Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Ras Kass – Barmageddon [Album Review]


Ras Kass has been disappointing his fans for years.  Ever since he released the classic Soul on Ice, which is in my top 15 favorite hip hop albums of all time, he’s been releasing albums and mixtapes that consist of boring beats and relatively boring rapping.  In 1996, he proved himself to be one of the most skilled MCs to ever walk the earth.  He had all the potential in the world, but he never managed to come even slightly close to matching his debut.  It seems that everyone has come to terms with the fact that he’ll never release another classic album, but not everyone has completely written him off yet.  I happen to be one of the people who hasn’t written him off.  That means that when I hear that Ras Kass has just released another album, I feel obligated to listen to it, even though there’s a high chance that I won’t like it.  Earlier this year, when this album was released, I had the same reaction to it that you would expect.  I knew I would have to listen to it, but I didn’t expect to get anything positive out of it.  Nevertheless, I went through with listening to it a few times.  Here are my thoughts.

First of all, I want to say that Ras Kass’ rapping on this album impressed me…which feels weird to say.  If you’ve heard his debut, you’re well aware that he has (or had) the ability to be one of the best lyricists ever.  Strictly from a lyrical viewpoint, it could even be argued that Soul on Ice is the best hip hop album of all time.  That being said, he shouldn’t be able to impress me at this point because he has nothing left to prove.  Unfortunately, however, after the release of that album, his lyrical skills drastically declined to the point of him becoming a fairly average battle rapper.  On most of his releases of the past decade, his rapping hasn’t even been good enough to make him stand above the crowd, which is sad considering that there was a point in time when he hovered a mile over the crowd.  To my surprise, his rapping on this album is actually good.  Sure, it’s nowhere near as good as his rapping on Soul on Ice or even on Rasassination, but it’s still good.  As far as subject matter goes, this album reminds me of a young Ras Kass in that there’s a fair mix of battle rapping and deep lyrics.  Ras Kass is quite good at both, in my opinion.  However, I must make it clear that he isn’t the incredible lyricist that he once was.  If you come into this album expecting thatmuch of him, you’ll be very disappointed.  If you wipe away all of your expectations, you’re much more likely to enjoy his rapping on this album.

Any Ras Kass fan knows that the worst aspect about him as an artist is his ear for beats.  With the exception of his debut, he hasn’t released a single album or mixtape with consistently good production.  Rasassination was probably the closest that he ever got, but there were a couple of commercial joints that knocked down the album’s consistency.  Off the top of my head, this has to be his third most consistent album, production wise.  For the most part, these beats are enjoyable.  Admittedly, there’s nothing particularly special about them, but they do their job, which is to provide a listenable canvas for Ras Kass to paint his lyrics on.  There are a variety of production styles on this album, including soulful beats (ex: “Sometimes”), boom bap beats (ex: “Human Dog Fight”), club beats (ex: “Upscale Ratchet”), atmospheric “mainstream” beats (ex: “MollyWorld”), borderline rap rock beats (ex: “C U Next Tuesday”), orchestral sounding beats (ex: “Godz n the Hood”), etc.  Some sounds work better than others, but for the most part, the beats on this album are pretty decent.  I can’t say that I’m blown away by this production, but I expected worse, so I’m definitely satisfied.

Overall, I like this album, but I also have some issues with it.  Its major issue is inconsistency.  There are a bunch of good songs on it, but there are also a bunch of songs that shouldn’t have made the cut.  The only truly bad song is “Upscale Ratchet,” but other songs like “Get Yo Money Right” and “Still Breathin'” bring down the album’s overall quality, as well.  Actually, if those songs and a few others had been taken off, it could have been a legitimately solid album.  Unfortunately, it’s too long and a bunch of the songs aren’t very good.  Also, there are a lot of guest rappers on this album, a few too many if you ask me.  Most of them are good, namely Guilty Simpson, Bishop Lamont, Talib Kweli, Planet Asia, Chace Infinite, and Kendrick Lamar, but some of them take away from the songs that they’re on.  For instance, I think that “Still Breathin'” would be a better song if Ras Kass had been the only rapper on it.  The guests on “Get Yo Money Right,” despite two of them being hip hop legends (Too $hort and Ice-T), don’t do much for me either.  In the grand scheme of things, the guest rappers don’t amount to being a particularly significant problem, but I felt that it was noticeable enough to be worth mentioning.  Other than those few issues, there’s nothing really wrong with this album.  Nothing about it is amazing, but fortunately, nothing about it is dreadful either.

All things considered, I would say that this album is quite satisfying.  I wouldn’t say that it’s satisfying in the sense that it’s great, but I would say that it’s satisfying because it easily exceeded my expectations.  The rapping is good, the beats are decent, a majority of the songs are good, and it’s not difficult to listen to all the way through in one sitting.  You typically can’t say all of those things about most Ras Kass releases, so needless to say, as a Ras Kass fan, I’m pretty happy about this album.  I’m still standing by my statement that he’ll never be able to release another great album again, but at least my decision to not write him off proved to partially be a successful one.  It seemed like he would never release an album that was worth hearing ever again, be he proved me wrong.  After all these years, who would’ve thought that Ras Kass could still cook up something decent?

Rating: 3.25/5


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