In celebration of Independence Day, today's overlong post (which will remain at the top of the page for four days due to its length) is devoted to the efforts of an artist who tried his damnedest to free himself from the shackles imposed on him by his record label. For all of my readers outside of the United States, today's post is about Ras Kass, but you should still read it anyway.
Now Ras Kass, born John Austin IV, has been the recipient of a lot of shit from me on HHID, but let me make it clear that none of my trash-talking has ever been directed at his talent behind the microphone. Although the man is prone to overly loquacious verses that sound at least three minutes longer than they actually are, Rassy is considered one of the better rappers from the West Coast (and in our chosen genre as a whole) for a reason: the man can fucking spit. Combined with having something to actually say, Ras Kass should have been a beast in the booth, selling out venues and watching with glee as his first two solo albums, Soul On Ice and Rassassination, flew off store shelves. Instead, Rassy has become an also-ran, a man with actual talent who has yet to stumble upon the correct combination to unlock the secrets of having and retaining a massive fanbase. In short, his taste in instrumentals is fucking terrible, so much so that now, every time I come across an artist who has the talent but not the ear needed to keep things either interesting or enjoyable, I diagnose them with having "Ras Kass syndrome", a phrase that has also earned me a bunch of shit throughout the run of this site, but I'm still right.
Rassy also believed that I was right, apparently, as his planned third solo project for Priority Records, Van Gogh, was his attempt to appease his label gods by diverting attention away from his impressive lyricism in favor of catchier beats and cameos from West Coast artists that would help the audience remember that, yes, Ras Kass was a California-based rapper. After handling a lot of the production himself on Soul On Ice (in a co-producer capacity, but he was still behind the boards) and ceding much of Rasassination to the likes of Stu-B-Doo and, strangely, East Coast stalwarts Big Jaz and Easy Mo Bee, John decided to actually spend some of his label's money for Van Gogh, securing assistance from names such as Battlecat and Jelly Roll in a musical capacity and Xzibit, Tash, Nate Dogg, Tray Dee, Saafir, and Kokane in the booth, a decided change of pace from his sophomore effort, which included The RZA, Jazze Pha, and Twista pulling their weight.
Rassy even went so far as to reserve a beat from The Alchemist for what was supposed to be the first single from Van Gogh, "Home Sweet Home". Unfortunately, this instrumental was the cause of some controversy in our chosen genre, as Al then turned around and sold it to Yonkers-based rapper Jadakiss (from The Lox) for his single "We Gonna Make It", which left Ras Kass high and dry. Forced to reconfigure Van Gogh, Rassy decided to record a response track of sorts admonishing The Alchemist for his shady business practices, which I'll be getting to in a bit.
Unfortunately for him, Van Gogh was heavily bootlegged on the Interweb well before its intended release date in 2001, which led Priority Records to ultimately scrap the project almost entirely. This frustrated Rassy to no end, because he was unhappy with his label situation (he felt that he had never truly had the full support of their marketing department, which had the adverse effect of causing his first two albums to tank) and wanted nothing but to get the fuck off of Priority. Their decision to shelve Van Gogh meant that Rassy had to essentially start all over again in order to release a third album in his contract, keeping him permanently housed between a rock and a hard place.
1. HOT GAME
The third album from Ras Kass starts off with a song on which our host acknowledges the existence of other rappers, which isn't what you expect from a guy who is this full of himself. He has complimentary words for the likes of Eminem, Jay-Z, and 2Pac, but everyone else can fuck themselves in hell, apparently, as this diatribe against the lack of variety in our chosen genre moves itself along. Rassy spits enough goofy punchlines to help listeners remember why they might be listening to Van Gogh in the first place, but the use of Sunshine Anderson's lone hit “Heard It All Before” during the chorus, utilized to drive our host's point home, dilutes the overall message, especially since, at this point, we've all heard Ghostface Killah do essentially the same thing with her song to much better effect. This was alright, but it wasn't real.
