Welcome to Hip-Hop Politics 101 with Professor R.A. the Rugged Man. Although Q-Tip laid down industry rule 4080, R.A. penned and experienced the other 4079. His name may sound familiar, but R.A. is probably known more for his bizarre antics than his music. Unlike the talent-less rappers that dominate hip-hop, the Rugged Man could run lyrical laps around many of the greatest, dead or alive. He’s the man who was involved in a major label bidding war in the early ’90s; who broke bread with Mobb Deep and the Notorious B.I.G.; who obliterated the star-studded lineup on Sounding Bombing II with “Stanley Kubrick.” It’s been a long time coming, and although Die, Rugged Man, Die may be nothing more than glorified mixtape, whenever R.A. drops material, you best believe it’s going to be hot.
R.A. is quick to dust off the marble notebook of rhymes and reminisce on the days of Starter caps and Triple Goose jackets on “Lessons.” The Primo-esque track is a time capsule back to the golden age of ’93, leading to such lyrical gems as, “I don’t wanna sell records, I don’t wanna be big/ I don’t want MTV runnin’ up in my crib I don’t want fans that don’t know who G Rap is.” Most emcees are quick to boast about their material possessions and their sexual prowess, but R.A. takes self-deprecation to another level. Platinum plaques and Maybachs don’t move him; he’s looking for props and respect for his mike skill, not his (in)ability to navigate the music industry. He airs it out spitting, “All that glamour and glitz shit/ fuck that shit/ I don’t need it.”
R.A. is quick to disassociate himself from the industry, but he should have called in a few favors and upgraded the production. Although J-Zone and Ayatollah drop above-average fare, the rest of the beats sound more like customized ring tones. At one point R.A. even boasts about never paying more than three G’s for beat. But production can make or break an album, regardless of the lyrical content. Just ask Talib Kweli.
Die, Rugged Man, Die may disappoint heads patiently waiting since he traded verses with B.I.G. on “Cunt Renaissance.” But in the face of tremendous wealth and fame, R.A. the Rugged Man stuck to his guns, never folding to the demands of record execs. You have to admire his conviction. Who would have ever thought about doing hip-hop strictly for the love?