#SPLAM: Ras Kass – Soul On Ice (S2E3)

After I (Lee) exposed my favourite albums, and they were all projects that came in 2000’s or 10’s – I asked Suood, Phil, Akash and Matt to recommend albums from the apparent golden era’s of Hip Hop. The twitter conversation soon led to Phil proposing a Hip Hop book club – and here is SPLAM (we struggled for a name, but using our initials stuck). Using Onyx’s S(p)lam as an unofficial theme song, we are going to take turns to recommend one another an album to listen to, and then post our opinions in a blog post. We are then to debate our opinions on Twitter, and invite other Hip Hop enthusiasts to join in the conversation using the #SPLAM.

This week, we have Phil’s recommendation of Ras Kass’ Soul On Ice. Here are the initial thoughts of the team:

“Soul On Ice was the first album I ever bought a download copy of, only because the physical edition was out of print in 2005 and I was dying to hear it after years of hearing whispers of its greatness. With overarching biblical themes Ras Kass presents a much grimier side to California living that the likes of Death Row were presenting in the 90s and he does so backed by some varied, atmospheric production. The production rightly takes a back seat though and is minimal enough that Rassy can take the stage front and centre. His flows are off the charts, lyrics are humorous and shocking in equal measure and his hook game throughout is seriously on point.
Ras demonstrates his skill as a spitter on standouts like Anything Goes and Miami Life and brings humour to proceedings on the Coolio assisted Drama, but I feel like the album hits its highest notes when things take a darker and more serious turn. Whether he’s laying down fearsome warnings to the East Coast to take the West more seriously on Sonset or tearing down organized religion and the power struggles between in America and across the world that have been going on for hundreds/thousands of years on Order Abchao and the infamous Nature of The Threat. There are a lot of contenders for my favourite track but the bone-chilling Evil That Men Do takes it for its haunting instrumental and incredible story telling.
I’ve heard it referred to as the “West Coast Illmatic” and while it doesn’t reach those heights of perfections (despite typically top notch verses, Etc. and If/Then are missing a little something from the overall song structure), I can definitely see where they’re coming from. The biggest similarity for me personally, is that both constructed in a way that to this day if a single line is quote or randomly pops into my head, the whole song rhymes off in my head. Like an itch that needs to be scratched, these bars are so interweaved that they just need to be followed through to completion and will dig their way into your memory .
Soon after buying that MP3 version all those years ago I was moved to hunt down a physical copy and eventually got my hands on it thanks to eBay. It remains the most expensive CD I’ve ever bought, but it’s worth it to own one of the few copies of Hip Hop history and bonafide West Coast classic.
Best Track: The Evil That Men Do*
Wost Track: If/Then* 

*Note: On some digital tracklists these two songs are incorrectly tagged and switched around.”

Lee:
“Soul On Ice has all the ingredients of a rap album that I hate. With a DNA made up of a lack of energy, quotables and pop culture references that I understand, its a piece of music that I should be throwing under the bus and pushing Phil closer to the block button on Twitter. Instead though, whilst those things are all pitfalls of the album, there are more that enough positives and counteract the negatives to make Soul On Ice one of my favourite albums we’ve had on #SPLAM, so far. 
Some of the lyrical content captures the moment and consequently doesn’t sound the same in 2015 to someone who was only two year old at the time of release. However, there are topics brought up that still hit hard, from racial inequalities to religious hypocrisies. What most drags me into Soul On Ice is Ras Kass himself. He could be rapping about anything and I couldn’t hate the album, because he can actually RAP. Too many MC’s are considered “legends” or have albums heralded as “classics” without having much in the way of technical ability with flows and rhymes – of which Ras Kass has in horded. 
Some songs don’t quite match the standard of the title track and Ordo Abchao, particularly Etc. but as a whole, Soul On Ice is definitely something I’ll be listening to more of.”

Akash:
“Not gonna lie, I look forward to Phil’s picks the most because he always picks albums that I end up loving and this time was no different. Ras Kass’ Soul On Ice was an album that proved to be an absolute delight to listen to, mostly for its rash content and brilliant, brilliant delivery. Ras Kass spits heavy bars that showcases his braggadocio sans the general flashiness of hip hop, which is ignored completely in favour of grittiness and impeccable vocabulary and forces his listeners to acknowledge his aggressive and socially conscious mind state through the use of battle rap, scientific and biblical metaphors. There were multiple instances where I had to rewind tracks and ask myself “Holy fuck, did he say that?!” (“You’re not from the tribe of Judah, so why you lying?” Holy shit, man) And THAT more than anything cemented this album as a more than enjoyable listen. The production is dark and gritty and goes well with the serious content of the album and compliments Kass’ rhymes perfectly. If you haven’t listened to this album, I recommend that you do. You won’t regret it.”

Matt: 

Matt couldn’t make it again this week but we have a special guest contributor, who makes up for that:

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“For some reason when Phil mentioned the album is a west coast classic, I expected a sound similar to Dr. Dre, Snoop and Ice Cube. Soul on Ice doesn’t sound anything like those artists’ work though (maybe Ice Cube slightly). Soul On Ice is a hard hitting piece of work that exemplifies how much of a lyrical beast Ras Kass is. The second and third verses on “On Earth As It Is…” blew me away and alerted me to how much Ras Kass deserved my attention. I assumed that’d be the level he’d be at all throughout the album but then I arrived as “The Evil That MenDo,” where Ras Kass paints the perfect picture but then I arrived at “The Evil That Men Do,” where Ras Kass paints the perfect with his thrilling storytelling about his past. Battling against “Sonset” for best song on this album. And the final verse on the title track is absolutely nuts, thanks to his delivery and bars like “Walking on skulls like I’m two steps ahead.” On the other hand there are some instances where Ras Kass fails to create good songs like on “Realishymn” and “Etc.” The hook on “Realishhymn” completely takes away from the songs impact while “Etc.” is a nightmare. The beat is fantastic but Ras Kass doesn’t manage to catch the fitting flow while making the most annoying use of alliteration I’ve ever heard. Furthermore, “Nature of Threat” featured a monstrous final 2 minutes on a song that conveyed intelligent delivery of a message, even though I won’t be revisiting the history lesson in audio form again. 
Overalll, this is the kind of album that rappers study to improve their lyricism and polish their skills. However, it seems to me that Ras Kass was too caught up in what he’s good at to provide an album that can be thoroughly enjoyed by someone like me.
Favourite song: The Evil That Men Do
Least Favourite Song: Drama” 

So positive opinions all-round on Ras Kass’ Soul On Ice, which will be probably result in a lack of debate, but at least we’ve found an album we can all agree on as a top quality classic. As for my pick, we’ll be looking at Leddie & Smoggy’s Sorry We’re Late. Join in the conversation on Twitter using #SPLAM.

Previous SPLAMs

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