Ras Kass: The King of the West?

posted November 18, 2005 12:00:00 AM CST | 1 comments

Youve heard of this guy. Hes critically acclaimed, highly respected, and touted as one of the rawest lyricists ever. You will not see him on BET or MTV. You will not hear about him gracing the stages of Direct Effect or 106 and Park. But the streets talk they all know of the name Ras Kass. Having been out of prison for eleven months now has provided the Carson, California MC with some much needed clarity. No longer institutionalized Ras is free. Not just from prison bars and cells, but hopefully from the burdens that have followed him over his career with a certain recording label. HHDX.com sits down with the Conceited Bastard as he talks about why hes the King of the West Coast, puts truth to the rumors about him and his beef with The Game, and why you should be on the look out for his upcoming movie.

HHDX: Since youve been out what have you been doing? Hows the family doing?

Ras Kass: Actually that was the first thing that I did when I got out, was spend some time with the family, just to get settled in and readjusted to a life of peace. I got my head right. After that, I then linked up with Xzibit, we hit up the studio, and started grinding out some work.

HHDX: How is it working with Xzibit?
Ras Kass: Musically, X and I call each other the double-headed dragon. I think I motivate him to do certain things and him vice versa. Im just trying to help him out with his new album. I just finished my working on my album.

The mixtape, Institutionalized is garnering all these rave reviews so what do you have in store for the album and who will you be signed to?

Ras Kass: To be honest, I cant tell you the title of the album. The album title is stupid though. I wrote that album in prison. I wrote about a 100 songs while I was on the inside. I felt differently when I finally was on the outside. Im in litigation and Im not even supposed to be talking about another situation. But what I can say is that I get a lot of love from the industry and that I have a lot of options as to where I can place this next album. I think that music, itself, is a time capsule. I constructed the album while I was in prison and I want this album to be lyrically impeccable. But since I felt different on the outside and my perspective was different, I came out with Institutionalized and it spoke on how I was feeling at the time.

Like I said, Im in litigation so for Institutionalized it was about feeding the street. 50 (Cent) had two albums out before he signed with Shady/Aftermath. Eminem had one album before he signed with (Dr)Dre. People may or may not know that. But, this album was for all the Hip-Hop heads all around the world and I wanted to make sure that people could get this and I wanted to give back to them. Im not trying to overtly sell this. I just wanted it to be some timely material thats appreciated by those who would like it. A lot of people have had the opportunity to have consecutive albums where they can show their growth I havent. Ive been blessed to have the support of my peers and to be able to put this out there.

Speaking of legalities how is that situation with Priority going? Can you elaborate on it for those who may or may not know the deal with you and Priority?

Ras Kass: Everything looks good. I think itll amicable split. All I ever wanted was a release, but since Im suing it looks like Ill be seeing some money.

The song Caution caught a lot of heat because it seemed to have referenced The Game? With the similarities between you, The Game, and the lyrics that you spit in the song how can it not seem like youre not talking about him?

Ras Kass: Im not trying to defend it. The truth of the matter is that I made a blanketed statement. I give credit where its due. Thats totally David Banner. We lived together back in the day. When I got out of prison, Rick Rock called me and had me all these beats. David Banner was gassin me up, putting a battery in my back amping me up telling me to tell these bitches whats up and tellin them what Ive been through. Its not directed particularly to anyone. Its just saying that Im the King of the West and if you dont like it come fuck with me either in the streets or on the mic. Rather it be the streets because, you wont see me on the mic. Ive just made my claim and I found that you have to stake your claim and back it up. The streets are going to tell me that any day in LA. Its not just me staking my claim, my birthright. Not to shit on anyone else, but Im just getting whats mines. At the end of the day, I have nothing against anyone. Im just saying that this spot is me. A lot of people have had their opportunity to be at the forefront of this West Coast movement but they havent stepped up to the plate. After Pac and B.I.G. died that opened up a door for Jay-Z. So, now when you think of the West Coast, I want yall to think of me.

HHDX: Nature of the Threat in my opinion, is one of the illest songs that Ive ever heard. You dropped some deep knowledge on that one. What all did you read to be able to drop jewels and did you expect anything to come from doing a song like that?

Ras Kass: I read a little bit of everything. I was picking my classes Cultural Anthropology World History and I wasnt interested in all of it, because I wanted to rap. I failed Black History because I wasnt there. I was in the studio. So, I kept buying the books that put me in the frame of mind where I wanted to be. But I was already a voracious reader before. Before I wrote the song two years before, I took notes about that song because I knew that I had wanted to write it. So, I just took the references that I had happened to take notes on and placed into a concept. Nature of the Threat, I wrote for myself to be selfish. I wanted to place things in a chronological order. I am not saying that [in that song] that white people are evil. But that white people can use prejudice for their benefit. I wanted to have a better understanding of the history.

HHDX: What was the feedback to that song from your fans?

Ras Kass: Honestly, I dont really recall. It was just a selfish record, dude. I wasnt going to put it on Soul on Ice but then when I wrote it I felt that it was important to get it out there. If there was anything said, then probably, I was oblivious. I mean I got a lot of critical acclaim, which was a blessing. To have from the niggas in the pen, to white people, professors, teachers, all the way down to the dumbest cats on the Earth all hailing this as a blessing. But I was already past that onto the next. But its always a blessing, it creates a dialogue. My whole thing is if you dont believe it, prove me wrong. I dont care if people dont like my thesis, but if you dont believe it, Ive given you the incentive to do so.

HHDX: You said that Institutionalized is not your album for 106 & Park or Direct Effect but dont you think that youd need some sort of mainstream machine to be able to have your message heard?

