Missing the October 1st 2016 date in order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Soul On Ice, Soul On Ice 2 arrives not in October but in September… 2019. With the confusion of whether Intellectual Property (subtitled “S.O.I.2”) was actually a sequel to Ras Kass’ debut LP or not, that album was oddly released on September 9th 2016 (the 20th anniversary bar 22 days). Today, on September 6th, we have confirmation that Soul On Ice 2 is the actual sequel but it’s now the 23rd anniversary (if today was October 1st) so once again we have a release date that is either too late or jumps the gun. All this reminds me of the conversation in The World’s End: “We did this in June, it’s October… But, it’s the anniversary of the year, isn’t it? …Every year is the anniversary of a year!”. So ignoring the date, the month, and the year, we finally have Soul On Ice 2, the sequel to the nineties Hip-Hop classic.
This album begins with the track “Silver Anniversary” which if I’m not mistaken is the 25th anniversary, so even more confusingly, Soul On Ice 2 according to the opening song, is early by 2 years and 25 days! All this pissing around with anniversaries is the least of this album’s problems however, the main thing is that musically, this is nowhere near as listenable or as memorable as Soul On Ice 1.
The opening track is actually one of the best, Ras says “‘Nature Of The Threat’ still as relevant as ever” (which is true) and he includes a few humourous quips about today’s world ranging from immigration to the music industry. With lines like “labels spend millions so independents finish last” or “Arabs got banned, black males got shot, Asian girls running around sucking every white boy’s cock”, this song despite being a tad unfocussed is enjoyable.
Next up is “Grammy Speech” and this is where the problems begin. Like “Bardom” in Intellectual Property, Ras once again mentions Eminem, a name I never thought would come out of Ras Kass’ mouth given his history but here it is again. The track ends with the worst thing to happen to science and TV: a sample of Neil deGrasse Tyson battling Flat Earthers with a corny-as-fuck mic drop. Corniness and cringe-inducing moments are something that unfortunately this album and Tyson share.
Whilst on the topic of cringing, the sentiments in “Midnight Sun” (which are about the human race and equality) are refreshing and much needed in contemporary society but the production is terrible (it’s like something Kendrick Lamar rejected). The hook courtesy of Cee-Lo Green is fucking appalling… really, really appalling. Seriously, it’s one of the worst choruses in the history of music.
“F.L.Y. (Fuck Last Year)” contains the line “out with the old in with the new” over a beat that sounds like it was made around fifteen years ago. DJ Green Lantern really needs to move with the times; ironically, in a song where he needed to come up with something innovative or at the very least modern, he didn’t.
We then have some mediocre singing in “Street Superstar” (and some more in “LL Cool J” later on in the LP) which means there’s yet more issues with this album. Thankfully we have “White Power”, a song I’ve been waiting for since I listened to Intellectual Property and realised it lacked focussed political rap. Ras in the first verse runs through worldwide racism against the darker people in various countries. There’s the sound of a bell at the start and end (possibly referencing “Nature Of The Threat”) but because there’s yet more out-of-date production, the potential power of the message is subdued and it falls short of being another “Of The Threat”. Immortal Technique features on the chorus but along with the beat and melody, they sound like some early noughties shit and drag the song down.
Most of the production on Soul On Ice 2 is mid-tempo, a collection of steady, dragging beats that are technically old-school but not old enough to be retro-cool. This isn’t Boom Bap or G-Funk, this is Hip-Hop circa 2005, something I don’t even think has been officially deemed a sub-genre. Most of the tracks sound like they’re targeting those who still wear baggy jeans and a backward fitted cap; this is basically Dad Rap, a sound that many noughties rappers including Eminem can’t seem to escape but nobody outside of the “Lugz and Mecca” crowd want to hear. Ras Kass was a force to be reckoned with in the ’90s but for some unknown reason, this album evokes the sound of the ’00s. The production in “The Long Way” (featuring Everlast”), “Gingivitis” (featuring Jamo Gang), and the Pete Rock-produced “Can U Feel It” are probably the most enjoyable on the album (as is the hidden track after “Opioid Crisis”) because they don’t sound outdated. With the exception of these few joints, this album harks back to the wrong period of time. Yes, there were issues with beats in the original Soul On Ice but the one thing the production wasn’t was out-of-date. Imagine if Soul On Ice had production akin to Egyptian Lover’s “Egypt, Egypt”, that kind of style sounded decent enough in the early ’80s but by the ’90s it became old and irrelevant and fans would have acknowledged that fact. This type of issue is a shame because more often than not, Ras Kass is saying something meaningful but his message is almost always ruined by the accompanying production and/or chorus.
It’s quite infuriating that with this second attempt at a Soul On Ice sequel, Ras Kass fails again. Unlike its predecessor, this sequel doesn’t flow from beginning to end. Yes, there’s decent lyricism everywhere but the odd choice of hooks, the time-worn beats, there’s lots wrong here. In “Shark Week” Razzy switches time signatures but it slightly jars the ears. The second half of “Trapped Music” comes ever-so-slightly close to sounding different, at least in terms of flow but the track is neither a mockery of Trap nor an example of moving forward with musical styles. Ras at one point states that there’s “too many niggas auto-tuning” (in “Can U Feel It”) although I would contend that even if it’s only located in the hook, autotune is still wack, just listen to “Wxt Thv Shxts” (aka “Wvth Thx Shvts”) for proof.
I’m not the type of bloke who kisses arse just ’cause an artist made a classic album back in the day. Even though some of his die-hard fans will most likely say this LP is flawless, it’s not. This isn’t “hate” or some other moronic term, it’s merely criticism; this album is called “Soul On Ice 2” but it doesn’t really feel like a continuation. This is yet another Ras Kass album that could have been titled anything else, in fact due to its many flaws, you might as well call it “Intellectual Property 2”.
Despite its problems, Soul On Ice was distinctive, memorable, and politically daring. It’s sequel however (whether that’s Intellectual Property (SOI2) or Soul On Ice 2) is nowhere near as unique or trend-setting. This release is also lacking in controversy. Maybe I’m jaded, maybe society has normalised conspiracy theory and militancy, maybe Ras Kass no longer possesses that youthful zeal and “fuck-it” attitude he had back in 1996, but whatever the reason, this album never manages to make the listener recoil or even wince at the subject matter and opinion. This release does have flashes of brilliance but overall it’s fair to middling; it’s downright dull in parts and it’s sonically repetitive.
All this critiquing aside, this LP is not a total disaster. Similar to Denzel Curry’s disappointing Zuu there’s still a handful of decent tracks, in this case “The Long Way”, “Gingivitis”, “Can U Feel It”, “Silver Anniversary”, the lyrical content of “White Power”, and possibly “Ghosted” (the final untitled track in the Bandcamp version). There’s enough here to make you revisit parts of this album in the future and I’ll acknowledge that the LP picks up toward the end. Five-ish listenable songs out of fifteen-ish isn’t disastrous but it’s not that great either. I guess sequels are always disappointing when you compare them to the original.
Still On Ice.