REVIEW: Ras Kass – Van Gogh (Pre-release)

Van Gogh

Artist: Ras Kass

Album: Van Gogh (Pre-release)

Label: –

Rating: 8 / 10

Reviewer: DJ MF

Ever since he released his classic LP, “Soul On Ice”, the rapper known as Ras Kass has seemingly been battling personal demons. Should he sell out? Should he stay true to his beliefs?

Well, after the poor sales of “Soul On Ice”, it seemed like Ras had made up his mind with his sophomore LP, “Rasassination”, discarding the conscious lyrics of his rookie release (with some exceptions), and taking on a more streamlined West Coast sound in an effort to garner huge sales.

The problem of course, and the reason why Ras is still unknown to many in the mainstream, is that “Rasassination” tanked when it came to sales too.

So, as you’d expect, Ras has come to a crossroads. Continue to try for blatant commercial success, or do what he does best (lyricism), and hope that the hip hop public will buy it.

Let me point out, that this album as I have it right now, is a very early pre-release. I’ve got 14 tracks, but I’ve heard that at least 2 more will be added, including a lead single produced by Dr. Dre and featuring Xzibit, that I don’t have on my copy.

Until the release date then, sit back, and enjoy, as MF hooks you up for an album review for an album not due out for another month (barring any delays).

1) Hot Game
Ras starts things off immediately, over a beat that sounds astoundingly dope. It has a jumpy bassline, and a gorgeous sped up violin sample running through the rhythm. It sounds amazing. When the chorus kicks in, you get a female voice dropping a decent enough couple of bars that fit the song nicely, and some scratching that sounds tailor made for the beat. I haven’t even got to Ras yet, as he DESTROYS the track, telling you about his experiences in the game of hip hop. Amazing storytelling, amazing lyricism. A superhot opener.

“Ever win a Grammy
Rockin a body condom
Industry cats hop on your dick, dog
Like pitbulls, sick y’all
I spit RU486, put it down with the jumper and get lost
I been flossed,
By some of the hottest rappers and producers in the game
Told me, we couldn’t do a song, because I ain’t got no fame
Guess I’m not on Billboard, so I ain’t go no plane”

2) Goldyn Child feat. Kurupt
Fellow 4 Horsemen member Kurupt joins the proceedings on the second track, but strictly for the chorus. The beat here is one of the absolute hottest on the entire LP, with a keyline reminiscent of ‘The Next Episode’ by Dr. Dre, and a great sounding effect added to the drums that makes them sound like they swoosh in. Hope that makes sense. It does sound perfect for a club though. The lyrics on the track basically revolve around Ras telling why he’s the best MC in the world today, and why he’s the ‘Goldyn Child’ of the west coast. There’s enough quotables to fill the entire review, but I’ll leave you with one.

“I was taught to rhyme undeniably,
And force niggas to think
So if you need to dance so fucking much
Then buy N’Sync
Starting a movement to move men
Motivational millimeter mantra, repeat it, and meet a monster
Me I be the aqua, waterproof
Got a lot of truth,
Spit slaughter a lot of groups”

By the way, we’re now 2 for 2, and to say I’m estatic would be an understatement.

3) Kiss U
The strains of a previous unreleased track, ‘Home Sweet Home’ pump out of my speakers next, and I’m wondering what’s up, because the name of the track is ‘Kiss U’. Then it hits me when Ras speaks. Let me give y’all some background. The producer of ‘Home Sweet Home’ was the Alchemist. The track was to be the lead single, yet somehow, the Alchemist RESOLD the beat to Jadakiss, of the Lox fame. Jada proceeded to release his version first, leaving Ras hanging. Ras attempted to stop the release to no success. Well, guess who’s pissed off now? This track is a diss to Jadakiss and Alchemist, and the venom spit is incredible. Like I said, it starts off with the double-sold beat, which soon after stops, with Ras calling Alchemist a “fucking groupie”. Then, a new beat enters the scenario, and it’s slow, with a heavily distorted bassline, and some menacing sounding electric sounds in the background, and a lighthearted organ over it all. There’s also a vocal sample used, which I can’t identify, but it sounds lullaby-like, and goes, “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you.” Awesome. There’s a guest as well, who sounds familiar, but I can’t identify (the problem with prereleases I guess)

“Maybe I’m the black sheep of rap
Snuck in V.I.P.
Making records to kill a nigga like I’m Chi Ali
Tongue Kiss, spit spread, epidemic plague
Swung miss, hit bled, you’re better off dead
The sperm that created you shoulda been head
Or shoulda been that nasty running down your mother’s leg
These bustas can’t stand me
Wanna hostage my family like Marcus Camby
But God damn, we some boss players
Homey’s east, south, west
Hottest 97 single
So next time Funk Flex, drop a bomb to what you said
Your baby son’ll drop a shi**y diaper on your head from the bunk bed y’all share”

Sheeit!

