Much like Van Gogh, a 19th century artist who
never attained any real commercial success until after his death, Priority Records
recording artist Ras Kass is struggling with similar obstacles to those of the
famed painter. The fact that Ras Kass’ never-released third album was entitled
Van Gogh, speaks volumes about the frustration felt by arguably the greatest
lyricist to ever emerge from the left coast.
After enduring a four-and-a-half year period
without releasing any new material, although having recorded two new albums
(Van Gogh and Goldyn Chyld), Ras Kass has had enough of the same "bitter
disappointments" that plagued the real Van Gogh. However, unlike Van Gogh,
who would eventually commit suicide, overwhelmed by the obstacles in his life;
Ras Kass has become determined to not let anyone or anything stand in his way
of achieving success with his art.
Ras Kass believes that his only hope to salvage
his art, his career, and his freedom is to demand that he be released from his
recording contract with Priority Records. Unfortunately for Ras Kass his determination
is being once again met by adversity. Ras Kass was recently convicted of a third
DUI and was supposed to begin serving a nine-month prison sentence. So now to
ensure his release from Priority Records, Ras must remain a free man and a fugitive.
AllHipHop.com: Let’s just get right to it. What’s
the deal, you’re on the lamb; what’s goin’ on?
Rass Kass: Really the whole thing is that I been
wasting my time with Priority Records. You gotta keep this in mind, I’m a rapper,
I can’t go work at Sears. So what am I doin’, I’m out here hustlin’ to make
sure I can bring home the ends meet for my children. And I signed a contract
with people who are supposed to allow me to use my craft to make everybody in
turn money. When they decided, basically because they couldn’t use the Dr. Dre
song I got to be the single. Then, they knew actually I had to go to jail five
months beforehand. Everything’s all good, we had a set plan of what we were
gonna do. Soon as they decided that they weren’t gonna put out my record, and
it’s already been a four-year fight (with) me tryin’ to convince some f*ckin’
stupid a** corporate people that my music is worth puttin’ out; if I didn’t
have Eminem on it, or I didn’t have Jay-Z, then it’s not as good of a song.
So when they decided that, basically implying that I go another year or more;
I took my album, I went up there, I took my f*ckin’ hard drive and I left. I’m
not turnin’ myself in when I’m out here, I gotta eat, I been havin’ to eat and
they ain’t fulfilled their side of the bargain. So the jail sh*t, that’s gettin’
sensationalized. I think Priority got mad. If they want the album back, I’m
willing to give ’em the album back, if they give me a release, and that’s all
this is about. And I’ll turn myself in. I’m not goin’ to jail and my children
been havin’ to suffer all this time while I been workin’ hard, really f*ckin’
workin’ hard. And then I’m gonna get slapped in the f*ckin’ face, like the month
before I’m about to turn myself in, they decide because Dre doesn’t want his
song to be the first single. He didn’t have any objections with it being a single.
I had a song that was supposed to be the single, they didn’t even work that
record. The title song that (DJ) Premier did for me, "Goldyn Chyld."
Well these people have never shown me any f*ckin’ form of respect, and then
you think I’m a let you keep an album and you ain’t puttin’ it out anyway. So
f*ck you. You sayin’ f*ck me, f*ck you, I’ll take my sh*t, and you ain’t paid
half these producers, and Priority Records also f*cked off a million dollar
deal for a year before a court case with me and Xzibit at Columbia for the Golden
State (Project). These people are sayin’ f*ck my kids and f*ck how we gon’ live
and eat, and I’m not playin’ that f*ckin’ game. This is just how I feel. I’m
not goin’ to jail, then catch me if you can, just like that movie. I’m Leo Decapribro.
(laughs) Catch me if you can, and I’m not runnin’, I’ma sell albums, I’m still
doin’ me. I don’t really appreciate n***as blowin’ up the spot, but I’m not
livin’ in New York, if you do catch me, you’ll catch me in Cali.
AllHipHop.com: So are you basically just lookin’
for independent distribution right now then?
RK: I’m not really lookin’ for anything,
I’m lookin’ to be released from the f*ckin’ plantation.
AllHipHop.com: Are you concerned that the fact that
now you have taken off, this is gonna jeopardize the whole criminal situation?
RK: I already knew what my situation would
be before I did it. I’m not a stupid cat. I weighed the pros with the cons,
and I had to explain to certain people in my life what I was willing to do and
what I wasn’t willing to do. They had a year to negotiate a deal, a million
dollar deal which benefits their artist in the long-term, puttin’ out the Golden
State (Project) record, which probably with Dr. Dre doin’ at least two (tracks),
might get an Eminem on it. You don’t have to spend anything to make some money
and put your artist in a position where at least now he’s a gold artist or a
platinum artist. And they were too stupid to even do that. They f*cked off the
deal. Xzibit got breached, they lost our deal, not because of me, but I feel
responsible because Priority Records is ridiculous. They’re ridiculous, like
really f*ckin’ like a plantation over there. And I looked at my pros and cons;
I had to be a man about it. I made a mistake, I’m willing to suffer the consequences,
but I’m not willing to keep workin’ for somebody who’s not gonna work for me.