Ras Kass: Of course, thats the nature of the beast. I said that that wasnt my goal. I wouldnt say no if they asked me to be on there [Direct Effect]. I have never had that support though. My company didnt know how, or didnt want to, or couldnt promote me the way that I was supposed to. But when I go to my next situation itll be lovely. Ive known Em before he was blonde. Hes not any better or worst before meeting Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre hes still dope. Thats the same with Alicia Keys she was signed before and was still great. You just gotta have the right machine behind you. 50 has had two albums out and isnt much different from when he first came out. Its the power of that machine. When youre with the right people then you look like the right person to like. I cannot even find a new locale

HHDX: Could that be why people are saying that you might be signing to G-Unit?

Ras Kass: I dont mind people perceiving it. I just wont say yes or no. [Laughs]

HHDX: With Jay-Z and Nas squashing their beef, 50 trying to extend the olive branch to Jadakiss do you think that this peace will impact the music that comes out?

Ras Kass: Nah. Me, personally no, because everyone is a businessman. We all started out with this dream and this talent. Then we get clique-y. This is the 13th grade, in my opinion. I consider this shit just like it was school you have your popular people, the nerds, the jocks, and so on. We all know one another. Youd never guess it but, like I said before me and David Banner lived with one another. Everyone has probably known each other for quite some time. From doing shows on the road, hitting up the same venues, all these other experiences weve all had together. This is like the damn Mickey Mouse club. Like how Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears knew one another before they blew up thats how the rap game is. Cats aint messing with each other people mainly because of ego. People necessarily do not want other people to shine. The truth of the matter is that people operate under business. Like whats the purpose of Nas doing a song with me? From his point of view, right now, there is none. But if he wasnt doing anything and I become hot its vice versa. Why would I want to mess with Nas if there isnt something in it for me? I mean you do have the cats in the game who do this genuinely from the heart and collaborate on each others projects strictly for the love.

But, in reality, I mean the most that we can do is roll around and fuck bitches together. [Laughs] I just told the dirty little secret. Rappers do not want to work with the cats who arent doing nothing. Why do you think 50 has all these beefs with everyone? Why would he want to work with the cats who thought he wasnt going to ever do nothing?

HHDX: Whats the status of Golden State and the Horseman are those projects that youre still trying to have see the light of day?

Ras Kass: Yeah, as far as the Horsemen is concerned I actually just talked to (Killah) Priest not to long ago. I was supposed to go out with him. Golden State is always gonna be Golden State. My kids call him Uncle X [Xzibit] and his kids call me Uncle Ras Kass. Well always be Golden State.

Whats the status of Re-Up Entertainment? Is Scipio still apart of that?

Ras Kass: You know some people grow in different directions. I think Scip is running with The Game at this point. Re-Up in my company. I want me to be an artist on my label. Thats my attempt to own something. If you dont own nothing in America, then you aint shit anyways. Its an avenue where I can promote the things that I like in Hip-Hop. Because once you get a little bit of money people start respecting you a lot more.

Clich question but what are your thoughts about the game right now? The South seemingly runs it but most people are saying that lyricism is severely lacking.

Ras Kass: I dont know about that. I think T.I., Luda, and DEFINITELY Andre 3000 are lyricists. I think that people spit that raw shit. I dont always want to be lyrical. I just want to see some girls shake they ass in the club [laughs]. Thank God for Lil Jon. I can say that the game is not balanced. I mean theres only one video company. Viacom is a monopoly. Thats where were fucked at. We have three record labels, one video company, and two radio companies. They dont care whats new. They only care about consumer trends. So, whats pop is what has been sold to the public before. There you have the imbalance. Not necessarily the music, per se, but the game definitely is. You dont get the good balance of what all encompasses this music. Its all pretty much the same type of cat doing the same song and dance, getting money.

How do you change it?

Ras Kass: I dont know. If I knew that answer Id be rich already.

Will there be any chance of you making your own 8 Mile or Get Rich or Die Tryin type movie?

Ras Kass: Ah... you know, dude to be honest I definitely would. But you can only do it when people care. Once you sold 10 million, thats when people would care. Eminems life was probably hard for him, but he didnt lose a leg or something like that. Lance Armstrong had cancer and came back from that. When I sell 10 million records, everyone cares then thatd be some shit.

What would you call it?

Ras Kass: Eat My Dick or Fuck You Pay Me. Now You On My Dick.

They say that there is power in numbers if you could form a group right now who would be a part of it and why?

Ras Kass: Dr. Dre and Premier because theyre the dopest producers. They are the two classic great producers in the game right now. I dont know, thats a good ass question. MD, Nas, Rakim, Jadakiss, Jay-Z, Redman, Eminem I think that every four years we should have a Rap Olympics and that people should go into the studio and just knock it out, one take, if you mess up thats it. I bet you that would change the game. Whoevers the livest would shine. Critics would pick the people who are qualified to get in. So the underdogs those on the underground could get a chance to shine. That would be a live concept.

Thats a live concept, you should try and get that out there

Ras Kass: You gotta sell some records before anyone cares what I said.

With all these new acts coming into the game and having some sort of success and influencing millions to follow their movement [no offense] do you think that youre even needed in the game now?

Ras Kass: I think that every time I drop something. I think that Im totally relevant. Umm.. yeah.. I grew up with Spider Loc and all them so I think that I am relevant. Keith Murray used to tell me that Im ahead of my time and this was back in the day. So, Im 2008, so I gotta try and slow down for everyone else. People are just now discovering that Im so relevant that Id have to die and 10 years from people would be saying that Im great.

If there were anything that youd want to let the public know what would you like to say?

Ras Kass: Really just thanks. I havent sold a billion records, but I have been able to live comfortably. Id just like to let all the people know.

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