Ras Kass
Ras Kass Ras Kass released his debut album Soul On Ice in 1996. The album built up considerable hype through the release of several independent singles, including "High IQ" and "Won't Catch Me Runnin". Soul On Ice saw little commercial success but was adored by the hip hop underground, who appreciated both his sharp battle raps and his militant Afrocentricity. The latter also caused controversy due to the songs "Ordo Abchao" and "Nature Of The Threat" which were tracks detailing the history of white-on-black racism (the latter lasting for well over 7 minutes and likely his most well-known song). Many argued that Ras was extreme to the point of racism against caucasians, mostly since many listeners view much of the song as unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

Ras Kass made a big push to make sure his second album Rasassination was commercially successful. As well as securing guest appearances from Xzibit and the Wu-Tang Clan's RZA, he received considerable assistance from superstar West Coast producer Dr. Dre, who provided beats for the album and rapped on the lead single "Ghetto Fabulous." The video for "Fabulous" was supported by an extravagant video shot on a luxury yacht.

Though this single became easily Ras' most popular among mainstream audiences, many of the underground enthusiasts who had adored his debut album accused him of watering down his subject matter for commercial success. The album in fact contained some of his most intellectual material to date ("Interview With A Vampire", a theological and spiritual exploration that featured Ras rapping from the perspectives of God, himself and the Devil) and occasionally addressed very personal subject matter ("It Is What It Is", concerning his relationship with his mother). Despite the smash single, his album still didn't sell as expected.

Ras Kass' third album Van Gogh was originally intended for release in 2001. However, the nearly-finished album was leaked onto the internet months before the release date. It received excellent reviews from fans and the hip hop media, but the bootlegging caused his label Priority Records to push the release date back twice before the record was eventually shelved indefinitely.

This further worsened the relationship between the label and Ras Kass, which was already strained due to disputes over several things, including the level of promotion Ras was being given, and the supposed block of the Columbia release of his supergroup Golden State Warriors' debut album.

The bootleg Van Gogh album even featured the lyrics "Fuck Priority Records, like Prince I'm writing SLAVE on my cheek" (this was later fulfilled as Ras Kass appeared in popular hip hop magazine XXL with SLAVE written on his face).

The relationship between Ras and Priority reached breaking point when the label also shelved the intended Van Gogh replacement Goldyn Chyld, an album which featured tracks from Van Gogh as well as new material. The "indefinite postponement" was due to a dispute over the lead single: Ras wanted to release the DJ Premier-produced title track, while Priority wanted a Dr. Dre-produced track, against the wishes of both Ras and Dre. This prompted Ras to launch a "Free Ras Kass" campaign (supported by an on-line petition and T-shirts) to gain his release from the label.

This affected his personal life to the extent that his music and subjects became steadily darker, and he began drinking heavily. Eventually, he was convicted under California's "three strikes" rule for DUIs, and a warrant for his arrest was issued.

In 2002, Ras Kass went on the run from the authorities. While fugitive, he recovered the masters of his albums from Priority Records studios and eventually gave himself up and was promptly jailed.

While incarcerated, he organized the independent release of a mixtape titled Re-Up which featured himself and other artists. Priority Records unsuccessfully attempted to block this release. In May 2004, Ras filed a lawsuit against Priority Records, Capitol Records and EMI in protest at his treatment by the label and claimed breach of contract in an attempt to have it nullified.

After his release from prison in December 2004, Ras was met with nationwide support, even scoring the cover of XXL. He appeared on several radio shows and returned to the studio, releasing a few songs to some acclaim.

He then announced he would release a new album in 2005. To fire up his audience, Ras decided to drop the Guess Who's Back mixtape, which was mainly released through his official website at raskass-central.com. Though still not officially released because of the Priority Records situation, Ras did manage to independently release a mixtape/album entitled Institutionalized Vol. 1. Eventually, he was able to procure release from his contract. Revenge of the Spit, a 27 track mixtape featuring commercial instrumentals and original beats, was released in February, 2006. Institutionalized Vol. 2 is slated for a drop date in the summer. In early 2006 Ras Kass was seen working with Chinga Chang Records CEO D-MAK, on a track off the soon to me released mix tape "Residual Income VOL 1". After that, Ras will then release another album under a new label. The title of this disc will probably be "H.T.K.G", rumored to stand for "How to Kill God". Before that, however, a mixtape titled "Eat or Die" is expected to be released. A sampler has been released on RasKass-Central, linked at the External Links section on this page.