Ras Kass Calls Nas’ ‘NY State Of Mind’ The Only Perfect Hip-Hop Song

The latest guest on the Uproxx podcast People’s Party With Talib Kweli is Ras Kass, an LA underground rap legend best known for his 1996 Priority Records debut album Soul On Ice and his time as a member of the underground rap supergroup The HRSMN. Over the course of the hour-long conversation, Kweli and Kass discuss topics ranging from police brutality and the emerging nationalistic fervor of modern American society to the ways in which NWA affected the perception of West Coast hip-hop artists and Kass’ approach to writing rhymes — which he says was influenced greatly by Nas’ 1994 Illmatic single “NY State Of Mind,” which he calls a “perfect” rap record.

“If I wasn’t a student of this and learning it and appreciating it, I don’t deserve to be in it,” he says, detailing his philosophy toward respecting the craft of rap. “I still do it to myself. I listen back, like, ‘Ah, you shouldn’t have said that. If you just changed the structure of these two bars, it would have been sicker.'” He does, however have high praise for “NY State Of Mind,” despite hailing from the opposing coast, saying: “I remember [my] first time hearing it — completely blown away.” He also says there was only one line he thought he would fix, but changed his mind. He recites the snippet, then explains his reasoning.

Once they caught us off-guard, the MAC-10 was in the grass, and
I ran like a cheetah, with thoughts of an assassin
Picked the MAC up, told brothers “Back up!” — the MAC spit
Lead was hittin’ n—-s, one ran, I made him backflip

Kass argues that shooting someone with a machine pistol would likely not generate enough force from impact to actually make a human body do a literal backflip, but decides ultimately that it just sounds cooler that way.

Elsewhere in the interview, Kass discusses the tension between Black people and police and how it affected his upbringing with a police officer father, then breaks down his favorite MCs of the modern age. Check it out above and subscribe to Uproxx Video on Youtube for more updates on People’s Party With Talib Kweli. You can also subscribe to the audio-only version on Apple Music and Spotify.