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R.A. The Rugged Man has had a long, legendary career that includes highlights such as The Notorious B.I.G. admitting he was better on the song they did together, and having what many consider the best verse of the decade (2000-2009) on “Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story” by Jedi Mind Tricks. While he did release Die, Rugged Man, Die in 2004, he still hasn’t had that definitive 5-star classic album (in my opinion), until now. Rugged Man has spent the last few years just killing guest verses on other rappers’ projects; his most recent album before this was actually a compilation of collaborations he’s done over the years. While he’s proven many times that he’s one of the most talented emcees in hip-hop and can go bar-for-bar with any rapper, here he proved that he can craft a great, cohesive album that not many rappers have the focus to do.
The way this album flows from beginning to end is damn near perfect. It starts with Rugged Man letting us know what we’re about to hear on the intro, with lines in his verse like “you’re ’bout to hear a level of skill you won’t hear in the mainstream” and “I’m not the most known but commercial rappers can’t compete/ I make records for the shepherds and not for the sheep”. Then he goes out and proves it, with the next few songs showcasing a level of lyricism, technical skill and talent that makes amateur rappers such as myself (and hopefully some of these professional pop-rappers too) consider giving up on music for a second, because there’s no way we can possibly compete at this level. There are even songs on here that have a point other than proving that Rugged Man can out-rap everyone in the world, but he still maintains that level of technical skill throughout.
Other than the songs mentioned above where he’s rapping to rap, Rugged Man touches on topics throughout the album like historical events and real-world issues, mainstream media marketing, sex, fame, overcoming obstacles, and an emotional tribute to his father (who passed away a few years ago). The songs are sequenced so not one style feels overdone, and the guest features recruited also fit the album perfectly. He got guys like Talib Kweli, Tom Thum, Brother Ali, Masta Ace and Vinnie Paz to do exactly what you would expect them to do if you’re familiar with their work. Other guests include Tech N9ne, who surprisingly had a slower-paced verse on a track where Rugged Man sped things up to where Tech usually flows, and also Hopsin, who many say was the weakest link on the album, but his verse still rhymed well at least (Rugged is just that damn good).
Rugged Man’s sense of humour is what may put people off to this album, but I’m with it 100%. Much like how the cover art subtly suggests, there’s a theme throughout the album of taking something beautiful or well respected and making it sound disgusting or terrible. There are moments when we hear talented choir singers singing in an opera style, but they’re singing lyrics like “I’m a piece of sh**, I’m a f***ing fat f***” or “s*** my balls, and choke on my d***, you b****”. Another example of this brilliant contrast is on “Underground Hitz” where we hear the beautiful Mozart sample in the beat, but then Rugged Man is rapping about urinating, ejaculating, going to strip clubs, stealing, having orgies, etc. Another humorous highlight is on “Shoot Me In The Head”, where about halfway through the song someone tells him to rap about something important like politics, but then he basically ends up flipping off a bunch of politicians in his verse and says to leave the political rap to Dead Prez and Immortal Technique.
Overall, I think this is Rugged Man’s classic album. He did almost every style of rapping on here, with battle raps, party tracks, conscious tracks, braggadocio, gory, comedy, introspective, self-reflecting, and uplifting tracks. Not every song is for everyone, but you can respect that people with different tastes will dig the ones that aren’t for you, and you can’t deny the level of talent displayed by Rugged. I think if this album came out in the 1990’s, it would fit in with any of the classic albums of that time. It has the hard edge of Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) or The Infamous, the humour of The Slim Shady LP or Muddy Waters, the technical lyricism of Capital Punishment, and the emotion of Ready To Die. It will be interesting to see if R.A. The Rugged Man can top this in the future.
My Grade (based on how well I connected with it, no disrespect if your experience was different): A+
Happy New Year! Remember to visit the SYpherSights Youtube channel for videos from concerts I’ve been to, from my own point of view! Here is a new upload from an R.A. The Rugged Man show I went to over this past summer: