R.A. The Rugged Man is a Hip Hop artist from Long Island NY. He has worked with MC’s such as The Notorious B.I.G., Mobb Deep, Chuck D of Public Enemy, Jedi Mind Tricks, Tech N9ne, Hopsin, Talib Kweli, Masta Ace, Kool G Rap, Wu-Tang Clan, Rakim, Killah Priest, and producersTrackmasters, Erick Sermon, DJ Quik, Buckwild, Alchemist, and Ayatollah. He was featured on all three of Rawkus’s Soundbombing albums, as well as the platinum-selling WWF Aggression album, performing the theme song for Chris Jericho. The Notorious B.I.G. was once quoted as saying, “I thought I was the illest,” when referring to R.A.
In 2004 he released the album Die, “Rugged Man, Die” on Brooklyn based label Nature Sounds. The October 2006 issue of The Source featured R.A.’s verse on “Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story” as its “Hip-Hop Quotable” of the month and HipHopDX named it as the “Verse of the Year”. AllHipHop.com states that “This record will be remembered most for R.A.’s robotic flow recounting his own father’s story of war while absolutely murdering the beat.” Rolling Stone Magazine recently compared R.A.’s rap flow to that of a blue-eyed Biggie Smalls. In addition to his hip hop career, R.A. wrote a monthly movie column for Mass Appeal Magazine, was a contributor to The Ego Trip Book of Rap Lists (St. Martin’s Press) and Ego Trip’s Big Book of Racism (HarperCollins), and has written numerous articles for other magazines including Vibe, King, Complex, Rides, XXL and The Source.
A horror film fan, Thorburn has written three screenplays with cult film director Frank Henenlotter and is writer-producer of a new Henenlotter film, Bad Biology. The film has an original score by Josh Glazer (J. Glaze) with additional production by Prince Paul, and cameos by Playboy model Jelena Jensen and Penthouse Pet Krista Ayne. R.A. is working on his directorial debut, a film based on his family, God Take, God Give.
R.A.’s latest album Legends Never Die was released on April 30, 2013. Guest appearances include Brother Ali, Masta Ace, Tech N9ne, Talib Kweli, Hopsin, and Krizz Kaliko. His first single of the album was ‘The Peoples Champ’. The second single was “Learn Truth’ Feat. Talib Kweli.
This interview was conducted in late April just prior to the release of “Legends never Die”
Scott Ronan: On your new album who have a good line up of established underground producers and some newer lesser known producers. Can you tell me the process you follow when choosing which producers you would like to work with?
R.A. The Rugged Man: I don’t know if Buckwild is an “underground” producer. He’s a HipHop producer, he makes HipHop music. The guy has been on albums that have sold 5 times platinum like Biggie and Puffy albums and then he’s produced cult classic albums like Nineteen Ninety now for Celph Titled. Ayatolah produced Ms. Fat Booty and a ton of HipHop classics, these are HipHop producers not underground. The only thing that makes them “underground” is that they fuck with the artists they want to work with not just the heavily promoted hype job artists. Mr. Green is one of the best in the game, mainstream or underground. I just fuck with whoever the fuck got dope shit.
SR:What do you look for in a beat ? and do you write your lyrics before you get the beat or to the beat ?
R.A.:Certain rhymes I write on a brian ride or a flight or sitting in a restaurant and then I later beef the flow up to the rhyme to the rhythm of the beat I hop on. Other rhymes I write I get the beat and fall in love with the beat and just write tone of rhymes to the beat and lay down the best rhyme out of the batch I write. I don’t look for anything in particular in a beat, it just gotta move me. I usually lean more towards the fun HipHop-Ya-Dont-Stop type beats, the classic golden era sound.. but I could rock to any era and any beat.
SR:On the album you have chosen strong established artists as guests, can you give me some insight into how some of these collaborations came about ? and what helped you choose which artists to work with?