2. GOLDYN CHILD
Whenever this song comes up in a conversation about Ras Kass, the participants are almost certainly talking about its DJ Premier-produced remix: most heads seem to have forgotten about this original incarnation, rumored to have been produced by Dr. Dre (although I highly doubt it). Rassy builds his case for being one of the top representatives of West Coast hip hop, and lyrically, the dude is still pretty fascinating (he's always had a way with words that lend a heightened credibility to his sarcastic verses), but if Van Gogh is his attempt to appease a commercial audience (and his label), crawling up his own asshole isn't the way to do it. Also, the beat is dull: it only sounds a tiny bit better than the instrumentals from Soul On Ice and Rasassination, so there's still his "Ras Kass syndrome" to contend with.
3. BACK IT UP (FEAT. KOKANE)
This beat sounds like something Xzibit would have rhymes over after hooking up with Dr. Dre's crew and playing to a wider audience, so it's strange to hear Ras Kass taking the Alvin Joyner route. This track isn't awful: it has an undeniable Cali feel, and the hook, provided by Kokane, lends itself to the party atmosphere, even if our host's lyrics frequently slide back into old habits. His reference to The Weakest Link dates this song terribly, but otherwise, this track was alright. Not really what you expect, or even want, to hear from Ras Kass, though.
4. KISS U (FEAT. SIDELINE)
As a “fuck you” to The Alchemist, “Kiss U” kicks off with the beginning of “Home Sweet Home”, with Rassy interrupting the track to point the listener toward “Kiss U” instead, with its attempt at an ethereal chorus falling flat but still connecting with the beat (produced by DJ Khalil, I believe), which sounds more experimental than anything our host has a right to use. Sure, the hook (liberally borrowed from the Beatles song “All My Loving”) makes zero fucking sense within the context of Rassy's shit-talking, but as a car wreck, it works surprisingly well. Our host brings in his weed carrier Sideline for the third verse, on which he pledges his allegiance to Ras Kass by taking a potshot at Al Maman (who Ras then calls “a bitch”). This would have to be one of the worst songs I've ever actually liked: there is no reason that any of this should click with me, but it just does. And I still like this shit today. Sue me.
5. KICK ROCKS (FEAT. TRAY DEEE)
Although Ras Kass is the star, I was still hoping for a guest verse from Tray Deee, as I've liked the work he's put out thus far. Sadly, he's stuck doing the chorus (and the outro, for some reason) on this song, but it's not like any sort of deviation would have mattered anyway: this song sucks regardless. Ras Kass doesn't sound good over minimalist beats such as this one: he spends the entire time trying to catch up with it, spitting random bars that seem to have made the final cut simply because they happened to rhyme. This was pretty bad.
6. 4 MUCH (FEAT. BAD AZZ, TASH, & NATE DOGG)
But not as bad as this horseshit, which works better as four guys talking shit while sitting around Rassy's living room than it does an actual song. “4 Much”, a failed attempt at coining a new slang phrase for being extra busy and working hard (doing “four much” instead of “too much”, you see), is the most ridiculous track in our host's back catalog thus far, as he adapts an ill-advised persona as an actual successful rapper who is living the high life, with all of the trappings (cars, money, bitches, cash, pussy, weed, vehicles, large bank accounts, pot, transportation, ass, wheels, hos, marijuana, and all the cereal you could ever want) that come with it, but since he's never really acted this superficial before (he's had his moments, sure, but the fact that he's actually fairly grounded is what makes him appealing to hip hop heads...that, and his lyrics, of course), he sounds entirely artificial, and the song crumbles under the pressure. Not even cameos from Tash (from Tha Alkaholiks) and the late Nate Dogg can save this shit. Bad Azz, though, I could take or leave.
7. WHAT U WANT (FEAT. MIKE CITY)
In which our host's master plan makes itself known: Ras Kass planned on filling Van Gogh with tracks that, on the surface, sounded like more traditional (read: mainstream) songs, but he packed his verses full of his typical obtuse lyricism and occasionally hilarious side comments, in an attempt to both have his cake and fuck the shit out of it, too. Why else would there be so many goddamn R&B hooks on a Ras Kass album? For his part, Mike City doesn't disrupt the song when he starts crooning, but our host sounds more than a little bit out of his league. The instrumental was actually alright, for what it is: it's Rassy himself who sinks this shit, as he tries to hit on chicks without dumbing himself down (which, by itself, is an admirable trait, but on a rap song, takes a certain combination of skill and luck, and our host just doesn't hit the jackpot on here).
8. IS THIS LOVE
More than a little bit confusing. The chorus (performed by an uncredited guest) has hardly anything to do with Rassy's two verses, but then again, that could be said of nearly all of the tracks on Van Gogh thus far. It seems as though our host actively focused all of his energy on solving his biggest problem, getting his ear for beats looked at and adjusted, but when you're presented with better instrumentals, you still have to learn how to write an actual song, which Rassy never bothered with during his previous two lyrical seminars, Soul On Ice and Rasassination. And his work suffers as a result. I lost the plot to this track about four bars in, but that might also be due to the overall boredom factor.
9. SEX (FEAT. XZIBIT)
Jelly Roll's beat adopts an experimental drum-n-bass quality, automatically making it the most interesting instrumental of the evening thus far, unless you happen to hate that particular musical genre, in which case you're fucked, as Rassy adapts to it fairly nicely. He even manages to stay on topic for the most part, which isn't hard, as sex is one of those things that rappers usually have no trouble talking about at length. Xzibit is completely wasted in his role on the hook, though: sometimes you have to ask yourself why some artists make the decisions they do. Anyway, “Sex” wasn't that bad, even if I can't remember a single fucking thing that Rassy said.
10. NBA (FEAT. XZIBIT & SAAFIR)
The trio of Ras Kass, Xzibit, and Saafir used to be called the Golden State Warriors before the NBA threatened legal action, so it makes sense that these guys would eventually write a song around an instrumental which samples from the theme to those NBA On NBC games. (What makes less sense is their rechristening the titular acronym to “N----z Ball Automatically”, because shut up, that's why.) Anyway, this song was pretty bland (when it comes to ripping off the music from sports programming, this shit has got nothing on Cam'ron's Monday Night Football-leaning “Let Me Know”), and both Rassy and Alvin Joyner sound bored as shit. At least they fare better than veritable punchline Saafir, who was awoken from hibernation to record his verse before he was banished back to his cave. Meh.
11. ONE NIGHT
I suspect that Ras Kass was obsessed with hitting on chicks during the recording sessions of Van Gogh because he was very lonely and secretly hated being cooped up in the studio, even though he knew that he was stuck with Priority until he finished the job. Or maybe he just wanted a metric ton of pussy. It's plausible, I suppose. (At least he didn't become super-obsessed with a woman and chop off his own ear as a sign of affection. I don't think that act would play very well in our chosen genre.) At least those explanations make more sense than Ras Kass actually believing that he had a genuine shot at building a female fanbase by recording all of these radio-friendly, club-ready songs that sound so unlike our host's natural tendencies that he might have been replaced by decaf.
What the fuck was this shit supposed to be, Rassy?
13. ROOT OF EVIL (FEAT. KOKANE)
Rassy takes a brief trip back to social commentary land, breaking his train of thought regarding the evils of wealth (and, more specifically, the wealthy, twisting this into a spin on the conspiracy theory rhymes that our host tends to excel at) into three separate segments so that a chorus from Kokane can fit in an inappropriate manner. I really don't understand why Ras Kass decided to follow the road more heavily traveled on here: without the hook, this song might have worked all by itself. Sigh.
14. VAN GOGH
Van Gogh's title track explores Rassy's struggles with his career and with his record label, not really touching on any specific reason why Priority Records sucks, but giving listeners just enough information to keep them on his side of the feud. The simple string-based loop of a beat is okay enough for our host to lyrically demolish: he actually sounds focused for the very first time on this album, which is a problem when you consider that we're almost done here. The hook is ass, though: it made me want to break my (burned) disc in half and slice your wrists with the shards, just so you motherfuckers can feel my pain.
15. TV GUIDE
Ras Kass gets his GZA/Genius on, attempting to string together the names of television programs, actors, and actual networks into a coherent narrative, and while he fails spectacularly, this song isn't awful: Ras sounds engaged, and it clearly took him a while to gather all of his date and write this shit up, so I'll award him a couple of points. There was no need for there to be a chorus: he should have run all of this together in a long one-verse wonder, as the breaks between bars only forces the listener to notice the gimmick, and it gives you time to turn against our host. The ending is also too fucking serious to be linked to the rest of this goofy song. Groan.
A second, revised version of Van Gogh leaked to the Interweb shortly after the first one arrived on hard drives the world over.
1. VAN GOGH INTRO
Well, that rap album intro was unnecessary. More so than usual.
2. HOT GAME
3. GOLDYN CHILD
4. BACK IT UP (FEAT. KOKANE)
5. KISS OF DEATH (FEAT. SIDELINE)
Formerly known as “Kiss U”, except with an altered chorus, one that doesn't rip off the very-expensive-to-sample Beatles any longer. The revamped hook on here is fucking godawful, by the way. Other than a new hook and a different guest verse from Sideline, this is the exact same song, though: Rassy even still kicks off the proceedings with the beginning of “Home Sweet Home”, because at that time, he was simply unable to let shit go. Once again, “Kiss U” isn't that great of a song (it's really more of a guilty pleasure for me), but it's streets ahead of this adjusted version. Rassy doesn't even get a chance to dis The Alchemist at the end of this remake, which makes the intro sound even more out of place.
6. SEX (FEAT. XZIBIT)
7. IS THIS LOVE
8. TWINS (SKIT)
Cute, I suppose, but this bit of interaction didn't really need to be recorded for posterity. It's funny to hear Rassy about to crack up over what his kids are saying on this skit, though.
9. KICK ROCKS (FEAT. TRAY DEEE)
10. 4 MUCH (FEAT. BAD AZZ, TASH, & NATE DOGG)
11. WHAT U WANT (FEAT. MIKE CITY)
12. NBA (FEAT. XZIBIT & SAAFIR)
13. TV COMMERCIALS (SKIT)
Attempts to be funny, but is only useful if you really want to annoy somebody.
14. TV GUIDE
The same song as appears on the first cut of Van Gogh, except with an added exclamation mark, ribbed for your pleasure.
16. ONE NIGHT
17. ARE U MAD (SKIT)
18. ROOT$ OF EVIL (FEAT. KOKANE)
The same track as “Root Of Evil”, but with the addition of a dollar sign to the title, because Ras Kass doesn't seem to think that his audience can draw their own conclusions.
19. VAN GOGH
20. IGNANT (SKIT)
21. GOD BLESS
The lone all-new song on the “retail” version of Van Gogh finds Rassy waxing poetic about death and why you should be appreciating life while you still can. Considering the sheer volume of focus present on this track, it's clear that “God Bless” was recorded long after the rest of Van Gogh, as Ras actually sounds sincere (except for on the hook, as repetition tends to have an adverse effect on me). The music was a bit too poppy for me to fully appreciate the song, but “God Bless” was still a worthy addition to an album that nobody will ever (officially) hear.
Rassy's dedication of the album to fallen comrades and to everyone who passed away in the September 11 terror attacks ends Van Gogh on a solemn note, which is much better than the general indifference the first version resulted in.
SHOULD YOU TRACK THIS/THESE DOWN? Only if you're writing the officially-sanctioned Ras Kass biography. In both of its incarnations, Van Gogh portrays an ideological shift in our host's ideals: it's clear that either his record label refused to release any music that couldn't also be played on the radio, or Ras Kass truly believed that his message would reach a wider audience if he dumbed himself down. Regardless, the label refused to release Van Gogh any-fucking-way. This album features more of Rassy's West Coast contemporaries than ever before, which makes sense, since Ras Kass is a rapper and rappers tend to ask their friends for favors, but the heavy amount of features proves to be distracting for our host, as he seems to adapt his own performances to meet their expectations, thereby leaving the audience out of the equation. Neither version of Van Gogh should be considered essential listening, mainly because they're both pretty much the same album: one of them is simply much longer than the other. Although Rassy's beat selection has significantly improved, everything else has gone downhill, including our host's lyrics, which is the only reason anybody gives a damn about him in the first place. I believe Priority Records made the right call by shelving this shit: Van Gogh isn't very good.
