin" and less of them other shits, maybe things would've worked out better. I feel like he was on the wrong label, with the wrong beats, and questionable albums. Talented on the mic tho', no doubt.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Institutionalized 2005, Revenge of the Spit 2006 and Institututionalized 2 2009.Listen to these and look in your coke sniffin mirror and say he's wack to your own self. Tell me what if U could do it!
    Ras is a beast.Fuck a record label!

  16. FW says:

    Potential to be one of the best ever. Unfortunately, his incessant need to fill his albums up with crossover-baiting fluff (about 3/4ths of Van Gogh) and constant troubles with the law has really hurt his career.

    But when he's on, he's damn near untouchable.

    I'll end it with a positive–people who are looking for a slept-on gem outside of his canon (Interview w/a Vampire, NOTT, Goldyn Chyld, etc.): "God Bless" is one of the sickest tracks ever.

  17. Curlee Daddee says:

    Yep, when Ras Kass came to KZSU Stanford and spit flames with Voodu from Western Hemisphere, for a half hour, I was in a state of shock. I never heard this cat before, and he just KILLED it!!!!! But when Soul on Ice came out, I heard it and wasn't impressed. Yes the rhymes were nice, but the beats were booty. And most of the time if they don't match, I'm not with it. Peace.

    Anyways, I have 2 Ras Kass freestyles and one full Western Hemisphere freestyle I am posting on my blog spot. If you have love for Ras Kass, come on over and check it out.

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