Institutionalized Vol. II, the fifth studio album from Ras Kass, plays a lot like a talented rapper’s last grasp at relevancy. He is spitting the same fire he always has, whether he is brushing his shoulder off or wielding lyrical ammo. And his skills almost make you want to root for the bad guy, which is technically accurate since he is serving a prison term. But, unfortunately, Ras is backed by some of the worst beats heard in the past few years. Tracks like “We Go In” and “Ups and Downs”, which feature the late Proof of D12, are fantastic displays of Ras’ talents on the mic. Those cuts fail to impress, though, because the production is just so painfully recycled and dull. There are others, too, that are much worse, like the G-Unit rip-off “I’m All That” and the flat-out boring “Try Me”. When Ras and his production crew sync up, however, they are unstoppable. “Victory (We Shall Overcome)” opens the album with a bang(er) and “Behind the Musick”, a biting middle-finger to Capital Records, is easily the best track on here. But moments like those are fleeting. Ras might still be at the top of his game as an emcee, but he will not succeed unless he finds some new producers to match his fire.
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