R.A. the Rugged Man Talks Inconsistency In Hip Hop Censorship

Exclusive: After writing a Rick Ross-related editorial for DX, R.A. the Rugged Man further explains his stance and tells why he'd never apologize for any of his rhymes.

There was once a time when R.A. the Rugged man was banned from entering the offices of at least one major record label. That wasn’t a ban in the hyperbolic, “Banned From TV” sense, but a literal, standing order not to be within a specified distance of the label’s headquarters. Luckily, things have changed.

“And, you know, I was young, crazy and had issues in my mind back then,” R.A. explains almost wistfully. “So they were scared of me. You get a little older, you calm down, and now everybody says, ‘Oh, R.A.’s the nice guy. We like him. Let him in the house, and let him have dinner with the kids.’”

There’s no standing dinner date. But on a typically sunny day, R.A. does appear at HipHopDX’s Hollywood office with a friend for an interview. There’s playful banter back and forth, and a hilarious story about performing in the boonies of East Tennessee with Cappadonna (who somehow ended up doing “The Twist”)—none of which should lull you into believing R.A. isn’t still intensely passionate about his craft.

He’s still liable to get kicked off of a commercial flight for wearing a shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Every Record Label Sucks Dick.” These days a faux pas by this particular site or an inconsistent review of his new album is laughed off, but not before he calls bullshit. At a time when rappers are pre-screening interview questions as if they’re vetting a potential political candidate, his candor is becoming increasingly rare.

“You can just let the cameras roll and ask be a bunch of random shit,” he offered. Naturally, we obliged.

HipHopDX: The Kool Herc reference at the end of “Still Diggin Wit Buck” probably made a lot of people unfamiliar with your work think you weren’t in tune with newer artists. It was surprising to see Hopsin on “Underground Hits”...were you familiar with Hopsin’s earlier stuff before you two collaborated?

R.A. the Rugged Man: No. You know what? I didn’t know Hopsin’s hustle, but I started hearing kids talking about Hopsin. They said, “Yo, this kid Hopsin…you should do a record with him.” And people were posting things on my site saying I should work with Hopsin. And I’m like, “Who the fuck is Hopsin?” I didn’t really pay attention, and then Dame from Funk Volume hit me up saying, “Hey, we’re trying to get all the credible, underground cats together. You, Hopsin…we should all talk.”

So Funk Volume reached out to me a couple years back. That’s when I took notice of Hopsin, like, “Oh, let me check the kid out.” He had that record “Pans In The Kitcken,” and the video had him in the special ed class and with the fat, white girl. It was a lot of stuff from the Crustified Dibbs era where I saw a lot of similarities between us and our lyricism. A lot of kids don’t see the connection I can have with a brother like that, but the “Pans In The Kitcken” one was the first one that got me. I said, “Wow. That’s some real interesting shit he’s doing.” I liked it.

R.A. the Rugged Man On Media Coverage Of Hip Hop

DX: Another track from Legends Never Die, “Learned Truth” hits pretty close to home in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. You obviously had no knowledge that would happen when you and Kweli recorded the song. But what are your thoughts on TMZ and other outlets highlighting the fact that one of the suspects was listening to Hip Hop?

R.A. the Rugged Man: I’m pretty confident that the Boston kids fuckin’ know who I am and all that shit, because they had the Heavy Metal Kings in their iPod. I was in the Heavy Metal Kings video, and they’re fans of Vinnie Paz. I’m like, “Goddamn, that shit is crazy!”

Of course the fucking bombers listen to Rap—they’re young kids, with the mentality of, “Oh yeah, I listen to Hip Hop.” But that never has nothing to do with shit. I’m sure Timothy McVeigh liked Goodfellas by [Martin] Scorsese. Adolf Hitler was a fan of John Ford westerns. That doesn’t have shit to do with, “Oh, you know what? I listened to Vinnie Paz, now I’m gonna go bomb the fucking marathon.” So they can try to put it on Hip Hop, but that’s a weak argument.

DX: Why does the media always do that…even if it’s not Hip Hop?

