West Coast Lyricist Ras Kass Gets Real About Trap Music

Ras Kass has lined up artists like Snoop Dogg, Pete Rock, and The Lox for his new album “Soul On Ice 2.”

Ras Kass is one of the dopest lyricist to grace the West Coast, period. In fact, he’s probably your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper on the low. 

Ras Kass, real name John Austin IV, has been spitting since the early 2000’s.

He has undeniably solidified his name in the hip-hop space and has never switched up for anyone. 

Now, Ras Kass follows up his 1996 debut Soul On Ice (via Priority Records) with a part 2, enlisting a gang of both producers and artists including Diamond D, Pete Rock, Snoop Dogg, Immortal Technique, Justice League, Cee-Lo Green, DJ Green Lantern, Everlast, Styles P and M.O.P.


AllHipHop: What was the inspiration behind your name?

Ras Kass: He’s actually a real person, an Ethiopian king.

AllHipHop: Are you Ethiopian?

Ras Kass: I’m not, I’m Creole. Historically, he and Menelik II were fighting for control over a particular part of Ethiopia. He was Yohannes IV and I’m John the 4th.

AllHipHop: Who’s in your Top 5?

Ras Kass: I don’t got a Top 5. KRS-One is my favorite rapper. He’s my favorite favorite favorite, there aren’t too many after that. He’s my favorite because it was smart and it was gangster. 

He could do entertainment and tell you history dates, he was beating cats and throwing them off stage. Album covers with 9mm’s. Everything else… there’s too many. I probably couldn’t get a top 50. There are really dope amazing MCs and some aren’t as popular as the others.

AllHipHop: Any new guys?

Ras Kass: Lots of them. I named Ab-Soul, there’s a lot of dope people. It’s unfair to do that unless… I had this idea: every 4 years, it’s almost like going for President. There should be this Olympics, all the proceeds go to a charity. You take whoever thinks you’re nasty, the people vote. 5 topics, you have 16 bars and you have an hour. No one gets to talk before, they draw ‘em out and put you in a room with no cell phone, no sidekick. Everyone gets the same beat at the same time. You can watch it, livestream it. 

Whoever smokes it, you get to lay your version. You get to hear the next person. All 50, let’s see who can write on the spot. You have to mention these 5 topics that the world voted for, and you’ll find out that half these n##gas are trash. [chuckles] And not that smart. 

I don’t want to not mention people, so many dope people and it might be the dude we haven’t heard of. Little dude that’s 14 from Ireland you don’t know, it’s dope people everywhere.

AllHipHop: How has the state of hip-hop changed?

Ras Kass: The state of hip-hop is the same. Now there’s a predominant form, the popular one that girls like. 

Whatever the girls like is what the guys like, that would be trap music basically. That’s fine, it can all exist. Aesthetically, I like trap beats. 

I don’t like most trap rappers ‘cause a lot of them suck. That’s just my opinion, but it should exist. Some people bar out over it and say dope things. Because I’m more lyrics, more about the lyrical content, I listen for that. So I’m okay with all the production styles, those are always going to change.

AllHipHop: Talk about linking with Styles P & Lil Fame on “Guns N Roses.” 

Ras Kass: I’ve been acquainted with those brothers individually for years. Actually me and The Lox had the same management for a while, so I’d always see Fame out with Statik Selektah at different clubs and bars in New York. 

I was on a song with him back in the day with M.O.P for Big Jaz-O who Jay Z just signed. That’s Hov’s big homie, so I used to be in the studio with them and he put me on record. 

I heard the beat and felt “this could be sick.” It was really dope to be able to reach out to both of them, they nailed it for me. I’m a big Lox fan and M.O.P fan.

AllHipHop: 3 things you need in the studio?

Ras Kass: Cigarettes. I roll my own little buglers, I need that. A little bit of Jameson, or coffee. A little water, little Jameson, a little coffee. That’s when I first go in because I like to work early. I work at noon. Some kind of snacks.

AllHipHop: What kind of snacks do you like?

Ras Kass: Louise’s Trattoria: chicken fettuccine alfredo. It’s this spot on Hollywood, they have a few of them. They have the sun-dried tomatoes that’s fire.

AllHipHop: Anything you want to let us know?

Ras Kass: The lyric book (for Soul On Ice 2) is available with Patchwerk in Atlanta, we partnered up. This is the prototype. It’s a companion piece to the album. The album will be dropping September 6th.