A lot of MCs nowadays drop one nice song or a guest verse and are immediately given plenty of props. But the true measure of an MC, what separates a Common from a Canibus, is the LP. Though the incredible 'Remain Anonymous'/'Won't Catch Me Runnin' 12" and an incredibly independent full length (also titled 'Soul On Ice') had got Ras a nice rep in the west, this album cemented his position in the MCing hall of fame.
What makes 'Soul on Ice' so great? Three words: lyrics, lyrics, lyrics (although technically that's one word thrice). A track like 'If/Then' would be filler from a normal MC, but the lyrical pyrotechnics of John Austin make it a gem. Ras keeps his delivery low key for the album's majority, with the only example of an exceptional on 'Etc.' (especially the on verbal dyslexia line). Luckily even at times when he's just doing his normal delivery, the range of topics and quality of lyrics Ras shows in 63 minutes eclipses most rappers entire careers.
Take the opener 'On Earth As It Is In Heaven.' The comparison of Biblical times to Ras' life is done with such fluency that it seems to be much deeper than it actually is. In his own words "Let the commandments begin again / Cuz just like Moses on Mount Sinai, I broke all 10." Without skipping a beat, Ras can go from here to a classic take on being a modern hip hopper ('Reelishymn'), then create an east coast retaliation that disses the east-west beef ('Sonset'), through a poignant autobiographical tale written with incredible honesty ('The Evil That Men Do') and end it all on a still fresh take on the illuminati ('Ordo Abchao').
But nothing on this album, and likely Ras' entire career, can or will live down 'Nature of The Threat.' Called everything from the greatest lyrical piece every written to a hypocritical, plagiarized piece of filth, the pumping drum beat and Ras' fierce afro centric breakdown of white history creates a track that is easy to hate, but impossible to ignore. I don't know how correct the history is, but the track is so well done and confidently spat that its very hard to accurately fault.
While every 'Soul on Ice' write-up criticizes the production, I personally feel it does a good job of accompanying the lyrics, although I doubt that the beats would stand out on their own. The lyricism always manages to be the focus of the tracks, without the type of flashy, distracting beats that hurt his follow-up ('Rasassination'). 'Soul on Ice' is one of my favorite albums of all time, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.