R.A. the Rugged Man: The media likes to sensationalize anything. It doesn’t matter what the fuck it is, and they’ll always look for the negative. If anybody’s listening to a Rap song, they won’t say, “Oh, this person’s trying to help the kids.” They’ll say, “Wait, this guy talked about selling crack.” That’s what they do. And it’s not just Rap. Look at religions. If it’s one bad thing that a Muslim did, they’ll blame the Muslim religion. If one person in the Catholic Church did something offensive, then it’s, “Oh the whole Catholic religion and the Pope is the devil!” They take the negativity and sensationalize it no matter what the subject is.

And they’ll never show you the real facts; they’ll just make it for like first graders. It’s all black and white with either this extreme of goodness or this extreme of badness. They’ll say, “Obama’s a god…he’s a savior!” Meanwhile, come on. Or they’ll say, “This guy’s the devil. He’s the worst.” It’s no human beings with reality and a happy medium.

DX: On both of your albums, there’s an element of controlling your own narrative, whether you’re talking about “A Star Is Born,” “Lessons,” or “The People’s Champ.” Why is that so important?

R.A. the Rugged Man: I think it’s an important thing as an artist where when you listen to their music you can kind of feel who the person is through the music. When you put out material and it sounds like a generic ass song, you don’t have a long shelf life if you’re that artist. That’s why even today, you can relate to someone like Marvin Gaye or Bob Marley. People know the personality of the person by just listening to the music. Listen to Wise Intelligent from the Poor Righteous Teachers. You know who he is just by listening to the music.

Look at Drake. I’m not a Drake fan; I don’t like his lyrics. But he’s that sensitive, girlie type of dude. I understand who he is, and that’s why he has his fans. Even though my people ain’t his fans, he gets his fans because you understand who this fuckin’ Drake guy is by listening to his music. He might not be a person who we relate to, but the little sensitive people might relate to that.

The Evolution Of R.A. the Rugged Man

DX: With any artist—not just rappers—you have to decide how much of your personal life you’re gonna put into your work. How did you get to that point where you’re telling us about yourself, your dad, your siblings, your nephew…everybody?

R.A. the Rugged Man: [Laughs] Yeah, if you’re in my circle, you’re fucked up. You’re getting called out…even my goddamn niece, my dead nephew, my father. My rhyme book is almost like a diary. I don’t know why the fuck I’m giving it to you guys, but…I don’t know. I’m very personal with my lyricism. I try to spill it all, and I give it to the world. I don’t know why I do that, but if you listen to my music, you basically know my life. Sometimes, it ain’t personal. I get fun and I’ll smack you in the face with my dick…it’s two sides to R.A.

DX: Have you always been like that?

R.A. the Rugged Man: No, it’s funny. When I was a teenager, it was, “I’m the best. I’m the best. I’m the best.” But I still do that today. I still got the braggadocious, “Hip Hop ya’ don’t stop, I could rock the mic better than you,” style. But even at 15, I wrote a song called, “Everybody’s A Critic,” and it was talking about criticisms. In the ‘80s there was that whole Glam Rock shit, so I wrote a song called, “Rock Died Out.” It was like, “You ain’t a mister / You look more like my sister,” just talking about all the Glam Rock, fag-looking Rock stars. I didn’t experience a lot when I was 15, so that was the stuff I experienced—like, “How can they criticize me? Fuck these gay looking rock guys! They look like girls and they wear lipstick.” So even as a kid, I would go at whatever the fuck pissed me off.

I was dirty even as a 15-year-old. I did a talent show, and on the night of the rehersal I did my clean rhyme. But then, on the night of the show, I came out with a big ass Flavor Flav clock on. People were like, “What the fuck is wrong with this guy?” Then I came out on stage, and I was saying raps like, “Yo your bitch is getting wetter ‘cause of me!” I pissed off everybody at school, and I got in trouble. But even back then, I was saying, “I’m not gonna censor myself.” Even as a teenager I was doing that dumb shit.