R.A.:I had strong relationships with most the artists already Tech N9ne, Paz, Sadat X, Masta Ace, Eamon, Talib Kweli. I had never worked with Talib but I was directing videos for him and when I thought of the concept to Learn Truth I thought it was time for us to finally do a joint together, it was perfect for the both of us. The only artists I didnt have a strong history with was Brother Ali and Hopsin. I was cool with Hopsin through Dame at Funk volume and we kicked it a couple times but we dont know each other very well. I like the kid, he’s a good guy. And Brother Ali, I picked him, I dont know why, I just felt like a track with Masta Ace and Brother Ali and myself would be three different worlds of HipHop, Rhymesayers meets the Legendary Juice Crew and hop on a joint with the Crustified Dibbs I thought that shit just felt perfect. So I am tight with Slug from Atmosphere and reached out to him and asked him to put me in touch with Brother Ali. Ali got right back to me and said it would be an honor to hop on a track with Legends like us. He’s a humble dude and a really gifted Mc so I’m blessed to have these talented artists coming out and fucking with me. Oh, fuck I forgot Krizz Kaliko, he murdered the Holla-Loo-Yuh joint too. Shout out to KK.
SR:Its been a long time since Die Rugged Man die (which I have on vinyl BTW) and I think the underground scene has certainly suffered from your absence, can you tell me was your sabbatical a conscious decision? and if so what was your thinking behind it?
R.A.:I was putting in a lot of work in those years. I probably have done close to 700 shows if not more in those years, traveling and performing. I am an MC, rocking a stage is first. And Between Collabs and random solo songs I have dropped since Die Rugged Man, I have probably did over 50 songs that came out or more. Also Legendary Classics was in 2009 as well which had I think 9 previously never released tracks. I also self manage, self promote, direct videos, write articles for many magazines, produce movies, I got a lot of shit on my plate so for me to take a big chunk out of my life with limited budget to record 18 songs for a new album it takes a lot. Last year I only did 40 shows because I stayed home a lot working on getting Legends NEver Die finished. When you’re an indie artists being on the road is how you make your money so when you stop touring to focus on the recording aspect and making sure that comes out perfect it takes a lot away from surviving and paying your bills. It’s a double edged sword.
SR:Having worked with some legends of the game, If you were able to make an album with any producer you wanted and any guests you wanted who would be on it and why?
R.A.:Legends Never Die is that album. I did everything I wanted to so on it. The next album I hope to have Rakim on it, he was supposed to be on this one except we missed the deadline and didnt get that joint done on time. I wouldn’t mind fucking with Redman on something either. Or maybe Elzhi. There’s too many dope MC’s out there. So many i would want to work with on projects wether it’s my next album or just some street shit that we hit the people with.
SR:Having worked with Biggie before all shiny suits and soft RnB tinged hip hop tracks can you tell me what he was like to work with on an underground classic?
R.A.:Big was a regular guy like you and me. It was no difference working with Biggie than Killah Priest or Talib Kweli or Akinyelle. I looked at Biggie like another friend of mine who could rap real good, never knew he would become one of the most iconic figures in HipHop history. i just thought he was a cool cat with a dope rhyme style. He was just a kid when he passed away man. I think like twenty fucking three or four. I mean think about that, man. Crazy.
SR:As a major Boxing fan can you give me your view on the game at present and who you rate, pound for pound?
R.A.:The game is alive and breathing and packing out stadiums all over the world. Boxing is great right now. The heavyweights are weak but the rest of the game is great. 2013 has had weekend after weekend of great fights. As far as pound for pound, I guess talent wise and opposition right now Andre Ward is up there, he’s one of the top guys but he doesn’t get too much PR because he’s a God loving Christian who doesn’t trash talk and actually seems like a good human being. The Media doesn’t really want God or Good people in the public eye, they want buffoonery. I dont know if he’s pound for pound but I also enjoy watching Abner Mares too. There’s a lot of fighters. I also want to see Golovkin fight a few more time. He’s got explosive power and people are really hyped on him right now. We’ll see what he got in his next few fights.
SR:Another boxing question, with Manny Steward, Angelo Dundee and Eddie Futch passing recently, Who do you think is the best trainer in the game?
R.A.:I don’t know if he’s the best in the game but a guy like Robert Garcia has a nice little stable of fighters and comes from a family of fighters and works hard to get his fighters where they need to be. Plus he was a good tough fighter in his day. I want to see what he continues to do as a trainer.
This article was first posted on May 12, 2013