Rapper Ras Kass was born John Austin IV in Watts, California in 1973. A voracious reader throughout his youth, he adopted his stage name in honor of Ethiopian emperor Ras Kassa Mercha. After releasing a pair of independent singles, Ras Kass emerged as one of the most highly regarded new rappers at the time, winning particular acclaim for his skills as a lyricist (in the space of six months, he twice earned Rap Pages magazine's Rhyme of the Month award as well as The Source's Hip Hop Quotable honor). His long-awaited debut LP, Soul on Ice, arrived on Priority Records in 1996. Over twenty years later, he released Soul On Ice 2 with Mello Music Group.