DX: So anyone at Jive that had the privilege of seeing that should’ve seen the handwriting on the wall…

R.A. the Rugged Man: Oh, Jive knew what they were signing. But that’s what happens though. If corporations see a bunch of other people interested, they think, “Oh, we’ll make so much money off of it. The controversy will work for us.” But then, when they had the fuckin’ young, rugged demon in the office, it was, “Oh, we’re scared of him. He’s a scary guy…we can’t go in elevators with him.” And, you know, I was young, crazy and had issues in my mind back then. So they were scared of me. You get a little older, you calm down, and now everybody says, “Oh, R.A.’s the nice guy. We like him. Let him in the house, and let him have dinner with the kids.” But it took me 20 years to come in people’s houses and have them not be scared.

R.A. the Rugged Man Talks Inconsistency In Hip Hop Censorship

DX: It feels like we’ve been desensitized to a lot of stuff in those 20 years. A lot of things that were once taboo seem kind of passé…

R.A. the Rugged Man: Oh, I think it’s opposite now. I think in the early ‘90s, we were allowed to say a lot more shit. Maybe the white rappers weren’t. When I was at Jive, I asked them, “How are you gonna have a problem with my lyrics when you have Too Short talking about Nancy Reagan sucking dick like corn on the cob?” They’d say, “You mean what you say. Too Short doesn’t. He’s a nice guy.” Are you fucking kidding me? That’s the shit I got. So they saw the crazy, uncontrollable white guy that hates women. But Too Short could say it, and Redman could say, “I’m down with O.P.P. / Best part about it, I got AIDS bitch!” [on “Rated R]. On Def Jam, Onyx was talkin’ about the “Black Vagina Finder.” Snoop Dogg was on a big pop record saying, “Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks.” So I think you were allowed to be a little bit more offensive in that era.

I think today, if you say the wrong thing you’re going to be told you need to make an apology. There’s all these publicists making all their artists apologize for everything. I would never, ever, ever apologize for nothin’ I ever say on a record, because I said it on the fuckin’ record. I meant it when I said it, and I’m not gonna apologize. But they force the artists to go, “Oh I’m sorry I said that; I didn’t mean it.” And then they lie and say people took the lyric wrong. Nobody took the lyric wrong, you said it motherfucker. Don’t apologize for the shit you said. But that’s the game right now.

Tyler the Creator gets away with the rape stuff.  Odd Future gets away with a lot of stuff, and nobody gives them a problem. Good for them. They’re like, “Fuck it.” I think that kid Earl [Sweatshirt] is interesting lyrically.

After Eminem said those homophobic lyrics, he’s holding hands with Elton John. That’s what they do so you can comfort these different fan bases. It’s smart because they’re business people. Don’t cut off a whole community or cut off a whole fan base. So I understand why they’re doing it. I’m not even saying they’re wrong for doing it. That’s just not me. I can’t go, “Oh, let me go hold hands with Elton John.”

Rick Ross said, “Oh, Reebok it was great working with you.” I would have been like, “Suck my dick, Reebok.” That’s the difference. That might be why I’m underground for life, because I’m not gonna take nothin’ back. Ever.

DX: Going back to your Too Short example, that seems like something that’s still playing out. Someone basically says, “If Tyler or Eminem rape someone in a song it’s just fiction. But Ross really meant it…”

R.A. the Rugged Man: That’s what I heard someone say as an argument! They’ll say, “Oh it was realistic the way that Rick Ross said it.” What the fuck does that mean? You’re the critic who’s gonna how real it is or how unreal it is? Eminem could rape a woman in the pussy with an umbrella, Jay-Z could rape and pillage kids, and Biggie could have his boy fuck kids in the ass and throw them off a bridge. But Rick’s is really real? It’s not that his is really real, it’s that you don’t like Rick. You don’t like his music; you don’t think he’s a real artist. So the mentality is, “Fuck that guy. We hate him, so he’s the bad guy.” Meanwhile, all your rappers said the same bullshit.

