Ras Kass: The New Deal

For Ras Kass, the time is right now. After an official release from Capitol Records/EMI, he’s free to pursue other label options. It’s just too bad it took six years of legal drama for it to finally happen. Now a free agent at 32, everyone is watching to see if the self-proclaimed “King of the West” can reach a level of commercial success equal to the hype that’s surrounded his career for so long.That said, John Austin is clearly in a better mood than he’s been in for a long while. Now ready to part with the past and focus on the task at hand, the Waterproof MC is looking at his next move as a chance to prove his worth to everyone who invested in him. He’s planning to go hard in the paint with his signature “ignelectual” flow, and if you think Rasy is looking to let record sales interfere with his vision of what a classic album is today, you’re dead wrong. Soon to be in a city near you when he finishes parole in December, and the newly crafted Chinese Graffiti street album ready to drop, Ras has a whole lot to look forward to in his future.AllHipHop.com: Ras Kass is a free agent. How’s that feeling right now?Ras Kass: Good dog, I’m chillin.AllHipHop.com: We haven’t spoken with you in a couple years, so you know we’re gonna keep it 100%.Ras Kass: Definitely, definitely. I didn’t have much to talk about! I’ve been working, working a little bit, trying to keep my head above water. It’s definitely a lot of love and a pleasure, I love AllHipHop, honestly.AllHipHop.com: Must be a big week with the news of the release. Ras Kass: It’s been interesting. Unfortunately I slept with the AC on and got sick yesterday. (Laughs) So it’s like something good happens, and I’ve got so much energy, I want to do everything. But that sh** reminded me I’m human, and I had to just slow down for a second.AllHipHop.com: You’ve never been one to bite your tongue, so is there anything you want to get off your chest that you couldn’t let out before?Ras Kass: Naw man, I’m in a good zone. It was a hell of a rodeo, it was an interesting ride. That’s what life is, I guess it’s a trip so…I’m at peace. I’m appreciative for my experience. Some people never get to have the experiences I’ve had. I’ve gotten to travel a big part of the world, I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the world…I’m chillin. (Laughs)AllHipHop.com: So what can you say about why the label released you after five years of litigation?Ras Kass: I can’t…really…speak on it man. It’s one of those situations…I can’t speak on it. (Laughs)AllHipHop.com: Did that open letter you wrote to EMI at the top of the year have something to do with it?Ras Kass: If I had to guestimate, I would just say human beings are human beings, and sometimes after a certain point you just kind of say “What’s the benefit of doing certain things?” Like I said I can’t speak on it at all, but on some real sh**, I’ll just say I had an experience. I’ve used this analogy before to my homeboys about certain things. Do you remember when you was in the third grade, and you got a D on your report card, and you’re literally contemplating jumping out a window like it’s the end of the world for you? How you can look back in two months, two years, however long from a certain thing, and it doesn’t seem so big? I look at my life experiences usually like that anyway, cause that is the ironic thing about life. You look at all these things, and it’s like, “It’s not that bad.” It may be very key experiences in you life, but nothing’s that bad. If you’re still breathing you’ve got a chance.It’s something that’s behind me. I think I kind of reached this conclusion in December, where it was actually like a whole different scenario of somebody who I considered a friend had betrayed me. I know this person is a f***ed up person, and if you put it every other way about who was a better friend, or better human being period, I would win. All I do is lose more of myself by being mad at somebody. So even when it’s hard to forgive, I guess that’s kind of what you gotta do? I don’t know, but I can’t be getting mad at people because it takes too much energy. Hating somebody takes energy, to the point it could start killing you. I don’t want to be on that sh**, and I think I got over it in January to be perfectly honest. What I can do is not allow you to affect me, and share in the good or bad part of my life, and move on. And I don’t think there’s a better way to be, so I’m not too interested in the past. I’m a history person and I love history, and I like to learn from the mistakes of the past, but I don’t want to keep living in the past. I could be like “I should have got five mics like Nas,” but so what? Let’s move on. What am I gonna do today? What am I gonna do now? I gotta man up, and seize the day. Carpe Diem.AllHipHop.com: So does this mean we’re ever going to see the Van Gogh or Golden Chyld albums released now?Ras Kass: That would be their choice. Me personally, I think Golden Chyld was such a dope record. I felt like I had made the quintessential West Coast record, and I’m not the only person that thought that. Paul Rosenburg and [Dr.] Dre were like “Yo, you did that.” Like, that sh** was fresh, for that time, for that day. For me, I have to move on. Whatever I invest emotionally in whatever music I make, and I’ve said this to [AllHipHop.com] before, it’s a time capsule. So that was a time capsule for whatever was going on at that particular time. And of course things change, and the world evolves. I actually listened to maybe half the album, to be honest, about a week ago, and I was like “Yo, this sh** is kind of fresh.” I’m not a person that listens to my own music, but I usually create it and eventually step back, look at it and critique it, and be honest. So I was listening to it, and you know I was thinking, “Damn, this sh** was hot.” If they choose to put it out, it’s fine I think it’s dope. It’s good music period. AllHipHop.com: At the time when the album got deaded by the label, did that wreak havoc with any of the relationships you had built up to that point?Ras Kass: