Ras Kass: Long Way Back

Ras Kass has been out of prison for ten months. Rumors have swirled that he’s on the verge of signing to G-Unit, that he’s swinging vocal jabs at The Game, and that he’s tucked away recording a classic. Last month, Ras released a mixtape-album, Institutionalized that has critics smiling, and the industry ducking for cover. […]

Ras Kass has been out of prison for ten months. Rumors have swirled that he’s on the verge of signing to G-Unit, that he’s swinging vocal jabs at The Game, and that he’s tucked away recording a classic. Last month, Ras released a mixtape-album, Institutionalized that has critics smiling, and the industry ducking for cover. One thing is painfully clear – Ras Kass is out to make up lost time.

C-Arson, California’s proudest MC clears up the mill, and discusses some of the more ambiguous lyrics from his mixtape, as well as his deep friendship with another rapper that may stun you. Welcome back, Ras!

AllHipHop.com: Institutionalized just got an XL rating in XXL. With this acclaim, why is this a mixtape and not an album? Is it because of the Priority Records situation?

Ras Kass: To be honest, it’s a little bit of both. It’s definitely part of the legal situation. The other part is, I’ve had two albums that came out, commercially and two that basically, that didn’t. I didn’t want this to be what people would officially consider to be my album. The album that I got prepared, when things are right, I’m trying to change the game, I’m trying to make a classic.

AllHipHop.com: It’s just remarkable to see a meaningful artist mixtape that has all original work, and get great reviews like this…

Ras Kass: I’m real blessed. Not to take from it, because I gave it 110%, but I got so much more. I called it mixtape ‘cause I wanted to feed the streets. I’m not trying to be on 106 & Park and Direct Effect with it, this is my street album – I’ll call it that. It’s a precursor.

AllHipHop.com: You seem so angry on this thing, like cocky mad. My favorite record you ever did was “Skills” with Evil Dee, and this really comes back to that, what set you off besides prison?

Ras Kass: I really just came out with a battery in my back. It was all inside of me, but I definitely credit David Banner. He came out and put a battery in my back, “Caution” was the result of that. I’ve been knowing David for a long time. We actually used to live together back in New York like six or seven years ago. He was one of the first to reach out like, “Yo n***a, you been the s**t, you gotta let these b*tches know.” You right David, let me let these b*tches know. That’s why I came hungry.

AllHipHop.com: You interpolate lyrics from everybody from Jay-Z to the X-Clan on there. It’s a Hip-Hop savvy record. But you do say, “This mixtape is better than any album this year.” Is this the answer to the records you’re not feeling?

Ras Kass: Not really. My thing was, hot is not necessarily dope. Somebody can get hot in this music industry and sell a lot of records, but it doesn’t mean the music was good. I just was bringing back the focus of hot – spitting flaming s**t with nice production, giving ‘em something to think about. It wasn’t directed at any artist, just the industry.

AllHipHop.com: Okay, so what’s your favorite album this year?

Ras Kass: That’s a good question. To be honest with you, I never can name one. I enjoy a lot of everybody’s music, so I really can’ say.

AllHipHop.com: Your boy David Banner is supposed to have a beast of an album…

Ras Kass: It’s definitely a hot album. It’s a dope ass album. He has a f**kin’ song dedicated to the West Coast. You know, Hip-Hop started in New York. The West Coast took an interpretation of it and expanded on Hip-Hop. Now you see the South, and they’re expanding on it too. After a certain point, when there was East and West only on MTV and BET, the South could relate more to the West Coast, culturally. Most of us, our grandparents are directly from the South. What he did is, he’s got a song where he’s spittin’ to everybody on the West who he respected. I think that’s dope ‘cause right now, the South got it. It’s like 2Pac’s “Old School” with the Grand Puba sample.

AllHipHop.com: What were you doing living together?

Ras Kass: We were living with Wendy Day around ’99, when he was ending the deal with Crooked Lettaz.

AllHipHop.com: When we caught you after you were released, we asked how much writing you did in the pen. You said a lot. “Shine” certainly feels like that. That song’s interesting. How much of this material is from inside?

Ras Kass: “Shine” was written in prison as a three-verse record, and “Write Where I Left Off.”

AllHipHop.com: You’re a historically cocky dude. “Shine” touches on having to masturbate in jail. Was that a difficult wall to break as an MC?

Ras Kass: It’s funny, because you tend to forget certain things – you have happy moments or sad moments, but you can never remember the specifics of it. Sometimes, when you talk to people who can relate, it’ll come out. With that record, it’s me sitting there, doing a case study. I never cried in prison. [laughs] But I’d get frustrated as f**k some days, and I’d just observe people being real honest.

AllHipHop.com: On “Air ‘Em Out,” you said “I don’t do dis records as a claim to fame, if I got problems with a n***a, I’m just saying your name.” Was that directed towards the Game situation? I know our Rumors section might’ve fueled a lot of that fire…

Ras Kass: Pretty much. I’ve never had a problem with AllHipHop though, period. People can infer what they want. But yeah, it’s like when somebody gets hot… I did this song a while back called “Catch Me if You Can,” and I said, “Buck 50, f**k Whitney,…” At the time, 50 was just getting hot. This was like two and a half years ago, and everybody could’ve swore I said, “F**k 50,” ‘cause 50 was becoming more relevant. People always refer to the Rap game as “the game.” All of a sudden, because this particular dude pops up and you gotta be careful what you say ‘cause you might be perceived as talkin’ ‘bout him. I’m a firm believer of f**k that. I’m not gonna change my lyrics because you put yourself in a certain position. If people want to try to relate certain things to certain things, that’s fine too. I’m not gonna hold my tongue. I like to say what the f**k I feel. Some things definitely ain’t for me to explain. My bottom is always what it was, which is, if I got a certain problem with a n***a, I’ll say it to him. Aside from that, I’m not gonna tuck my tail. If a n***a got a problem with me, he can see me in the streets. If he wanna see me on the mic, I’m always here – he probably can’t win that one. It’s better to shoot me.