AllHipHop.com: I understand the label woes, but aren’t
you concerned that this situation could now turn a nine-month thing into a long-term
RK: Nine months is not short. Anything
over an hour is long-term. I understand that. So nine-months, a year-and-a-half;
what’s really the difference? I had to weigh those pros and cons from the beginning.
I weighed ’em in the middle of the night, during the day, talked to people that
I could trust and told ’em, well this is what I’m considering. They left me
no choice. I’m a man before I’m a rapper, or any of all this other sh*t. I’m
a father before that. I worked real f*ckin’ hard for a long time and still ain’t
seen nothin’ but a slap in the face. And if I made one mistake, that’s fine
I’m willing to suffer the consequences. But I’m not goin’ now. Catch me if you
can, I’m here to get a release from Priority Records. And if the people give
a f*ck about a jail case, I really don’t understand what all the f*ckin’ excitement
is about. But Wendy Williams is gonna talk about it, and it’s all on the 2way
and all on the internet. I mean I’m a great artist, and I been a great artist
since I was sixteen, seventeen. I’m here to spit and get my Eminem money, and
my Jay-Z money, and my Nas money. I just want my opportunity to provide for
my family, and if in the annals of hip-hop I get to be declared what I truly
think I am anyway, one of the greatest MC’s ever, then so be it. I’m not really
wrapped up in that, I’m more wrapped up in providing for my children, and I
worked too hard to get slapped in the face. They been slappin’ me in the face
for four years.
AllHipHop.com: But aren’t you concerned that this
is not only gonna jeopardize your freedom, but it’s also gonna jeopardize your
career potential long-term? I mean this basically could turn into a Keith Murray
RK: I doubt it, and I’m not concerned with
that. First of all, I have a criminal lawyer that’s dealin’ with this. I’m not
just out here wildin’. I have a lawyer that’s dealin’ wit it, and if I turn
myself in, within a certain amount of time, I still just go through the same
bid. So I have that time to be here and take a stand. You really need to understand
that this is not about me per se. I love my kids more than I love me. So it’s
about me gettin’ what they deserve, it ain’t about nothin’ else. And all this
other sh*t is romanticized and 2way information and sh*t like that, gossip.
I don’t give a f*ck about that sh*t. I been to jail before, I’m not afraid of
AllHipHop.com: Initially I thought this was all over
somethin’ else. In your song "The Evil That Men Do" from your debut
album Soul On Ice, you spoke of your incarceration for vehicular manslaughter
when you were a teenager. Does your fleeing from this have anything to do with
that case? Are you concerned that prior could possibly be held against you?
RK: No that was already dealt with when
the sentence was handed (down). It definitely didn’t affect it. I shoulda been
smarter than to put myself in that position again, because I just can’t afford
it with the mistakes that I made when I was younger. So it’s all my fault, I
take all due responsibility for it. Some people can’t afford to do that, some
people get away with it. But it only takes one time to get caught. It’s like
murder, you can keep gettin’ away with it, it’s just that one time you get caught
you gonna have to suffer the consequences. So yeah it definitely comes into
play, that Ras’ that was stupid of you, that was irresponsible. I know, and
I’m willing to accept my punishment for somethin’ that I did. But I came too
far and worked too hard to not be able to provide for my kids fair and squarely.
A lot of my f*ckin’ legal woes was based on goin’ out here and doin’ what I
gotta do to get money. And all I’m askin’ is for a clean slate. And these people
really have denied me that for the past two years. Trust me, this is nothin’
new. Priority Records been knowin’ Ras Kass was like "just release me."
I’m not happy here, you don’t do sh*t for me. I can do better by my gotdamn
AllHipHop.com: This is a hell of a way to try to
get out of a deal though.
RK: Well, I’m willing to try whatever it
takes. This is by all means necessary for me.
AllHipHop.com: So how you been holdin’ up through
RK: I’m unaffected. I have to be a thinking
person. I have to think about what I’m doin’. I gotta be careful. At some point,
either I’m gonna get caught, or I’m gonna turn myself in. There’s only seven
years, I didn’t kill nobody or nothin’. There’s only seven years, maybe I can
stay out of dodge for seven years. I don’t plan on it. I ‘d rather go turn myself
in and pay my debt to society, to be honest. But until (then) I’m using this
as a platform to explain how f*ckin’ completely racist and for some strange
reason, how extraordinarily f*cked up Priority Records has been to me. And all
I’m askin’ for is a release. They weren’t gonna put the album out. If they woulda
put the album out, I’d be in jail right now.