During the time Ras Kass was recording Van Gogh, Priority Records merged with its parent company, Capitol Records, which inherited Rassy's contract and the masters to his back catalog. You can imagine that, if rampant bootlegging of an album caused Priority to pull back, a much larger company (one that is famous for holding the American rights to the work of The Beatles) would most certainly kill the release and force Rassy back to square one. In response, John recorded a few new tracks, combining them with the majority of Van Gogh and calling it Goldyn Chyld, which was now supposed to be his third solo album.
For Goldyn Chyld, Rassy felt that he was given a second chance, and decided to pull out all the stops, calling in favors from such A-list names such as DJ Premier, Busta Rhymes, and Dr. Dre. This move made it all the more obvious that Ras Kass was operating under an agenda with a singular focus: to get the fuck off of Priority/Capitol by selling as many units as possible, thereby hopefully granting him the cache to earn his release. I'm still not certain how he was looking to accomplish this feat, as Goldyn Chyld consists mostly of leftover tracks held over from the Van Gogh project, but whatever.
Unfortunately, Goldyn Chyld was also hit with problems from the get-go. Due to the name-brand recognition they felt it would garner for their artist, Capitol insisted on earmarking the newly-recorded track "The Whoop", produced by Dr. Dre, as the first single from the project. Both Ras Kass and Dr. Dre objected to this, as neither man felt that it was the type of song that could be used to push the product to the masses: instead, Rassy wanted to use the DJ Premier-produced remix of "Goldyn Chyld" to gain back the audience that knew him for his microphone prowess. Unsurprisingly, Capitol did what they wanted anyway, and the result was mediocre at best.
Around this time, Ras Kass was also busted for D.U.I., which ended up being his third strike, guaranteeing that he would spend time behind bars. Two weeks before he was to start serving his prison stint, Priority/Capitol told him that Goldyn Chyld would also never see the light of day, as their interest in the project had waned considerably (and because this project also leaked to the Interweb, thanks to the help of some benevolent being that felt that Rassy's work deserved to be heard, I'm assuming). Ras Kass then made the curious decision of obtaining the rights to Goldyn Chyld while running from the law, even going so far as to record some tracks while acting as a fugitive. He eventually turned himself in to the authorities, but after serving nineteen months behind bars, he found that he was still stuck with his Priority/Capitol contract, and they had no real intention of ever releasing him from his obligations.
What, you were expecting a happy ending?
1. REVELATIONS 22:22 (FEAT. DJ KAY SLAY)
Rassy reuses the intro from the longer version of Van Gogh, but this time he tacks on an updated one-verse wonder filled with enough punchlines to make you forget the man;s label woes, although his reference to the terror attacks on September 11, 2001 come across as a bit shocking and in poor taste when compared to what he said on the outro of Van Gogh. DJ Kay Slay is reportedly the guest featured on here, but I didn't hear him at all, which is probably for the best. Ras attacks this dark, feverish instrumental with more intensity than anything found on the two aborted fetuses of this project, so that's something.
2. GOLDYN CHYLD (DJ PREMIER REMIX)
I have no idea why this song is considered a remix: it has little to no relation to the original. (The reference to Osama Bin Laden is proof enough that Ras most certainly revamped his verses.) DJ Premier lends Goldyn Chyld some unexpected heft, and Rassy sounds decent enough over his trademarked boom bap, even though it's fairly obvious that our host doesn't feel entirely comfortable over beats as stark as this one. But this song definitely doesn't sound like much of a single: I'm actually going to side with the label again on this one. (A street single, perhaps, but not something released to radio: in 2002, nobody outside of New York would have played this shit.) This track is merely alright, and it shares a curiosity factor with Xzibit's Primo-handled “What A Mess” (in fact, the two songs sound similar to me, although I liked Alvin's joint more), but it is nowhere near the best work from either participant.
