The blacklisted emcee's authentic personality can rock a crowd no matter what.
We admit, we followed R.A. The Rugged Man too late in life, and we apologize. We'll never be able to live that down. But if you haven't heard of the underground phenom, you've never heard the magic of this godly being.
Being a diehard fan of old school rap and hip hop, the golden age of hip hop in the 80's to mid 90's were always dominated by NWA, Doug E. Fresh, Eric B. and Rakim, Biz Markie and Beastie Boys in our cassette player. Pulling the caboose from the late 90's to mid 2000's, Tupac, Biggie, Snoop, Dre, Wu-Tang Clan, Missy Elliott and others, in our CD player. But it was in the late 2000's where we came upon a cat that we should have been listening to amongst these greats. A name that should be mentioned in the same breath as these other legends – R.A. The Rugged Man.
We had seen him a few times on some MTV shorts (which are pretty funny, btw), but that's as far as we went. We saw a silly host saying silly things on a network that was struggling to come up with decent content besides regurgitating Road Rules vs Real World contests every damn year. But don't be fooled by the picture above or what anyone says denigrating this fucking amazing talent – this isn't some white guy trying to look cool and assume any culture appropriation. On the contrary, this is an emcee and lyricist of the highest order. Biggie himself is quoted in reference to R.A. saying:
"And I thought I was the illest." - Notorious B.I.G., hiphopgoldenage.com
For the peeps who haven't had a taste of R.A. The Rugged Man, not only does hip hop royalty like Wu-Tang Clan and Big Daddy Kane consider him a real talent, his music videos are pretty entertaining; a completely lost art in this day and age. If you don't believe us, watch "Gotta Be Dope" featuring A-F-R-O (who we'll be writing about in the future) and DJ Jazzy Jeff.
His mastery of lyrics combined with a great hook and beat make a lot of his music very enjoyable. It easily makes you want to roll down the windows, blast the base and cause some commotion driving down your neighborhood street.
Going back a few years earlier, you can see the genius of his rhymes in Gift of Gab's (RIP) "Freedom Form Flowing," "Media Midgets" or his other collaborations with Brother Ali and Masta Ace in "The Dangerous Three."
But for us, a fucking monumental component of why he's appealing is because of his unfiltered perspective. His opinions on who the best rappers ever isn't guided by who just his friends are, he is well educated in hip hop history. When everyone thinks Kendrick Lamar is one of the top 5 lyricists ever (we know this is subjective), he fires back and intelligently debates why that isn't so. But because he's so opinionated, he's been blackballed by major record labels for not being a puppet and doing what he was told, leading to artist after mainstream artist passing on collaborating with him because he was deemed "kryptonite."
But we say good for him. Why? Because he's not a pawn in a commercialized world trying to water down great music just for the sake of cashing in. He's a talented rap artist who likes to commentate on boxing. He's a family man that loves being a dad. These things are usually frowned upon if they don't fit into the marketing machine. But he's a down-to-earth dude who has talent to back up what he's saying or doing.
Most recently, he's taken the aforementioned A-F-R-O under his wing and they've begun to put out incredible tracks. You know, there should be more R.A. Rugged Men around. In a world full of commercialized wannabes making horrendous music, his music and collaborations are still fresh and delightful as ever.
Also, I can understand what he's saying; MUMBLE RAP HAS GONE TOO FAR.