The general consensus among hip-hop fans is that while Ras Kass remains a solid lyricist, the West Coast MC’s body of work has been somewhat tarnished by sub-par production. Blasphemy, the fruit of his recent partnership with Detroit beatsmith Apollo Brown, has broken the chain of dysfunction.
Just as with previous collaborations with veterans OC and Guilty Simpson, Brown’s soul-sampled sounds have proven a perfect canvas for a wordsmith of Ras Kass’ caliber. As far as subject matter is concerned, Blasphemy is a well-rounded portrait of a self-aware and (obviously) imperfect man. Ras Kass sheds light on his own shortcomings and vices in addition to outing the hypocrisy and blasphemy of his environment.
Excluding the intro, there isn’t a hip-hop fan who won’t find at least a few pearls throughout the LP’s fourteen tracks. To begin with, the pair hit the ground running on “How to Kill God”, Ras Kass’ calculated denunciation of the proclaimed tenets of organized religion and the modus operandi of the Western world’s leaders. “H20”, featuring an always welcome verse from Pharaohe Monch, sees the Watts native delve into bittersweet introspection over angelic production. The album’s second single, “Humble Pi”, serves as the duo’s lesson in humility, as a lack of mainstream success has kept Ras grounded, unlike hip-hop’s A-list titans.
A running (and fitting) theme on Blasphemy is that of human vice, beginning with “Please Don’t Let Me”, a track with some wise words for those who tend to flirt with disaster. Furthermore, with cuts like “Strawberry” and “Francine”, it’s evident that Ras Kass’ preferred poison is promiscuity, especially on the latter, in which he masterfully recounts a menage-a-trois with fatal consequences. A thematic outlier and stand-out track on the album is “48 Laws Pt.1”, a new and abridged take on Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power. While they’ll certainly resonate with young upstarts in the music industry, the MC’s revised rules are words even the average stiff could live by, mantras that can ably preserve one’s integrity and well-being.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper hip-hop album without a dose of unadulterated braggadocio. Hip-hop heads need not fret, “Giraffe Pussy” and “Drunk Irish”, both featuring some of rap’s top spitters, will aptly satisfy their need for what is colloquially known as “rappity-rap”. Moreover, on “Animal Sacrifice”, Ras Kass venomously sets the record straight on what constitutes a true MC.
The LP’s final track, “Bon Voyage”, pays tribute to the lost, among them hip-hop’s many late greats, a finale befitting such a reflective album.
Blasphemy comes out on October 28th.
Gems: How to Kill God, H20 ft. Pharaohe Monch & Rakaa Iriscience, Giraffe Pussy ft. Royce da 5’9”, Bishop Lamont & Xzibit, Animal Sacrifice, Humble Pi, 48 Laws Pt.1, Francine
See also: Ras Kass – Soul on Ice (1996), OC & Apollo Brown – Trophies (2012), Guilty Simpson & Apollo Brown – Dice Game (2012)