3. THE WHOOP (FEAT. DR. DRE, BUSTA RHYMES, & DINA RAE)
Makes you feel nostalgic for a time period that never actually existed. Remember when Ras Kass was signed to Aftermath and released that Dr. Dre-produced album? Of course you don't: this shit happened mainly in Rassy's dreams. But he was able to get at least this one track from the good Doctor, who is listed as a featured guest but only acts in a production capacity (unless you count a brief sound bite taken from his “The Next Episode”), leaving Rassy, an annoying Busta Rhymes, and Dina Rae (the female vocalist best known for singing the hooks on the thirteenth track from most of Eminem's albums) to pick up the slack. While I understand completely why the label would want to promote anything Dr. Dre-related over any DJ Premier-produced effort (as 2001 was still pretty popular at the time Goldyn Chyld was supposed to drop), there is nothing about this song that screams “radio friendly” or even “Hey! Listen to me, motherfucker!”; in fact, it's ridiculously boring, and it succeeds only in making Ras Kass sound like another generic rapper from California. I can't recommend this shit to anybody.
4. EVERYTHING AND MORE (FEAT. MYA)
Rather than standing on the corner of Art and Commerce, Ras Kass bolts and goes on a shopping spree, turning in a performance that can only be described as sad. Our host chases after, and wins over, a female conquest that he falls in love with, but the problem is that Ras Kass is no LL Cool J: love raps should never be a part of his repertoire. This wasn't the worst song I've ever heard or anything, and our host mixes in enough vulgarities to help the listener remember that they're still listening to a Ras Kass album, but it was still pretty fucking awful. Remember when Mya actually mattered in the music industry? Actually, maybe my mind is playing tricks on me: it's entirely possible that Mya never actually mattered in the music industry. But she was (and still is) cute, though. Sigh.
5. C WHAT I C (FEAT. PHAROAHE MONCH)
Now this song is much closer to what Ras Kass fans were hoping for. Our host aligns himself with underground stalwart Pharoahe Monch and producer Hi-Tek for an entertaining back-and-forth featuring much shit-talking and a higher-than-expected number of hip hop references. Rassy and Monch bounce off each other admirably, and their chemistry only solidifies what our host lacked with Busta Rhymes (who, admittedly, only performed the hook on “The Whoop” and therefore didn't have much of an opportunity to branch out). This was a fun glimpse into what Van Gogh/Goldyn Chyld could have been.
6. IS THIS LOVE
Unlike this song, which is a glimpse into what Van Gogh actually was.
Because Dr. Dre couldn't be bothered to lend Rassy more than one beat, he outsources to Scott Storch, who used to be the good Doctor's right-hand man before he started dating Lil' Kim and went insane, believing himself to be the greatest producer in history before fizzling the fuck out. The instrumental that ensues is entirely dull and of no consequence whatsoever (which isn't surprising). That's too bad, as Rassy is in top lyrical form on here, delivering verses chock-full of jokes and thinly-veiled threats against his adversaries and his record label (regarding Priority/Capitol, he says, “Ain't nothing move but the Beatles' money”, which sums up his working relationship with them in a single sentence). Also, the chanting in the chorus is fun to repeat, even if the rest of it is too wordy. Overall, could have been worse.
8. NBA (FEAT. XZIBIT & SAAFIR)
9. SEX (FEAT. XZIBIT)
10. 4 MUCH (FEAT. BAD AZZ, TASH, & NATE DOGG)
11. DRINKS UP HIGH
This is the exact same song as “What U Want”, except now rechristened with a title that cuts right to the chase (read: makes the song sound at least nineteen shades more generic than before).
Our host tricks listeners into thinking that “Happiness” will be a celebratory song about the importance of family, mothers in particular, since he dedicates the track to both his own mother and the mother of his children. But the song quickly takes a darker turn, focusing on doing whatever it takes to provide for your family and to earn your own “Happiness”. Mixed messages much? Still, it was refreshing to hear Ras Kass actually focus on a singular topic (something that hasn't happened very often in this overlong write-up, and I'm sure hip hop heads with kids of their own can relate to Rassy's mindstate. The instrumental is fairly bland, though, and the hook sucks exclusively left nuts, so go into this song at your own risk.