I’m blessed to have a lot of people that I look up to, and a lot of my peers that look at me the same way, to understand where I was and what my situation was, and to want the best for me under the circumstance. A lot of those people that were doing things for me, they were doing them cause they said “I like Rasy, Rasy’s dope. He’s a cool ni*** and I f*** with this dude.” And so things they didn’t have to do, things that weren’t necessarily business viable, win lose or draw they were doing it because they wanted to see me succeed and that was the way they could assist me. I appreciate that man, because a lot of times that’s how a lot of things in my situation got done. So nobody was mad, they just said, “Damn, that sh** was hot.” (Laughs) “It was hot, I’ll listen to that sh** cause I like it, and you my ni***.” And that’s kind of how a lot of my situation went.Of course, everybody wants to see you win. They want to win, and get the championship ring and all that. But it’s not over 'til it’s over, so hey. Here we are today, and I’m out for the championship ring. As far as I’m concerned anybody that had the audacity to mention the top 10 MCs and not mention me because I didn’t sell a million records, well, let me sell this million records so you can better remember me. And that’s just fun sport. (Laughs) It’s not even like I’m mad. I’m like “OK, you thought you could sweep me under the rug because my circumstance was different than before?” OK. Let’s play. Let’s see who’s the hottest.AllHipHop.com: Those that know your music feel like they know you as a person and not just an artist, because you’ve always been honest about everything from your career, to your personal life, to your world views. Is that how you’re trying to keep it?Ras Kass: Yeah, unfortunately I am who I am, and I’ve never tried to do that. That just so happens to be how I write, because I usually just write from what I’m thinking. The funny thing is people go in the studio with me, and it could be Joe Blow or Dr. Dre. We end up sitting around talking, and I have an empty notepad. And basically the whole verse becomes what we just finished talking about. (Laughs) I never realized it, but everybody started getting freaked out about it. “How in the f*** did you just take that inside joke that we just had right now and make it relevant, where the average person catches it but it still sounds hot in this song?” I don’t know how I do that, that’s something God gave me, and I’m thankful to Him for that. I’m just gonna be me man, cause I don’t really know how to be anybody else. Hopefully I’m gonna have the greatest production, the greatest machine, the greatest promotions, the greatest stylist, you know whatever, the greatest look on AllHipHop. It’s proven to me that you can be an incredible MC, you can even make incredible music, but if it’s not promoted correctly who’s gonna know it exists? I understand that fundamental fact, so we’ll see. All I’m gonna do is stick to my guns after learning what I’ve learned.AllHipHop.com: Going into the next album, you must be reluctant to jump into bed with a major label after getting badly burned this last time. We keep hearing rumors of G-Unit, or Def Jam being a possibility, but has the independent scene kept you eating and living comfortably? Ras Kass: Oh yeah, all day. I think to be honest, I’ve been waiting to exhale. I haven’t even completely taken a deep breath. For me, it’s pretty surreal. What a difference a day makes (Laughs). I watched the attitudes change, I watched the interest change. Somebody asked me yesterday, “Ain’t it weird when your phone starts ringing again?” For me, I’d rather it ring than not. But to answer your question, yeah a little bit of me is like “Yo man, I don’t know.” My whole thing is if I fulfill by job obligations and you fulfill yours, then we shouldn’t have a problem. If I don’t fulfill mine, then there should be a problem. If you don’t fulfill yours, I should be able to walk away, period. And that’s just any contract period, I’m not applying that specifically to music, but any deal is a marriage. B**ch we got married, if you cheat on me I can leave you and take most of your sh**, and vice versa. Now when that doesn’t quite work cause there’s all kinds of little tweaks and twerks, that’s a problem, and that’s the kind of position I never want to be in again. I’m hesitant to be in a position where I feel like that is a possibility, so I would make damn sure that I’ve got an incredible lawyer that has my best interest at heart. All I want is a fair shot. If someone is willing to offer me that on my terms, where they feel like I’ve created the foundation for myself, that I have the potential and they’re willing to invest in that, then let’s go. If not, then obviously I’ve kind of been doing it independently anyway without even knowing it, so either way man.I had a limited situation because of what I had created as a scenario for myself. I couldn’t leave California because of a mistake that I made, and I’m on parole 'til December. I’ve missed countless tours, European tours. Japan, Canada. Mexico. (Laughs) So I was f***ed, but I can’t blame anybody but myself. Ironically at the BET Awards I saw KRS-One who I gotta shout out. He got the lifetime achievement award and shouted me out, that was a beautiful look and it was dope. But before that we were talking, and he was like “You ready to go get a million dollars?” Because sometimes we get so wrapped up in America, and there are fans of Hip-Hop and a world that has grown up on Hip-Hop. And there are some people who really appreciate lyrics in Hip-Hop and spittin'. I happen to be a part of this community that people think is nasty, so I don’t ever have to come back to America fam, and I can make a great living. To be honest, Hip-Hop is alive and well outside of America. So who knows, the sky’s the limit and I’ll just play it by ear and make the best of this while I can. I just want to make dope music, with dope people, for people that appreciate dope music. I just want to make me, which is what I’ve always tried to do.