AllHipHop.com: There’s rumor that Game is running around with your former artist, Scipio – who’s absent from this album. So the thing does look shaky from an outsider’s viewpoint…

Ras Kass: To be honest with you, while I was in prison, Scipio and The Game were hangin’. They might be, that’s… everything happens for a reason, man. I gotta let people go they path. It don’t change mine. Like I said, I don’t have no love lost. I done been through grown man s**t, pretty much my whole life – so that kid s**t or that industry s**t, it’s an incredible machine. I’m not fearin’ it. I’ve faced every demon I’ve had to. I’m not concerned with what the next man’s doing. If you ain’t on my team, fine – do what you gotta do. I’ll meet ya at the top, that’s my logic.

AllHipHop.com: You have the Clayton Bixby interludes, then say On “The Bizness” “Quit calling me racist, I know plenty of wiggers,” Was racism ever in question?

Ras Kass: Certain lines in my songs… I can recall, real accurately, going to Germany, and I love going to different countries. They don’t take English for granted. They learn all the words through this Rap s**t. I respect that, of course. They don’t say, “He rappin’ over a cool beat,” they wanna know what the f**k you sayin’, too. In a slew of interviews in Germany after Rasassination, on “I Ain’t F**kin’ With You” I said, “White people burn ya church / See ya in the mall, then clutch they purse / Treat a n***a like dirt / When the Black man was here first / That’s why I be on one officially / F**k White people in general, and f**k police, specifically.” So they was like, “Why do you say this about White people?” Well for one, were churches not burnt and bombed? Do some people still not wanna live in a neighborhood around Blacks? I didn’t say nothin’ that wasn’t true. Why does this bother you so much? This is one reference in one verse with an album with 17 songs. On these other songs, I’m talkin’ ‘bout f**k b######, on other songs I’m sayin’ how I ain’t s**t – I should be in another career. Just ‘cause you White, don’t get mad when I talk about White people, ‘cause when I talk about n***as and Black b######, it’s entertainment. Same goes for calling me a gay basher. Be fair about it. Don’t call me a racist, or a misogynist, you can call me a misanthropist. A misanthropist is somebody who hates humanity. [laughs] That’d be taking it far [too].

AllHipHop.com: Plus, you’ve worked with Wendy Day, David Axelrod, Stoupe, etc. These are White people…

Ras Kass: Yupp. Dude, I’m not no colored person. At the end of the day, some of my favorite people in this world are… Wendy Day’s a White chick. She carry a big f**kin’ gun and she will shoot you too, she a gangsta! I’m not a colored person, I’m an individual. People who have contributed to me having a harder life are Black people sometimes. Whatever. B*tches ain’t s**t. N***as ain’t s**t. Some of you White people ain’t s**t too. F**k, I’m an all-opportunity ‘f**k all y’all.’

AllHipHop.com: In online Hip-Hop, your career has been interesting. One of the biggest actions I ever witnessed was the petition to get you released from the Priority contract. People, worldwide, held you down in the pen. That said, fans expressed to me that you’ve ignored them through the site since you’ve been out. It’s a weird thing to bring up, but your fans…

Ras Kass: You know what? I’m not the most computer-literate person. I’ll profess to say that. I just bought a laptop last week, my twins broke [my other one]. [laughs] I usually get help from people who assist me in my day-to-day life. I know I had intended to do a forum and speak to people every other month, but my s**t crashed. That’s how we lost the whole petition. My server crashed. To this day, the site is not operational. I’m not proud of that, but I gotta worry about parole and this, that, and the third. I just kinda stuck to my guns and do the things that would benefit in the long-term. I am totally appreciative to everybody who took the time to sign that petition. Thanks for giving me the motivation. You can’t please everybody, I wish I could, I probably won’t. I focused on the things that are most important: me getting some quality material was more important than anything else. I’m used to a certain lifestyle: new shoes, crispy watch, money for studio time. This is five or six years of me not having a job. Theoretically, how was I supposed to feed my kids, let alone have a haircut? I’m sorry I can’t please everybody, but I think I’ve done an incredible job. My Eight Mile is a mothaf**ka! My s**t is the Oscar winner.

AllHipHop.com: Sha Money XL was a part of Institutionalized and 40 Glocc is rolling with them. Everyone is speculating that when the paperwork clears, you’re G-Unit. What kind of comment can you give me to that?

Ras Kass: Uh, I can say this much: Whoo-Kid, my n***ga Storm, who manages Mobb Deep, P and Havoc, Shine from Shade 45, Paul Rosenberg, Doc [Dre], Busta Rhymes, them n***as have been nothing but supportive to me. I appreciate them n***as. It’s all extended family one way or another. I’m blessed to have n***as in power believe in me. We’ll see what the future holds. I’m not exactly sure. I’m f**kin’ Erin Brockavich and n***as in the industry is about to pull off and murk out.