13. BACK IT UP (FEAT. KOKANE)
14. KICK ROCKS (FEAT. TRAY DEEE)
15. KISS OF DEATH (FEAT. SIDELINE)
It's interesting that, on his third attempt at releasing this song, Ras Kass refuses to let the whole Alchemist situation go, as “Home Sweet Home” still finds itself as the introductory joke on this track. Mind you, this was long after everybody stopped giving a fuck.
16. THE SEANCE (FEAT. KON ARTIS)
With the darker beat and the dialogue samples from the film The Others, which sounded a lot creepier when taken outside of the context of the movie, I thought “The Séance” was going to be a spiritual cousin to Soul On Ice's “Nature Of The Threat” or Rassassination's “Interview With A Vampire”, a six-minute-plus lyrical exploration of death (as hinted by the title). Well, close, but no cigar: after the sound bites play out, the Kon Artis instrumental (which is so fucking old that he wasn't even using his Mr. Porter alias at the time) kicks in, and the darkness is cast aside in favor of a generic beat and some horrific singing from the guest star. Our host does actually touch on the subject of death, but is broken up into three separate verses, so as to make “The Séance” sound more palatable for a mainstream audience that doesn't really exist, and he sounds pretty good regardless, I have to say. His third verse focuses on the current rap beefs of the time (remember when J-Ro of The Alkaholiks hated Xzibit?) and how a record label can still profit off of the death of their artist (and not necessarily by taking out life insurance policies on them, as some large corporations do to their employees, but I'm probably not that far off). There's plenty to chew on provided by the song, but the presentation left a lot to be desired, although to be fair, most of that is Mr. Porter's fault.
17. HATE ME MORE (FEAT. JELLY ROLL)
I don't know what this shit was supposed to be, but Ras Kass decided to end Goldyn Chyld with something that sounds like a terrible rap song, on which our host decries his many haters, with a shitty Jelly Roll beat (and chorus) accompanying his screed. But I could be mistaken: since this song failed to grab my attention and because I've just listened to three fucking albums all for the sake of a single post, my mind did its fair share of wandering. Suffice it to say, this song sucked.
SHOULD YOU TRACK THIS ALBUM DOWN? Only Ras Kass diehards should even bother. The problem with Goldyn Chyld is the same as with Van Gogh, although, admittedly, it is slightly more successful: Ras Kass is trying to find the connection between art and commerce, but he fails miserable, because his GPS is using an outdated map. The production upgrades on Goldyn Chyld sound fantastic on paper (DJ Premier! Dr. Dre! Hi-Tek! Kon Artis?), but the execution is lacking: it's almost as though our host wasn't sure what to do with himself after getting that genie to grant his wishes. As it is, both Goldyn Chyld and Van Gogh will always be held in high regard, as they are the “lost” Ras Kass albums, but that distinction isn't quite justified, as neither project is very good: the man is capable of much better work. For the most part, Ras Kass loses his lyrical focus in favor of trying to impress a general audience, and some of what results is flat-out fucking embarrassing to sit through. Ras Kass deserves better, and so do his fans. You should only bother with tracking these two (or three, depending on how obsessive a collector you are) albums down if you just absolutely have to have something that you're not technically supposed to have. Otherwise, these projects are meh at best.
And now, just because I mentioned it far too many times throughout this post:
HOME SWEET HOME
After listening to the song that caused Ras Kass so many fucking problems, I'm led to one conclusion: Including “Home Sweet Home” on Van Gogh would not have helped it to sound better. All it would have done is given Rassy a valid reason to include another A-list producer in the liner notes. The song itself (which I assume is readily available on the Interweb, although I've had a copy on my hard drive for about a full decade now) is alright, with Ras running at full steam with his goofy bars and general shit-talking at a personal high, but it's hard to say that “Home Sweet Home” is a better song that Jadakiss' “We Gonna Make It”: although they use the same backing, the two tracks serve entirely different functions in our chosen genre. Still, this track is worth the hunt if you're a Ras Kass fanatic (although if that describes you, this song is already on your fucking computer, but you get my point).