Legendary hip-hop names Russell Simmons and Notorious B.I.G., besides their iconic status, have a link between them that is known only by the experienced culture follower: respect and awareness of the one and only, R.A. The Rugged Man. Without ever releasing an official album, R.A. has endured through a career that would make for a classic VH1 "Behind The Music" special.
What lies beneath R.A.’s rugged exterior, however, is what makes him much more than just a source of interesting Hip-Hop stories. More than can be said for the majority of today’s Rap heavyweights, R.A. is what a true MC should be: dedication, love for the culture, and God-given skills all rolled into one combustible package. His abilities have even been cosigned by the likes of The Neptunes and Mobb Deep, among others.
His time in the game hasn’t been easy, though. A botched deal with Jive Records left his career in limbo, with little more than appearances on various underground compilations to show for it. As the saying goes, though, patience is a virtue, one that R.A. possesses in heavy amount. Die Rugged Man Die, his long-awaited solo debut being released on Nature Sounds, is scheduled to hit shelves in November, and is loaded with solid production and R.A.’s unique lyricism. Upon the album’s release, all rappers should be warned; R.A. The Rugged Man is coming out with guns blazing and opinions firing.
AllHipHop.com: Rap has gone through many drastic changes since you first entered it. You’ve been in the game for so many years, and with your first album finally dropping now. So, what are you bringing to the table in 2004?
R.A.: I’m bringing real motherf***in’ music. The only thing different about the game is that rappers are getting wacker. I’m keeping it legitimate Hip-Hop music; where as, 2004 rappers are wack. 95% of these rappers that come out are a joke. There are a couple of dudes that are hustling and making good music, but you gotta search for them. Hip-Hop is mainstream now, and when something street gets diluted by mainstream pop culture, it loses something. We need a couple motherf***ers to bring this sh*t back, cuz it isn’t heading in the right direction at the moment, and Hip-Hop is too strong to get messed up by some bullsh*t Pop.
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel like you are given the proper amounts of respect from people within the industry?
R.A.: In this game, motherf***ers are respected when they get all over the TV screens. Does Kool G Rap get the proper amount of respect? Does Big Daddy Kane? Like, if you saw Big Daddy Kane and Lloyd Banks in the street, who would get more love right now? Yeah, I think I’m better than so many rappers out there, but get respect? From who, you know. I think I get it from the important people, who appreciate Hip-Hop. From the KRS-One types, the Clark Kents and dudes who have been in the game; they hear my stuff and know what it is. Other dudes that don’t understand Hip-Hop, they don’t respect me, and that doesn’t bother me. They respect motherf***in’ Chingy more than me.
AllHipHop.com: Being that this is your first real album after all of this time, you must have a lot to say. How did you approach the songwriting process for Die Rugged Man Die?
R.A.: Well, I never knew that it was gonna be the first time. I didn’t even know I was gonna put this record out. I thought I was gonna do what I’ve been doing, which is pimp Nature Sounds for their money and not put out a record, but the dudes at the label are smarter than that. With the mainstream labels, you can get away with it, cuz you pimp them for their money, and they are like, “F*** him. $300,000? F*** him, that’s less than a video cost. Get him the f*** out of here. He’s a scumbag.” [Laughs] When you go to a Jewish kid at Nature Sounds, he’s taking the money out of his pocket, so he’s making sure you put the record out. So, I didn’t approach it like, “This is my first time!” I didn’t even expect to put the f***er out.
AllHipHop.com: Now, after listening to the album, there are a lot of lyrics that stand out. What I want to do is mention certain bars to you for you to elaborate on each. First, “I brought Biggie Smalls to the Long Island w#### pit, he b#### a b#### in the bathroom, and broke the toilet.” What’s the story behind that?
R.A.: What that was…the W#### Pit was a spot we used to record at, and we used to all f*** b*tches in that studio. W#### Pit sounds a lot fouler than it is, but it is just a studio, and in the studio, we f***ed. Biggie came out to the studio, and he had his own little chick in the bathroom with him. Next thing you know, he’s walking out the bathroom, and water is pouring out of the toilet. Condoms are overflowing. He f***ed both the toilet and the plumbing up while boning the chick. [Laughs] Basically, anything on this album that you ask me about, it really happened. Rappers act like they are crazy and they say crazy sh*t. F*** all that, I’ll tell you my life.
AllHipHop.com: Next lyric is, “I used to bring groupie b*tches up to f*** Mobb Deep.”
R.A.: I was known for having lots of s####. I think I still am. I had my little army of s####, and I used to bring them to places like my boys’ houses. One day, Havoc had done some music for me and looked out, so I went up to their room and said, ‘Hey, let me bring a s### up there to handle some business.” Infamous Mobb and some other members of their crew were all there, and we all went one after the other on the s###. I was like fifth or sixth on the list. [Laughs] She was a good girl. We liked her! I don’t know where she is now, but I wish I knew.
AllHipHop.com: Damn, that’s funny as hell. Ok, next lyric is, “A month before they blew up with Mystikal and Jay-Z, The Neptunes came up to D&D to see me.”
R.A.: I was in D&D, and one of the record executives was up there, and he said that he had some guys that wanted to meet me and listen to some of my stuff cuz they know who I am, and blah blah blah. Pharrell came in to the session all cowboy’d out, with a f***in’ AC/DC shirt on. I’m like, “Who are these motherf***ers? They’re crazy.” The Asian kid and him were like, “Yo, we love your stuff! We want to work with you. We already got money, but f*** it, we just want to work with you.” I was down, but then the record label stepped in and said they were talking too much money. After hearing the amount they were asking for, I said, “Come on, man. I could make two f***in’ albums for that kind of money.” But yeah, they came to see me cuz they liked my music. It ain’t no thing. More power to people who blow up. I’m actually like a good luck charm for people. I stay where I’m at, but if you meet me, good things will happen for you. It’s happened too many times. It’s f***in’ bizarre.