Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mad Skillz and Ras Kass: Together Again for the Very First Time

This is a single that sorta came out of nowhere. In 2002, an label called Madd Game released a 12" called, "Six Figures," a collaboration between Mad Skillz and Ras Kass. Now, 2002 is when Skillz was still signed with Rawkus, and Ras still only had his first two albums under his belt. In other words, neither had really collected many detractors yet, both were well-regarded lyricists at a time when punch-lines were held in high esteem and a collaboration between the two seemed like a very long thing coming. In fact, they were sort of at stages where both of there fans were wondering just what was up with these guys' long-delayed projects. So it was sort of odd that this little, indie 12" suddenly popped up on sites like Sandbox with no fanfare, well under the radar.

Well, Madd Game was actually an upcoming Virginia label that had put out a 12" or two before of their own artists. You've probably not heard of any of the artists or labels outside of VA, though Bedroom Wizard, a producer who made a name for himself thanks to some projects with The Supafriendz when they were getting big, was involved with at least one of their early singles. Well, anyway, I guess the label decided to grab some attention for itself, put their own artists aside, and hire some big guns for this 12" release.

So, how is it? Well, they didn't quite manage to grab these guys when they were in their prime, but they got close. So, lyrically, it won't blow any minds, but it's pretty decent. Sometimes it feels like some slick wordplay with a thoughtful hook ("only two ways out the streets, up or down, look around. Either six figures or six feet under the ground") and sometimes it feels too cloyingly jokey, forcing in bad Monica Lewinsky jokes like a hacky Jay Leno routine.

The production is handled by Trackula, who was Madd Game's in-house producer. It's not bad, but nothing special either. A keyboard loop over a typical drum track and some understated bass. It'll get your head nodding, but the emphasis is clearly meant to be on the MCs' lines rather than the beat - nobody's gonna pick this up 'cause they need to have the instrumental.

It is on here, though. You get Street, Radio, Instrumental and Acapella versions of "Six Figures;" so they do it up right. What's more, you get a B-side.

"In the Game" is a posse cut, again featuring Mad Skillz. It also features $K-Mo$, Josef X-Plosiv and Mic Source, most of whom I've ever heard of, before or since. Actually, I think I heard Skillz say "Josef X-Plosiv" on another song, but I thought it was a joke name, like when he told Method Man, "if you're Johnny Hot, then I'm James Flames." But I guess there really is such a guy. ...I suppose these are just local VA MCs, but I think only one of them ($K-Mo$) was actually on MaddGame's roster.

Anyway, this song's pretty on-par with the A-side. The beat - again by Trackula - is a little nicer, and the posse cut vibe is more energetic. This one lacks the star-power of Ras Kass, but after multiple spins, I think you'll come to prefer this side. It comes in just Street and Radio versions.

So yeah, nothing amazing; but it's a pretty cool little single if you can find it for cheap (and you probably can). It's got a nice, underground vibe compared to the crass, pop efforts both Skillz and Ras later stooped to. They also shout-out the label's website (I checked - it's no longer active) constantly on both songs. It's almost like you're listening to a song on a mixtape, with the DJ shouting his name all over it. Anyway, I recommend this so long as you go in with tempered expectations. Surprisingly, this is the only time Skillz and Ras did a song together until Ras's just recently released A.D.I.D.A.S. album.

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