The funny thing is, people came at me like, “How dare you defend him.” I’m not even a fan of Rick Ross’ music; it’s not even like that. What it is, is I’m a fan of freedom of speech. I’m a fan of not being a hypocrite and crucifying one artist when you’re not crucifying the other artist for the exact same shit.  

The 20 Year Span Of Crustified Dibbs & R.A. the Rugged Man

DX: This is a little off from my line of questions, but what the hell is a Crustified Dibbs?

R.A. the Rugged Man: [Laughs] Crustified Dibbs is a bad idea. In the ‘90s, the name R.A. the Rugged Man just sounded so ‘90s. There were groups coming up making noise with names like Cypress Hill—they had cool names. Crustified Dibbs wasn’t a cool name, but I was 18 and I said, “I don’t wanna be R.A. the Rugged Man; I wanna be Crustified Dibbs.” I was dirty, crusty and nasty…it just sounded like some shit. I was hanging out and said, “Crustified Dibbs.” It don’t really have no meaning. I like the fact that Crustified Dibbs exists, and I’m proud of it now. They begged me to be R.A. the Rugged Man. And it just didn’t feel big like so-and-so’s group. I was young—18-years old—and you always try to think of something fresh at that age. Sometimes you over-think things, and they’re not always the move.

DX: True. We were kind of talking about it earlier off camera. But how has your fan base changed in the 20 years since you started?

R.A. the Rugged Man: What’s crazy is that my fan base is beautiful, because a lot of people from my era only have fan bases of 35 and over. Only the old folks go out to their shows. For some reason, if you go to my Facebook, there’s all these 15-18-year olds and 20-to-24-year-olds…it’s all the young kids. I always had the 35 and older set, but every year I get brand new fans. All my idols like Rakim and Chuck D say how good I am at what I do, and that feels good. But then, on the flip side, it feels good when a little 15-year-old is singing, “Every Record Label Sucks Dick” when I’ve been doing it for this long.

DX: So what’s the entry point to your catalogue for a 15-year-old?

R.A. the Rugged Man: I have a long, illustrious career. So you kind of know the age of my fans by the songs they say. You know it’s an old head if they go, “Yo, I liked when you said, ‘Every record label sucks dick’ or when you did that ‘Bloody Axe’ joint.” I figure they must be 40. If someone is talking about Soundbombing on Rawkus, they must be about 32. Whereas if someone talking about me and Jedi Mind Tricks, I’ll say, “Oh, you must be about 26.” When you’re around that long, certain age groups make certain parts of your career the classic moment of your career.

I got a lot of sections of my career, kind of like Bernard Hopkins. You can go back t his middleweight reign, and people will say, “Oh remember when he defended the title 20 times?” There’s so many parts of his career that you can break down to understand why this dude had longevity. I hope people can look at my career the same way as B-Hop.

DX: One of your biggest assets is being a hustler, and not in the corny sense. But you’ve created all these revenue streams from writing, film and owning your material where you’re not dependent on a label check. Where does that come from?

R.A. the Rugged Man: I’m a German. My mother’s work ethic—she’s a German lady. My father was Scottish, Sicilian…he’s from America; he’s from Hell’s Kitchen. He was the street dude. But my mother’s this non-stop working ass, German lady. She’s 66 now, and she’s still working non-stop. She works for Lancome cosmetics, and she travels and everything. I definitely got my hustle from my mother. Writing for magazines, stealing money out of Jive, hustling money out of Capitol, getting money out of Rawkus and non-stop working and touring, directing videos—the non-stop movement comes from my mother.

The personality and the humor—if you think I’m funny—that comes from my daddy. A lot of my character comes from my daddy. But the work ethic comes from mommy. 

R.A. the Rugged Man’s latest album, Legends Never Die was released April 30 via Nature Sounds. It is currently available at retailers, online and via iTunes.

RELATED: No Half Steppin': Rick Ross & Hip Hop's Double Standard On Offensive Lyrics [R.A. the Rugged Man Editorial]


  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    love the song he did with brother ali and masta killa, cant think of the name of the top of the head...insanely simple beat, but in my mind a perfected beat, especially with the scrathing and biggie samples. all 3 dropped a sick verse, best song ive heard in 2013 so far

    • Assassin221

      He had a crazy song with Rampage a few months back, too, it was on here in the "Slept-on songs" thing. I was bumpin RA's album today and this dude's fucking flow is amazing.