AllHipHop.com: So is that basically all it’s gonna
take, just a release?
RK: They give me a release, I’m fine. They
can take points, rollovers, or whatever. I’m just not a f*ckin’ slave. I’m not
gonna allow these people to treat me like a f*ckin’ n***er. I done did that.
I tried to be too civil with these people and I don’t think they understand
that they f*ckin’ with peoples lives. And that’s exactly what this is about;
it’s about nothin’ other than.
AllHipHop.com: So that’s all it’s gonna take to end
this whole thing?
RK: Priority Records need to leave me the
f*ck alone. They can have the album back, I told ’em that. It’s not like I can’t
make more. I took the album because they said f*ck me and my kids, so f*ck you.
You think I’m goin’ to jail knowin’ these people sayin’ f*ck me again, and they
keep tryin’ to tell me that for the past four years this is all my fault? And
we know this is not the case. I’m not takin’ that, my children don’t deserve
it. I’d be a b*tch if I went to jail like that.
AllHipHop.com: I just think it’s f*cked up, you finally
get Dre and Primo on the same album and this sh*t happens.
RK: Well you know, everything happens for
a reason. I gotta give it to God and be a soldier about it. I’m willing to own
up to my mistakes, but I’m not willing to keep lettin’ somebody abuse me; this
sh*t is oppression.
AllHipHop.com: So they just got you in some Prince
RK: Yeah, and I’ll write slave on my cheek
all day. And whatever it takes, I’m gonna change my situation. If this is gonna
garner attention, if people like enjoy other peoples misery, well f*ck it I
might go to jail, who gives a f*ck. I’ll run around with a "free Ras Kass"
t-shirt all day. Please don’t get it f*cked up. If that’s what you wanna see,
if that’s entertainment to you, I’ll do that. But it ain’t about that.
AllHipHop.com: Well ironically this is turnin’ into
RK: Yeah, ironically. I didn’t really plan
on nobody really givin’ a f*ck. I figured it’d be on the 2way one time, and
that would be it. But f*ck it, people wanna hear my story. This is my platform.
Any artist knows what I’m talkin’ about. And you gotta do what you gotta do.
We all grown a** men, and I’m not lettin’ no f*ckin’ corporate people take advantage
and f*ck off my kids life. I could see if I just didn’ t wanna work, (but) I’m
sayin’ "hey I wanna work." Give me the opportunity to work, let me
provide for my kids, whether that record sells two copies or sells two million
copies, give me the opportunity to work, ’cause that’s what I signed on to do.
Or if not, leave me alone and let me go do my thing elsewhere, whether it’s
with another label or by myself. That’s the bottom line.
AllHipHop.com: I don’t wanna dime you out here, but
can you tell our readers anything about where you’re at, at the current moment?
RK: I don’t think it’s anybody’s business.
AllHipHop.com: Ok. That’s understandable. What I’m
tryin’ to clear up is that there were a couple of sites that leaked (your location).
Actually Priority did you a favor there and leaked that you were in N.Y.
RK: Yeah, ’cause they’re f*ckin’ dry snitchin’.
I would just say, that’s the plantation, I’m just a field n***a. And I refuse
to be a f*ckin’ house n***a and some coon for these f*ckin’ people. And yeah,
they can snitch and they can be mad, because the bottom line is Wendy Goldstein,
and please print her name, and Andrew Shack, they’re f*ckin’ racist people that
abuse artists. And all I’m sayin’ is, if you wanna sh*t on me, f*ck me, then
f*ck you. All I’m askin’ for is a simple release. Xzibit just tried to buy me
out. They act ridiculous. He was gonna buy ’em out for some ridiculous amount
of money. And then have the nerve to say, "well we’re not gonna say anything
until you give us back our album." And they haven’t even paid Mike City,
one of my original producers. Still ain’t paid these people for two years. It’s
not they f*ckin’ album, and it’s my soul on it. So what the f*ck do I owe them?
AllHipHop.com: Before we go, is there anything that
you would like to say to all of your fans out there?
RK: Just to my fans, I hope I gave some
clarity as to why I’m doin’ what I’m doin’. Aside from that, just look out for
this Re-Up album. My company is called Re-Up Entertainment, so I was
gonna call my album Ras Kass Presents The Re-Up. But my homeboy said
I should call it The Fugitive (laughs), so I may just call it Ras
Kass Presents The Fugitive.