4) Kick Rocks
Another guest here I can’t ID, and amazingly, the hot beats continue, this time with a cut that sounds like Dre did the production. It just has that sound. A lazy guitar lick with some electric keys. The cool part of the guitar is that it just kinda fiddles around the entire song, sometimes sounding completely random. The chorus is hot too, and is done by our unknown guest. Just another braggadacio track from Ras, but I ain’t complaining, since he does that as well as he does conscious stuff.

“Ain’t nobody hotter
I put the (spitting sound) in spitting
The other nigga, 50 Cent musta forgot to mention
That’ll murder ya, in eight bars
Actually it’s seven
Keep one in the chamber to snipe angels in heaven
Even endanger the reverend, shit, please believe it
Read street english, then I speak it in collegiate
Don’t even front like them bigger than air MC’s
Money low? I’m at the house making macaroni and cheese
Beat y’all niggas, then treat y’all niggas,
Like L.A. niggas treat the L.A. Clippers
Hearing y’all flow, is like me trying to rock D’Angelo naked ass videos
Fuck no!”

5) 4 Much feat. Bad Azz, Tash, Nate Dogg
This has gotta be a Battlecat production. It’s got his sound all over it. A SUPER heavy bassline, albeit a bit generic, under some random electronic blips, and a nice organ undertone. Bad Azz does alright, and Nate does what he normally does. The treats? Tash and Ras of course. Tash comes with some crazy energy, and Ras with some hilarious lines.

“We shoot craps like cops shoot blacks
Shoot some more, like when blacks shoot back
Ya smell me?
On my touch point celly?
With Fat Bastard,
Like, “Get in my belly!”

and

“When Catash come through it’s like time sits still
Asking for some bread, it’s like “Bitch be real!”
I’m all about the dollar bills, I’m kinda stingy with the Benjy’s
Wanna get, you better wait till Santa’s slidin down the chimney”

6) What U Want feat. Mike City
Woah woah woah. Dammit, my buzz is killed. Five tracks of bliss, and then THIS. It’s interesting enough I guess.the flutes they use are nice enough, but everything else about this song just SCREAMS crossover R&B attempt. The chorus absolutely stinks the joint up, and even Ras comes up short. He’s done this before, and it’s NEVER worked, but I guess his motto is to keep trying and trying. Avoid avoid avoid, and not even worth a quote.

7) Is This Love
I see the title, and I think, “Dammit, another R&B track!”, and the little intro to the track does nothing to dissuade me. And then the intro fades away, and amazingly, I’m blessed with a gorgeous, dark, gloomy beat. Just amazingly. Minor piano keys, over a dark atmosphere set up by an organ, and some nice drums. Not only that, but the chorus holds up, with a woman sounding almost mournful, and the lyrics are beyond reproach, either dealing with Ras’ relationship with hip hop, or with a woman – take your pick. Amazing.

“I’m bad for your health
Make you swallow your medallions
And next time you shit, you’ll strangle yourself
Niggas will dangle for wealth
Hell is so close, even angels will melt
And ain’t no more help
Show a motherfucker love, a motherfucker’ll show hate
Till you snap and cap a nigga with that gat by your waist
Touched by a barrel? Then grab a nigga by his bone marrow
Alone, Alero, Ecko apparel
Doing 135 miles per hour on a oneway street that’s just way too narrow”

Amazing. You need to hear this to hear the feeling in it.

8) Sex feat. Xzibit
A misnomer, since X to the Z actually just talks a bit on this. But whatever. The beat here is really different from anything else Ras has done, and sound A LOT like something that would come out of the Dirty South. It’s not bad though, and has grown on me quite a bit. Standard southern bounce drum ticks, and a nicely electronic bassline, with some whistly noises and some nice chimes. I’m not a fan of southern stuff, but this is bearable. Let me point out that the chorus is laughably funny, with a chant of “Sex sex sex sex, thong thong thong thong”. Hey, I didn’t write it. The lyrics hold up though, with Ras talking about, you guessed it, sex, and all of its nuances.