    • rmacq112

      ACE* Masta Ace

  • bellic

    "Look at Drake. Im not a Drake fan; I dont like his lyrics. But hes that sensitive, girlie type of dude. I understand who he is, and thats why he has his fans. Even though my people aint his fans, he gets his fans because you understand who this fuckin Drake guy is by listening to his music. He might not be a person who we relate to, but the little sensitive people might relate to that." BEST STATEMENT OF THE CENTURY!! Legends Never Die is a fukking masterpiece.. thanks r.a.

  • Anonymous

    Wasn't this guy raped ? I remember reading once about how this man R.A. the Rugged man was violently assraped by a gang of thugs i heard dude was bent over

    • Anonymous

      Nah, that was the other way around. And it wasn't thugs. It was your family. He ripped shop like colon cancer

  • Brooklyn dj

    Im sick of hearing this niggas opinions this dude sucks.. so fucking average worst voice in hip hop too.. Legendary?...really???? real talk cmon

  • chequemate

    label check dx cheque yourselfs

  • Lame

    misunu yonyoko nizikaka nonke minqundu!!!!!!!!choke on a fat dick

  • Killah Casp

    anybody need they dicks sucked????

  • Chronic

    This man is dope as fuck. For me he is one of the greatest MC ever and I don't give a fuck if he don't get overhyped by MTV and stuff. He has a great wordplay & flow combined with nice lyrics. This man got the whole package.

  • Anonymous

    ja rule is above all of this.

  • Anonymous

    I heard this guy got fucked in the ass dude got raped



  • Anonymous

    http://www.cracked.com/funny-5696-the-8-most-terrible-things-about-americans-as-written-by-rabidly-british-person/ so so so so true

  • Anonymous

    damn people would listen to anything

  • Anonymous

    I saw this clown on Itunes under hip/hop and I though it was a joke

    • bellic

      Why is he a clown and why should it be a joke? Clearly u haven't listen to his stuff so I dont understand how the fuck u can say that.. I'm so fucking tired of u MTV hip-pop listeners!!!

  • V-Nasty is God

    Damn, I didn't know he came out with another album this year. I've been fucking with him since I heard him on that one Jedi Mind Tricks track years back and I still didn't' know. This is why underground rap needs more expose. Anyway, I agree with him for the most part, except where he said: "Tyler the Creator gets away with the rape stuff. Odd Future gets away with a lot of stuff, and nobody gives them a problem". That's a lie. Why do people think this? After Tyler blew up and Goblin came out, there were tons of protests against him by GLAAD and other organizations for his over the top violent and homophobic lyrics. At the time he didn't really have any endorsement deals to get dropped from, but now he does and he just got dropped by mountain dew for his new commercial with a battered woman getting intimidated by a goat in jail next to a line up of black people. People do give him tons of shit. The difference between Rick Ross and Tyler is what R.A. touched on, Tyler doesn't give a fuck. You'll never catch him apologizing or trying to make up excuses. This is why I fuck with him and not that fake ass top flight officer Ricky.

  • X Drop BOMBS Like Nagasaki!

    Haha..I agree with what Rugged said, HOWEVER... Check out his subliminal attack on the WEST COAST, typical hating-ass NY artist. "snoop was on a big pop record" Sorry, my dude, but it was NOT a pop record, it was WEST COAST HIP HOP, like it or not. Hip hop did originate in the east, but thanks to the west, EAST coast started incorporating profanity in their tracks. I don't listen to rugged, but I respect where he at with it, but for real, the biased is always there, especially in a veteran NY MC. WEST COAST got passes for dudes to portray on wax Rick Rosses and the such, without our influences, let's see...No Biggie, No Nas, No Jay Z, they copied our shit. Who you guys had before we fucked H.E.R.? LL? Kane? Record labels do suck dick, but stop discrediting our west coast shit as hip hop. Hate it or love it, west did more for hip hop than the east ever could have. WEST SIIIDE! Fuck all the critics in the NYC, trying to rape our LP's. 90'S Babies, this ain't for you, fuck your generation though.

