Artist: R.A. the Rugged ManTitle: Die, Rugged Man, DieRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Max Herman
After being lavishly courted by a host of major record labels in the early-90s, R.A. the Rugged Man opted to sign with Jive Records only to be dropped and sued. This erratic MC simply proved to be too much to handle. In turn, R.A. has stayed well below the radar for the better part of the 90s. Things have been looking up, though, for this self-dubbed underground legend as he has contributed songs to the Soundbombing and Eastern Conference All Stars compilations, mixtapes and even twisted writing for Mass Appeal Magazine and other publications. And finally in 2004, his debut album, Die, Rugged Man, Die (Nature Sounds), is seeing the light of day. But considering everything R.A. has been through with the record industry and otherwise, this album hardly reflects a bitter, industry outcast. Instead R.A. opts to reminisce over some super-minimalist instrumentals about the good times, and he lets you know that hes still grimy white boy number one.
It would be easy to feel sorry for this Hip-Hop veteran if he werent so lackadaisical about his bad luck in the rap game. R.A. is as on-point as ever, but on Lessons he makes it clear as day that fame, loot and flavor of the month fans are the last things hes after: I aint down to sign autographs or shake your hands/ I dont want trendy-ass followers for fans/ I dont want to sell records/ I dont want to be big/ I dont want MTV running up in my crib/ I dont want to be liked in the music biz/ I dont want fans that dont know who G Rap is.
Destined for the underground, R.A. proceeds to share stories about how much hes witnessed in Hip-Hop. And this includes providing whores for Mobb Deep and even Biggie Smalls. Back-in-the-day joints like the beat box-driven On the Block are likely to induce smiles, as theyre full of golden era references.
R.A.s raps about sluts and being around the block of Hip-Hop longer than other MCs will be entertaining to a good deal of listenersespecially older heads. Unfortunately, most of the production on Die, Rugged Man, Die is just decent. Its not bad by any means, just bare bones. The xylophone-driven beat on Brawl courtesy of J-Zone and the dancehall-tinged production of Chains via Ayatollah are the only outright standout instrumentals here. But, while much of the beats lack punch, R.A. is able to make up for it with his coolly delivered raps.
After well over ten years in Hip-Hop, R.A. the Rugged Man is telling his life like it is and nothing less. R.A.s twisted tales on wax may not always be a pretty sight but theyre certainly worth a listen.