R.A. the Rugged Man
Legends Never Die
By: Gus Navarro
R.A. the Rugged Man’s album Legends Never Die was released on April 30, 2013 to an eager fan base that’s been waiting nine years since R.A.’s last studio album. It debuted at number one on the Heatseekers Billboard chart and 131 on the Billboard 200. Legends Never Die backs up this positioning, because it’s a well-rounded hip-hop record in many aspects. Featuring Talib Kweli, Tech N9ne, Masta Ace and Brother Ali, there is lyrical variance that keeps the listener engaged. Also, the beats are always engaging with tracks produced by the likes of Buckwild, Marco Polo, Ayatollah and Apathy. What becomes clear throughout Legends Never Die however is the fact that R.A. is a fearless white boy, and you gotta love it.
As the album begins, we are hit with a jazzy intro in which R.A. introduces himself to the audience. “This for hip-hop heads, everyone else fuck your opinions / This ain’t generic pop novelty rap, I’m reigning supreme / You’re bout to hear a level of skill you won’t hear in the mainstream.” On tracks such as “The People’s Champ,” “Definition Of A Rap Flow,” “Underground Hitz” and “Laugh, Clown Laugh” R.A. establishes himself as an underground MC that represents the poverty stricken working class population in the United States. But also, he demonstrates his ability to write witty, complex and funny lyrics that will make you laugh and think. For example, on “Laugh, Clown Laugh” he states, “I got Louis Farrakhan dating a platinum blonde / I get skinheads bowing to Mecca and praying to Islam / I can’t afford Dre, Swizz Beatz or a Timbaland track / But I can rip any rapper with just a kick and a handclap.” It is fun to see how MCs put words together and construct their rhymes. With every song, the creativity is in your face in the best way and it is a good time. However, the album also contains more serious content.
“Learn Truth” features Talib Kweli accompanied by thoughtful riffs that put the listener in a reflective place. Talib and R.A. draw from history and current events to discuss the complexities of world politics. As Talib says, “Gotta race to meet Allah like they chasing them with a cop car / Like there’s honor in being a martyr and a terrorist is a rock star / Dodging the Abu Dhabi or dodging the paparazzi / Still probably as popular as Swastikas for Nazis.” In the second verse, R.A. draws from the past to shed light on the present, “.38 Beretta used by Ghandi’s assassin / 16 bullets in Malcolm, it happened uptown Manhattan / And the homicide, Reagan ‘80s epidemic of crack / And soldiers in action dying in Iraq and never coming back.” On R.A.’s more serious tracks, his fearlessness comes to the fore.
The lack of fear is perhaps at its height on “Shoot Me In The Head” where R.A. makes no friends and makes no attempt to do so. In the first verse, “I’m the lowest of the lowest life-forms /And I make it painfully obvious every time I write songs / I’m hated, got liberals begging for the death penalty / And conservatives wishing my mother aborted her pregnancy.” And then in the second verse, “Obama nation, the Bush’s, the Clinton’s, or 80’s Reaganomics / It don’t matter, the government always be taking your profits / The Republicans ain’t shit, the Democrats ain’t shit / What would make you think that either side is ever gonna change shit?” Here, R.A. is suggesting that if you boil it down, both sides of the two-party system in the United States are in fact quite similar. Because of this, the people who really need significant social, economic and political changes will continue to be marginalized.
As Legends Never Die progresses, R.A.’s in your face style can be a bit over the top, however I find it refreshing. He draws in the audience with entertaining, fast paced rhymes accompanied with distinct production. Some tracks are super witty, while others are solemn and deal with important issues that are relevant to 2013 and should be spoken about. Ultimately, I find R.A. the Rugged Man’s approach interesting as the frustrations of people outside politics are felt. 2013 is a year where the cooperation between Democrats and Republicans is at an all-time low. There are shootings, bombings and sexual assaults everyday and yet nothing gets done. R.A. the Rugged Man doesn’t provide any type of anecdote as to how to fix our problems. However, with Legends Never Die R.A. is unafraid to challenge the way we think about race, politics, war, money and rhetoric while describing the cyclical nature of the United States. R.A. the Rugged Man truly pushes the audience to take stock of their values and think differently.
“Definition of a Rap Flow”
“Shoot Me in the Head”