Rugged Intellect: Renaissance Music

For 2007, it’s in vogue to praise the ‘90s Hip-Hop movement, but cater to the radio with albums. A Canadian MC with a deep appreciation for that purebred Hip-Hop of yesteryear, Rugged Intellect’s Renaissance Music: The Introduction (Expertism) lives up to its name, and may kick through walls and borders like Toddy Tee’s batterram. Through an impeccable collage of sample-based beats, Rugged Intellect makes perfect sense on an album that belongs on a shelf next to O.C.’s Jewelz and Group Home’s Livin’ Proof.“Gonna Move” is very telling of Rugged’s gift. Overtop a soulful guitar beat from Domingo, the MC holds court with a faster flow, showcasing his careful timing and knowledge of the culture. A simple chorus doesn’t permit reaching for radio play, but instead follows the album’s theme perfectly. “All Fair” takes it up a notch. Alongside the obvious influence Kool G Rap, Rugged Intellect’s lyricism channels both Giancana and Big Pun, making himself the third generation of puncturing wordplay. In addition to G Rap, Rugged plays to his partners—not mimicking, but rather meshing nicely with Rockness Monstah, R.A. the Rugged Man and Ras Kass, on the respective tracks. Unlike another rapper clutching a ‘90s sound to hide lyrical flaws, Rugged Intellect takes it back with the beats.Domingo and Buckwild are primary sources for that authentic sound. Both come with heavy rock-inspired soul (“Life I Love” and “Gonna Move”) which will educate younger listeners to the inspiration behind Just Blaze’s popularized sound. While both continue to get major placements, all contributions appear to be gems held onto for an MC who would cherish them. Equally, Canadian producer Adam Sampler carries equal weight, with his own funky concoctions. Unafraid of stripping sacred records, Sampler, even in his intro and interlude, makes the album come to live like a 1970s film score. The only out-of-place production is the playful and peppy “Like That,” which is made right by Rugged paying tribute to Hip-Hop pioneers.Renaissance Music doesn’t put its concept on front street like Kaze’s Spirit of ’94 or Blueprint’s 1988. However, for anybody who has never heard of Rugged Intellect, Renaissance Music's near-immaculate production may attract you to meet a talented, non-conformist MC who spits raspy, hard-nosed raps about the pursuit of success, the glory years of rap, and why Hip-Hop may soon be smuggling realness over the border from Canada.