We caught up with R.A The Rugged Man following the release of his feature-packed album release; All My Heroes Are Dead that has guest spots for Ghostface Killa and Kool G Rap.
The hip-hop artist may have built his kingdom on stony battle rhymes but his chameleon-like attitude has always seen the star adapt to his surroundings and transcend whichever pigeonhole people try to put him in.
It’s been seven years since R.A had released a full album and Far Out wondered what he had been up to. Known for his ferocious rhymes and defiant independence, Rugged Man is a tough nut to crack.
Now living in Germany and keeping fans up to date via social media. We wondered how life was treating the legendary loser as the world contends with a lockdown. In the midst of such an unprecedented circumstance, how was isolation treating the star, “Actually, really good. It’s actually been really good to us, you know. Spending some nice time with the family in Germany with the kids. Kids all day all night, you know. No place to go, you can’t take them out or anywhere. But it’s been nice.”
Despite being one of the most mercurial figures in hip-hop, we wondered if there were anymore films in the pipeline? “Yeah, I’ve been working on some scripts, I was planning on touring off this album for a while, you know, err, do a hundred, two hundred shows and to use that money for production. I was talking about shooting a film in Belgium, but you know now, nobody’s doing shows so I’m not sure when that’s gonna be a reality.
He continued, “Everybody’s going out of business, everybody is losing their money, everybody is losing their jobs, people is getting sick in the world and you know, the worlds been through err, tons of stuff like this shit, been through pandemics, been through world wars, not everybody survives but the world keeps going after, you know?
The rapper’s unflinching style has always made sure difficult subjects are put in the limelight. We wondered if it was his intention to make his listeners feel uncomfortable and face these things head on. “Well, I don’t think it’s supposed to be uncomfortable; I think it’s supposed to be life. Death is part of life. I’m not trying to make you feel uncomfortable, I’m just telling the stories of life, I don’t know; if you go see a dramatic film where somebody passes away, is that uncomfortable? I’m not sure, but I guess to some people it is.”
“I’m just trying to be a storyteller, sometimes I’m trying to be a comedic storyteller and go grimy, gross and to shock and be unrealistic, and other times I wanna be realistic and paint pictures of the world. All My Heroes Are Dead, that’s the truth.” He continues, “Loss is the biggest part of life. Whatever you love the most will be gone eventually, and you’ll be gone too, that’s reality, you know.”
Did he believe in life after death? “I used to. My whole life I used to, now when I say my prayers. I say give me the faith back, let me believe again. You know, sometimes I lose faith, I feel disappointed in myself. I feel like I’m letting God down because my faith isn’t there at times. Like, is God a man-made brainwashing tool to control us, that goes through my head.”
The rapper reflects on the difficulties in a world so intrinsically built on the duality of truth, concluding that scientific thought can sometimes make one doubt their faith, “It can make you think, ‘I’m no backwards, hillbilly, religious person. Those people are crazy thinking God is real.’”
After wrestling a little more with the issue, Rugged Man says, “But at the same time, if there is nothing, the World is tiring and a final light switch (off) to let you rest don’t sound too bad. (laughs.) Let me get some fuckin’ rest, alright. I don’t exist anymore, well, thats easy. The flipside is, maybe there is this afterlife and we get to see everyone we have ever loved and lost. That’s what people wanna believe, that everything they have ever lost, they will get back. That’s what Heaven would be. So, people wanna believe in that, of course.”
All My Heroes are Dead, features an extensive guest list of legendary and established artists including Chuck D, Immortal Technique, Vinnie Paz, and Ice-T. Was there anybody he would like to work with in the future? “Well, I wanted to get Big Daddy Kane on the Dragon Fire song (alongside Ghostface Killa, Masta Killa, Kool G Rap and XX3eme) but it didn’t happen. I wanted to get LL Cool J too, but you can only have so many people on an album.”
R.A. reflected, “On the next album, I‘d love to have LL and Slick Rick; a pioneer of great storytelling. Everybody that tells a story in rap has Slick Rick in their genes, you know.”
