In 1996, Ras Kass' acclaimed debut, Soul on Ice, had him set to take the throne as the full-fledged lyrical don of the West Coast. But the decade that followed would see his career consistently stalled thanks in part to label politics and a prison bid stemming from a third-strike DUI conviction. Although it's been nearly two years since he completed his 19-month stay at Corcoran State prison, he remains locked down musically by Capitol Records.
But that hasn't kept him out of the headlines. He recently engaged in a high profile scuffle with The Game at an L.A. nightclub, allegedly set off by last year's ambiguous street single “Caution.” Within days, Ras readied the venomous (and more specific) diss “Hush Little Baby” in response. The self proclaimed King of the West recently talked to XXLMAG.COM about being trapped on Capitol Records, his new mixtape, Eat Or Die, and the truth behind all this drama.
Ras Kass "Caution" (2005)
Ras Kass "K.O.T.W. (King of The West)" (2006)
Ras Kass "Hush Little Baby" (2006)
Did you have anyone in particular in mind when you wrote "Caution"?
It was a blanket statement: “I'm the king of the West, period.” It was for no one in particular, everybody in general. I kinda did prototypes of people, but I was in prison, so it's not like we had radio. I had [only] heard about [The Game].
It's funny when somebody becomes popular, everything you say [seems] to be aimed at that particular person. I'm gonna give this example. I did this song called "Congratulations" and I said "Buck 50 / Fuck with me" and 50 was just getting hot, this was right before I went to prison. So niggas is like "Yo, it sound like you said 'Fuck 50.'" Come on man, a buck 50, you know what a buck 50 is, a slice to the face. So now I can't use the word 50? The world don't revolve around one person. If your name is "Game," that's an everyday word. You can't say, "I got game"? It's like naming yourself "The."
And that song’s been out for, like, a year.
That song’s been out for longer than that, damn near two years.
What do think made him respond at this point?
Because his record ain't selling. Game is pretty notorious for, if nothing else, dissing people. He may apologize later, but he's good for "Fuck you, and fuck Jay-Z..." Okay Game, you done had two years to say something about me.
In some of the interviews I've seen he's been implying that this is a publicity stunt on your part.
[Laughs] I wouldn't even waste my energy. I would love to know how I created a publicity stunt when [he] went straight to the Internet and put me in a position where I'm just doing damage control. If you put me in a hospital and my jaw's wired, then I shouldn't be able to talk. So, somebody's lying. And all I'm saying is for everybody to start adding up the shit. Fuck what I'm saying, fuck what he's saying. Just do some fact checking.
So, for the record, can you run down a play-by-play of what happened that night?
Dude. It's not even a big [deal], this is, like, some high school shit to me. But, I'm at the club. I came with my homeboy and five chicks. That's kinda how I move anyway, I'm not always with a million niggas, because I'm kinda good. Rassy be chillin’. I do my thing; I don't start shit. I'm willing to finish it, but I don't just go around with a posse trying to intimidate everybody.
So I'm in the VIP, got me a little drink or whatever. I look to my left and I see [Game], I know he sees me. And they shouting, "What up Ras Kass? I'm with Game in the house." And I'm looking, it's like 30 niggas. My spider sense is tingling. I don't have no beef per se with Game, I just don't fuck with him. It's not animosity or love, it's just nothing. If I don't approve of somebody, if I think they corny, why would I be on they dick just because they selling records? That would be bullshit to me. So even though I didn't really approve of Game off the top, I never really said nothing about it. I was just like, "Whatever, let him sell his records, let him do his thing." I already know too much truth about dude. The streets be talking. You can go do research, just ask the average nigga in the streets of L.A., they been knowin’ this nigga's a fake-ass blood. It's just by default, he's the only thing poppin', so niggas is like, "Fuck it, we gotta roll with Game."
Anyway, he kept offering me to come drink with him. Nigga, I buy my own drinks. I don't want to come over there, y'all look kinda miserable. He's got a mad face, trying to look like The Game, not like Jayceon, the nigga from Change of Heart with the happy smile. Now he's trying to do his Ice Cube eyebrows all night. Maybe that makes the girls like you or whatever, but I'm cool. I'm over here chilling. I think, really, he was just mad like, "This nigga don't want to fuck with me, period. I'm The Game, I sold a gang of records." The nigga done shouted me out on records and I will not acknowledge this nigga's presence.