    • no dummy

      Thanks to the west? No! Schooly D and Kool G. Rap gtfoh with that bs.

    • X Drop BOMBS Like Nagasaki!

      ^90's queer, licks Elton Johns asshole, and Jerks off Feminem at the same time. Give me your mothers phone number, she's been asking for a real man.....for a son, so I'm gonna fuck her and give her one to be proud of. I write, you read, do as you wish now, my sheep. Haha WEST SIIIIIIDE!!! Bros. and Ho's choke on cocks. Real motherfuckers, stand the fuck up!!! Deuces!

  • JahRandom

    "I would have been like 'Suck my dick Reebok'" That's the realness right there.

  • Whowants Toknow

    Facebook Cops @ the front door. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_UV2Mao2-E

  • jus10

    I respect R.A.'s opinion, he's speaking from his heart. HOWEVER, I still have to disagree. I don't think there's a difference between "really" talking about rape or not. I think it's art vs ignorance. When a battle rapper talks about rape, I tend to see it more as an aggressive battle style. But when Ross says it, it's not art, it's just ignorance (like Wayne's controversy). My opinion.

  • Anonymous

    R.A, true legend

  • Brenda

    He seems to mean well, but RA still sounds pretty homophobic. It's frustrating that even the "open-minded" people in hip hop still can't be very open minded about this one thing.

    • Assassin221

      He didn't say he's open-minded, he said he believes in freedom of speech. Not the same thing. That's what these liberals nowadays don't understand. You can be open to GLBT communities and people of every different religion and lifestyle, but not everyone is going to agree with you. And when you try to make everyone else be "open-minded" like you, you are in fact being CLOSE-MINDED by rejecting people who don't think the same way you do. That's why I agree with RA 100% and that's why people miss the 90s, because you didn't have to censor yourself the same way to avoid a bunch of whiny sensitive bitches doing protests.

    • Anonymous

      fuck off "brenda" go listen to some other genre if you want politically correct lyrics in your music

    • shutuppat

      Yeah, I don't necessarily think he's coming across as homophobic, just that he's not the kind of dude go out of his way to make a public spectacle out of his views on LGBT's, regardless of what those views are.

    • Anon

      JRich, maybe when he was talking about "fag-looking rockers" and how they were gay?

    • JRich

      Where did you get that out of anything that was said in this interview?

    • jimjones


  • Anonymous

    He made a good point about Ross, like it or not. I'm not a fan either but he's not the first person to write lyrics like that. Jay has mentioned Rape in his lyrics and they treat him like the Rap Bill Cosby, Em has said some of the most disgustng shit in recorded history and they use him for uplifting chrysler commercials. The people hating on Ross over this were already hating on him to begin with and jumped on the situation as an excuse to hate even harder. Most of them probably bump shit thats far worse.

    • Anonymous

      ^this is true.

    • JRich

      Ok rap genius. There isn't really a difference, maybe in deciphering a rap verse context is important...but you think Pepsi gives a fuck about the context in which rape is used? They care about the public response, and since Jay and Em are considered legends and Ross is a fucking poser the public got pissed

    • WEKetchum

      Nah, the difference is that when Jay-Z and Eminem talk about rape, they're depicting them as villainous acts. Jay's line about "rape and pillaging villages, women and children" is in a verse where he's talking about being a monster. Eminem's music makes a point to disrespect women, so he's using rape as a means to convey that hate. On "Guilty Conscious," he and Dre have a good vs. evil dynamic: Eminem is evil when suggesting a guy rape a woman, while Dre is "good" while suggesting that the guy doesn't. Their lyrics about rape are specifically used to depict evil. Meanwhile, Ross' verse makes it seem like drugging her drink and raping her is acceptable. Then he has an interview where he's saying that women are "queens," and that he wasn't talking about rape. Context is important here. That's the difference.