Saturday, March 29, 2008

The One That Didn't Make It

This is kind of a rarity. ...I see a bunch of online sellers hyping how "crazy rare" this record is, but that's the thing: a bunch of sellers. So it can't really be that rare - at any rate, if you decide you want it after reading this, you won't have a hard time finding a copy.

Now, if you haven't looked at the thumbnail to the left yet, I'm talking about Ras Kass's "Home Sweet Home" 12", which Priority Records released promotionally in 2001. It was meant to be the lead single off of his third album, Van Gogh, but that didn't wind up getting released either. It all got leaked on Napster and what-not, but this is the only legit release of the song, available just briefly as a promo-only before it was pulled.

A lot of you probably already know why it was pulled, but if not - here's the story: the track's produced by Alchemist. There were delays with his label (just a small part of a long and ugly history of Priority delaying Ras's material), and when he was just getting his 12" to mixtape DJs, he heard the same beat on another record, by Jadakiss. At the time, he said to MTV News, "I paid him for the track and picked the track. I don't know what the circumstances were, but he ends up trying to sell it to Ruff Ryders and Jadakiss specifically and tries to play like he didn't do it. ...Dude cashed the check and now he's playing stupid. After we try to resolve the situation, they take it to Hot 97 and try to blast off on the shit and give it to DJ Clue. That's some foul shit. Alchemist needs to step up and be a man. For him to sell them the same beat, that's his wrong. At the same time, I don't know what the conversation was for them to go and take it to Hot 97 when we've been trying to deal with this for the past two weeks with our lawyers."

Listening to Ras declare on this song, "Heard I was one hit from being a star, baby; like Boy George, one dress from bein' the First Lady," then, it's easy to imagine how frustrating it must have been when Jada's version BLEW THE FUCK UP and became the huge hit, "We Gone Make It" with fellow Lox member Styles P. on Interscope. Styles P, by the way, later released a 12" version of this song himself, remixed to add a verse from Eve, and there was a video produced for that mix as well. But you guys reading this don't need me to tell you what a big hit it was - you've surely heard it eighty million times already.

Still, I'm doubtful if Ras could've had nearly as much of the hit as Jada managed with this instrumental. His career just wasn't in the same place and his label obviously wasn't as behind him. And while his hook flows a little more naturally than Jada's, honestly neither version really outshines the other lyrically. In both cases, the MCs get a couple of clever lines in and flow nicely but unexceptionally over a hot track that overshadows them. ...But it probably would've sold enough copies to get Priority to at least release Van Gogh.

Anyway, a little while later, The Alchemist came out with his side of the story (also to MTV News), "Priority put me on hold and left me hanging. After I got the first half [of the payment], they left me on hold. ... For whatever reason, his A&Rs and whoever was related to his project was ignoring me... I tried to call everybody to let them know [other artists were interested], but nobody wanted to return my calls. So finally when I reach him to tell him that I'm using it, I start hearing it on mix tapes. I called Priority and was like, 'Hold up, we don't have any paperwork for this.' ...Now I see in the press that Ras is saying, 'I bought this beat off of Alchemist eight months ago, and he just sat around with the paperwork.' What he's talking about is eight months ago when he found out that it was coming out with somebody else, he had his lawyers send over paperwork for the production of one beat, 'Home Sweat Home,' $7,500 full payment. They just took it upon themselves to make that first half of the three beats the full payment for one beat, which we never discussed. Of course, I just put that paperwork to the side. I laughed at it. ...I tried to call Ras and extend my hand to him. I said, 'If you want that money back, I'll give it right back because I don't want it to feel like I got over on you or your record label. I'm not trying to get over on anybody. I got beats. I wish we could just continue to work. ... It's a shame that it had to happen like this."

And for his part, Jadakiss eventually commented on the issue to MTV, too, simply saying, "that controversy is with Alchemist and Ras Kass. He played the beat for me, I paid him his money and I laid my vocals on it. I ain't got nothing to do with that other shit. I ain't get a call from Ras Kass, no nothing, so I'm good. The album is my only concern for the next six to eight months."

So in the end, I favor this version for a slightly better hook, and this is the version I recommend. I also want to give it the edge simply for being Ras Kass instead of Jadakiss, just based on both artists' legacy of work... but honestly, comparing each MC on this one pair of songs only, the difference is academic.

There is one more thing that the Ras Kass 12" has in favor over the Jadakiss 12" (or the Styles P 12" for that matter) - a b-side. Flip this sucker over and you get "4 Much," a posse cut featuring Bad Azz, Lil J, Nate Dogg and Tash. ...Or basically Tash and a lot of filler. Battlecat's beat, like all of Battlecat's beats, is decent, even effective, but nothing anyone's going to get excited about. The bassline is catchy and overall it's an ok song... it actually would be a lot better if it was just stripped down to Ras Kass and Tash's verses (making a special point of removing the hook); but as it is you'll mainly just want this if you're a serious fan.

It's a nice collector's item for serious Ras Kass fans. And for the more casual listeners, it's still worth picking up if you can get it for a good price.

That loop sure gets in your head, huh?

Coming soon: the return of the Instant Messenger interview (my favorite kind)! It's a brand new one (not a Necro) with a dope MC. I'm excited - hopefully it will be ready tomorrow.

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