Eventually, towards the end of the [night], he comes up and says something to the effect of [murmered], "Um...we need to talk." I'm like, "Alright, you know, whatever." I'm kinda blasé about it. He turns his back, I turn mine, like that's the end of the conversation. I guess we gonna talk at some point. And then he turns right back and pushes my homeboy over the table, he swings and hits me with a bottle, I tried to react to that and his other homeboy punched me in my eye. At that point, the stage is super crowed, and it's pretty much over after that because security comes and grabs everybody. And of course, I'm hot now, I'm mad. It wasn't enough damage to knock me out or whatever, I'm just mad. They throw me out of the club. We go to the car I'm a little heated. I'm like, "Fuck this nigga." I walk back, by now it's a gang of police, but I got LASIK, I can see everything and [Game] is sitting in the back of a black Range Rover. He's in the middle of his two niggas, like he's the President's daughter or some shit. I go up and I say some words. He don't say nothin', he's actin' like he can't hear me but his window's down. I'm like, "I see you, you bitch. You right here, you bitch." Whatever, my homie just pulled me out, like, "Dude, you're on parole. Don't do all this shit right here. It's a million police and you're bringing a lot of attention to yourself." So I'm like, Fuck it, I go home...and get some pussy [laughs] or whatever, I go to the crib.
Then my phone is blowing up first thing in the morning. I find out that Game just called every website, everybody. He's saying, "I broke Ras Kass' jaw. I punched him, he slid across the floor and he was knocked out." It was some ho shit. If you 6'4" and I'm 5'8", homie, punch me, don't hit me in the head with a bottle. You supposed to be 6'4" and you liftin' weights and you a B-L-double-O-D, nigga box me out. But don't wait until I turn my back. He took it further than it had to go, especially when we ain't never had a beef. All of a sudden you mad, you had two years to be mad and you ain't never said nothin' about me because you know I'm gonna air your ass out on the mic. It is what it is at this point. Now the die is cast. But he started it. I didn't walk into the club like, "Game, suck my dick."
On a more positive note, what's the deal with this new mixtape?
Well, it's not really a mixtape, it's a street album, it's original records. It's just I go under the radar right now because I'm still in my litigation with Capitol. I just throw them out there, mainly just for my peers. Like some rapper dudes, or give it to [industry people] like, "Yo, tell me what you think of this shit." And I give it to the people who've supported me, to the fans I do have, or the new fans I'm getting. I just want them to hear some tangible music. The whole premise for Eat or Die is the reality of life. If you don't eat, you will physically dry up. You will deteriorate. I was just frustrated with this Capitol thing. I've been in a situation where I can't go sign to After...[trails off]…I can't go sign anywhere right now. I still gotta eat. If I don't handle my business, I don't hustle, [I'm] gonna die. I actually wrote the shit in two days. I was just mad. I didn't sleep or eat for two days.
I heard you hesitate, but you were about say Aftermath. I've been hearing some rumors...
Yeah, there's some rumors. Well, the reality of it is that I'm in litigation. As far as Capitol Records is concerned, I'm signed to them. I'm saying that I'm not, but it's my burden, I have to take them to court and say that. So if I even had a meeting with Aftermath or Geffen, they could sue those people for inducement because, technically, they're not supposed to be talking to their artists about a deal when he's already in a deal. So I can't even acknowledge that I'm thinking about doing something else.
Wouldn't it just be more profitable for Capitol to put your music out there?
That's a question you'd have to ask them. They don't say shit. But they damn sure got they machine fighting with me. It probably would've been more profitable to invest in me. But I think they want me to work really hard and get into a better position, like some slavery shit. Capitol is a very racist record company. Everybody will tell you that place is the worst: Dilated Peoples, Cee-Lo. Priority Records [before the merge] was horrible. Capitol is worse. They don't even have an urban music department. They're selling Beatles and Kylie Minogue. At this point it's a really messy divorce. I'm not really interested in doing anything with the company. I've had Dr. Dre records and these niggas can't do nothing with 'em. So I just had to move away from that.
I can't really think about next week, if I haven't taken care of today. And today is really just walking away from a very bad recording experience, preferably amicably. With a billion dollar company, like, “Dude, why don't you just let me go? We can't work together. Let me go." But they're not on that. It's some real pimps and hoes shit.
And I still feel extremely blessed because I get a lot of support from a lot of different artists. For the people that are familiar with the street albums I did, anybody might pop up on a record, from Kweli to Chamillionaire. I've just been having fun with it and that's what I was missing [on Capitol]. Now the next step is to just get rid of these people completely. I feel like I got a lot more things to say. There's records in my head I haven't written that I think are going to be important records. But I don't want to make them and then they sit over at Capitol and never come out.
Like Van Gogh and Golden Chyld.
Yeah, but I'm not even concerned with that. Everything I make is a time capsule. That shit is the past. They can have those records. I am concerned with what I made today, what I made yesterday. Timing is everything. Just think if Dre tried to put out The Chronic today. It [wouldn't] have the same impact. So I'm not concerned with those albums I made in 2001 or 2002. If they didn't come out then, it's not really important that they ever come out to me. I have to move on. It's not like I can't make more.