Embodying all the key elements of the dirtier aspect of the ‘90s production sound – that exaggerated beat which includes a kind of in-built foundation of a meandering bassline, the tinkling keyboard sound and screechy, hard-to-work-out female vocal sample – the a/side ‘Won’t Catch Me Runnin’ sees Ras Kass present a familiar narrative of hard times.
But the b/side, ‘Remain Anonymous’ takes it to another level.
With an amazing rhyme that tackles well-trawled territory – about how Ras Kass lords over all others – it has an unextinguished energy, while capturing perfectly a kind of urgent paranoia in the delivery even if it sounds supremely confident, as it opens:
Name-checking his peers (Western Hemisfear), apparently questioning himself, while making a pop culture reference to a TV show, but also as comments on the lyrics page note, Ras Kass is also suggesting that he holds the Earth on its axis: ‘six-hundred and six septillion tons’ is the literal weight of the planet, he carries on his back like Atlas.
Much of the lyrical content in ‘Remain Anonymous’ is extremely dense (littered with references to public figures from the time, filled with puns and plays on words) but on the basis of its poetics it’s equally impressive. Notice the repeated phonemes, some offering an exact rhyme some partial in the line: ‘Cause/now/sun/across/hundred/tons’ which is then carried over into the following lines and the joke about the word ‘come’.
That moment around 1’30 with the Slick Rick sample is so cool as the producer, Vooodu – apparently this was his first release – steps back from the previous high-intensity maelstrom of sound effect to let it seem a bit patch-work, to change in mood again ten seconds later.
There’s a wild and beautiful intensity here – made up from the lyrics/delivery and music – that makes this track hard to ignore, decades on.
Two important tracks from the 80s are sampled on the track: Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s ‘La Di Da Di’ (aka ‘This might be the most sampled/interpolated hip hop song ever,’ according to one YouTube poster having been sampled on 500 different hip-hop releases); ‘Part-Time Suckers’ from Boogie Down Productions
I seen the scene from the outside lookin in through a window pane
Pain; hypertension ruptured the varicose vein
The vainglorious breaks I be, perpetratin omnipotent reign
I rain acid, grate your crew to steak meat
The stakes increase on break beats, your fleet fleets run
When I'm rippin ya Kubrick's, meaning deceased, rest in peace
Pieces of my nebulous flex paralyzes oblongatas
To witness my linguistics like a Muslim takes jihad or not
Since A&R only sign gangster rap acts
Don't get it twisted stereotypin by geography West coast syntax
I signify for C-Arson
The city North of Long Beach, Southwest of Compton ...
All this juice evaporates - what it boils down to
Is the "yes yes y'all," and only that makes a rapper great
Fuck rhetoric and repertoire, demographics and heavy rotation
Slowly the lyrication makes sense
Fuck fame; I snuff that ass out the frame
It ain't Snoop Dogg, so what's my motherfuckin name?
"The arra-arra-R, A, ella-ella-S" (keep it goin)
"You don't know me and you don't know my style" - Method Man (x6)
Yo, wack MC's - it's O-V... E-R
I be R, the nigga who killed your P.R
For the brothers with skills who can't get a record deal
Remain anonymous.. (*fades out echoing*)
Fades out echoing.