9) NBA feat. Xzibit and Saafir
OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD.I’m speechless. By the way, the previous sentence was my first reaction to this track. The trio, also known as the Golden State Project, returns with this track, and it’s easily the best track I’ve heard all year by a MILE. Seriously. They loop the “NBA on NBC” theme music for the rhythm, and add some upbeat drums, and that’s it. But damn, if it doesn’t sound spectacularily awesome. Enough accolades? I haven’t even gotten to the lyrics. All 3 rip it fierce, but Ras doesn’t let his own album down, and has the best lines I think.

OH MY GOD. Just once more for effect.

“It’s the cream of the coast
So after I murder you biters
I hope Jesus H. Christ gets y’all some holy ghost writers
Bet your 401K, sink this trey, you pay
Known for slappin NBA cats with their 2-way
Say whatever you like, just spell my name right
That’s R-A-S-K-A-S-S
Phenomenal despite nominal notoriety
So I’ma be the All Eyes On Me nominee”

10) One Night
Amazing beat here, with a very clubbish vibe. The bassline is rubbery, and there’s various effects thrown around. As a beat for the club, it works. I can even dig the sung chorus, since it fits the vibe of the track. However, I gotta say that Ras disappoints with the lyrics here. The story is ok, but the flow just doesn’t work with this type of beat. My opinion I guess. The second skippable track out of 10.

11) Ah-ha
I bet lots of people won’t like this, but I do. It uses southern sounding drum snares, but a slow bassline, and a cool sounding synth that pops in and out of the beat. It’s a lively beat that you can chill to, if that makes sense. This is basically a party track in terms of lyrics, dropping a braggadacio vibe throughout, and Ras telling you what he’s got and what he does.

12) Root of Evil
The beat sounds like its been scraped from the Snoop Dogg reject pile. This has gotta be Battlecat again. It tries for a horror type vibe, but doesn’t succeed at all. It’s pretty boring actually. Luckily, Ras saves the track from absolute suckiness by dropping some incredible rhymes about money, and how it can adversely affect people, and more specifically, black people.

“Either you selling crack rock, or got a wicked jump shot
Laughing on the sitcoms, or platinum with the hip hop
You still just entertainment, amusing cavemen
While preachers pimp salvation”

13) Van Gogh
Call this Ras venting if you will. In recent interviews, he’s compared himself to the artist Van Gogh, a man that had to die before people saw his talent. In a rant befitting Eminem, Ras destroys anyone who’s stood in his way during his attempts to record his third album. Amazing scorn. All over a dope beat with a nice guitar strumming in the background, what sounds like a plucked harp, and a killer bassline. I’m not sure if this will make the final cut, since he names Priority Records a couple of times, but it’s still amazing.

“Fuck Priority Records, like Prince I’m writing “slave” on my cheek
Cuz my kids gotta eat
Meanwhile, A&R’s are sniffing coke, getting kickbacks
Fuck that!
My writtens are like Christ with a cross on his back
I bring the total black experience to the track
What used to be hot was what an MC said
Now hip hop don’t respect you till you’re platinum or dead.”

14) T.V. Guide
Here’s the magnum opus conscious track I was waiting for. If you’ve ever heard ‘Publicity’ or ‘Labels’ by the GZA, you’ll know what Ras did here. The concept is taking TV show names, and using them in his rhymes. Which in this case center on how the media brainwashes people. Incredible. The beat is inconsequential with a track like this, but even that rocks, with a frantic feel to it, underscored by a nice piano loop, and frequent TV static samples thrown in. I wish I could transcribe, but it’s too complex, and way too much stuff.

So that’s that. Keeping in mind that there are still 2 tracks to come with production from Dre, including the first single, this album has the potential to be a big hit. At least I hope it is, since it seems like Ras has decided to compromise between his sales ambitions, and his conscience. I say good for him, since it has allowed him to take the best of “Soul On Ice” and “Rasassination” and mold an album that should stand the test of time.

And oh yeah, having good beats for the first time in his career helped too.

11 out of 14 tracks banging? With 2 more Dre beats to come? I can’t do anything but give it a great score, 8 out of 10, with the potential to get up to 9 dependent on the forthcoming tracks.

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