The first time I heard Ras Kass was, I believe, on the revolutionary track Nature of the Threat. However the song Van Gogh, along with the Diamond D remix of Soul on Ice, is what actually drew me into Ras and got me to start considering him as one of the best, boldest and most original rap artists the game had seen to that point or since. The album Van Gogh itself is spotty, but shows flashes of brilliance similar to that of its title track.
While Ras Kass’ beat selections are frequently quoted as his greatest failing, here they don’t affect his skill at all. Similar to a 36-Chambers era Wu-Tang or Gang Starr around the time of No More Mr. Nice Guy, Van Gogh’s simplistic but atmospheric beats are simply there to provide a backing for Ras’ lyrical acrobatics, not to distract from them. Except for where they get repetitive after a while, and tend to sound the same, there’s nothing inherently wrong with most of the instrumentals.
Kazzy doesn’t move far from his usual I’m-hot-you’re-not routine often; most of the few subject-oriented tracks come around the second half of the album. It’s somewhat disappointing to see Razzy cover such bland and overdone topics as *****ing on Sex and money, hoes and clothes on Ah Ha; he does make a quick recovery, speaking on riches, murder and misoginy in Root of Evil. However it rings hollow given the previous cuts.
The album finishes off strong, with Van Gogh–possibly the best, definitely one of the best joints on the album–followed by TV Guide (a dark-themed breakdown of the racism of TV) and the final track Home Sweet Home. This last one, puzzlingly, is the full track Razzy made using the Alchemist beat they fought over (which became Jada’s We Gon’ Make It), but a good track it is, and only makes me hope Ras and Al make up sometime in the future and hook up again.
Overall, if accompanied by anthing but Kass’s undeniable verbal talent, this album would never have seen the light of day (not that it did anyway, but that would be for different reasons). It still sports its share of great tracks, but unfortunately they make up around half the album in total. 3.5/5.