Today November 6, 2020, Ras Kass releases his new project which he calls a vinyl playlist titled I’m Not Clearing Shxt. We spoke to Ras Kass about the release and the concept behind it.
You hail from California, what’s the hip hop scene like there at the moment?
With Covid still being a major issue in America, all social scenes are pretty much nonexistent. But, even before the pandemic, there were small, local pockets of hip hop; certain venues, and promoters. Nothing large-scale like Club Unity from the 1990s or even clubs that catered to real rap in the early 2000s.
You’re releasing your new project I’m Not Clearing Shxt, which you call a vinyl playlist. Tell us about the concept behind this release.
Because of American systematic racism, in the early 1970s urban (black/brown) schools were defunded from The Arts. There were no instruments for music class. Necessity is the mother of all inventions, the impoverished had no instruments.
A young teen named Kool Herc used the 2 turntables and a mixer (his older sister bought him) to throw parties. Herc eventually realised he could just play the part of a song he liked back 2 back. And the loop was invented. The MC kept the party going over the loop and rap was born from samples!
Every classic, iconic song in hip hop from Beastie Boys, EPMD, NWA, Gangstarr, WuTang, Rakim, Tupac, Biggie, Jay Z, Nas even MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice has to credit sampling. Our theme song Hip Hop Hurray from Naughty By Nature is a Jackson 5 sample.
When the record companies saw the success of rap music. They were bitter that we had created a way to make wealth without having to pay them. They successfully lobbied/bribed Congress for new sample clearance laws. Before that replaying was common, The Beach Boys stole Chuck Berry’s guitar riff to make ‘Surfin’ USA’.
To avoid clearing samples producers have shifted to making trap beats that all sound similar. The creativity isn’t there. Its cookie-cutter commercial music. The artists who can afford to clear samples to act frugal and cheap by saving money and the music suffers.
I just wanted to make a project that takes rap music back to the essence of flipping a dope sample from any genre and making it hip hop. By adding dope drums, scratches, basslines, and bars!
Mixtapes technically don’t exist. Plus this is ALL ORIGINAL MUSIC. I haven’t freestyled over other people’s previously released songs. We didn’t call it an album. The majority of these songs could NEVER make it to iTunes, Spotify, and other major platforms. Simply because of the samples, we chose to deconstruct.
It’s a singular body of work, a group of specific songs in a specific order. That’s why we felt calling it a playlist described it best.
I really like the cover artwork, it that your set up? Explain the artwork.
Thank you. No that set up is DJ House Shoes (from Detroit) set up here in LA (Koreatown). There’s a few record covers and poster that has been digitally altered. The Chuck Berry poster is a Sade poster in real life.
What we wanted was the cover to already feel like a vintage vinyl in real crate-diggers collection. I wanted it to look like an international import, so we added the OBI strip.
INCS features 11 tracks what’s your favourite track and why?
Chuck Berry is probably my favorite. I like the irony of taking the music of a historically famous artist. Who stole black artist’s songs and style to make a song. Giving the credit back to the legendary black artists who were stolen from. Reparations for cultural appropriation lol.
On the vinyl and cd there are 6 bonus tracks, tell us about the tracks are these full-length solo tracks do they feature other artists?
All the other songs are full length. Some tracks feature other artists as well as some big dawg producers. Like Havoc of Mobb Deep, Large Professor, Sid Wilson of Slipknot, Kool Keith, Ice T, Termanology, and more.
What was the process of finding the samples? Did you come up with the ideas or did you leave that to the producers?
A lot of the songs were ideas that I had conceptualised for a year or so. Others were great tracks that producers sent me that didn’t fit Soul On Ice 2. I wanted to find a way to showcase them.
My opinion is that this playlist is more uptempo boom-bap than most of my solo albums.
How long did the project take to put together?
I’m a workaholic so I’m constantly in the studio. But, I would say it took a year. We focused on this the day after we turned in Soul On Ice 2.
You said that INCS is the first of the series have you recorded other tracks? Can we expect more from the series?
I would like to build on this series in/around 2022. The next series I want to explore is love but mostly hip hop.
Do you feel/hope that producers and artists will look at INCS and start to be more adventurous and start sampling?
I hope that the culture, especially some of those in a tastemaker position expands the listener’s ears. Past the same old generic trap beats that dominate the mainstream.
As an artist what do you look for in a producer/beatmaker?
Sonics and drums. No matter what genre or type of music you create. What I have realised is that it has to be clean, clear, and audible. Not sound noisy. A bad mix can ruin a good song. The wrong drums can make a potentially great song just sound ‘Okay’.
What are your social media links?
Ras Kass thanks for taking the time out to do this interview. Is there anything that you would like to add?
Please share and repost the songs and videos on your IG, Twitter and Facebook. Do a dance to it on Tic-Toc!! lol.
Interview by Jai Boo