Slick Rick preceded one of R.A. most recent iconic performances at The Gathering of the Juggalos a time the rapper thoroughly enjoyed, “Well, here’s the thing with Insane Clown Posse, they are big-time hip-hop fans. They are hip hop fanatics. A lot of people don’t know that. They don’t bother to find out because the attitude of the casual listener is ‘oh, they are Juggalos?’ But ICP grew up on the Big Daddy Kane’s, the Boogie Down Productions and X-Clan. That’s who ICP came up on.”
“On stage, they are better than a lot of dope lyricists, like, a lot of people can spit lyrics but not everybody can put on a show. A lot of people get mad at me because Insane Clown Posse is who you’re supposed to hate, like they are not hip hop. I’ve seen every legendary (rap) artist in history on stage and ICP as showmen and as MC’s on stage, impress me big time. I don’t care who gets offended by that.”
Jokingly R.A. rteveals, “Whenever I interview with the British press, a lot of them are into old school hip hop and you can have good conversations with them about old, old school shit, you know. So, it’s good to be talking to a British Juggalo, I didn’t even know and I’m here bigging up the ICP. (laughs.)”
How did R.A. feel about the new breed of hip-hop forming out of social media. Often now artists will post short videos to get noticed before blowing up with 15-second clips of their trending songs. “It’s always been like that, well, not to this level. You have the hip hop heads that listen to and love real hip hop, then you have the others that don’t know about rap and listen to trash. The more money that gets pumped into anything, the more you’re gonna get powerful people and corporations pushing wackness. A lot of artists like Cardi B, are selling records because their Instagram account has the most followers, they have a presence.”
A little riled by the lack of opportunity for those he deemed more willing, Rugged Man reflects, “A lot of times it’s not even about the music anymore, it’s all about social media. That’s what hip hop has become in a lot of ways, the personality and presence over the damn music.”
“Some young, incredible, spittin’ guns who can murder everybody with music and bars are the ones that don’t get listened to because they don’t have a presence. Look at Nas, imagine the social media days were there when Nas was coming out, having to do goofy shit to get noticed. Nas is boring, not boring as far as personality, his thing is spittin’ bars and lyrics, not dancing on TikTok, imagine if he had to do that to blow up? It wouldn’t work.”
Has fatherhood changed how the rapper puts out his music? And what do the kids think of it? “Well, my kids know I’m a great father, I’m a good man. So, the problem is whatever people write on the internet, that’s what they read, so, you have to let them know yourself who you are. They can’t go by what stories are told or what reviews you get. That’s not what it is. If they wanna listen to me (starts rapping bars to C**t Renaissance) on the track with Biggie Smalls, or The Big Snatch on this new album, about the world’s largest vagina, let them have fun with that.
“Daddy’s a great man, a little wild, a little crazy, but my kids know I’m good to them.”
If Rugged had to change one thing about his career it would be to have a manager he could count on, ”I’ve always said this, If I had somebody in my corner to go in hard for my business, Tech N9ne has Travis O’Guin, Travis started Strange Music, he hooked up with Tech and handled all the business and made Tech a multi-millionaire. That’s the one thing I would change, having somebody handle my business.”
The final question and possible red rag to the proverbial bull is classic for any battle rapper, which rapper out there today would you lose to in a bar for bar battle? His answer lets you know he’s certainly a battle rapper: “Not one alive, nobody. There’s not one that I would lose against. That’s part of the sport, the competition. Some scare me, like, I’m scared of a lot of rappers. But I gotta come correct, it’s like boxing, you don’t go in the ring thinking anybody is gonna beat you, you’re like yo, put me up against the best in the world, you might be scared but you have faith in yourself.”
“If it’s a scary-ass dude and you make mistakes, you’re gonna get hurt, but I’m not gonna make mistakes. I’m confident I can go bar for bar with anybody on the planet. Let’s go!”