The self-proclaimed “American lowlife,” R.A. The Rugged Man spoke last week to HipHopDX to provide some pre-release details on his forthcoming film and music projects. One of the most esteemed emcees in the independent Rap game (with his furious flow, witty one-liners, and self-deprecating who-gives-a-shit-what-you-think-about-me attitude) also further elaborated on recent controversial comments he made regarding fellow “white rapper” Eminem.
At the moment R.A. is firmly focused on completing production on the film about his father, decorated Vietnam vet, Staff Sgt. John A. Thorburn [click to read]. God Take, God Give is the tentative title for the film, having been taken from the final words of R.A.’s verse to Jedi Mind Tricks’ powerful document of the horrors of the Vietnam War, “Uncommon Valor,” in which R.A., in first-person, details his pop’s time during the war. Some screen shots for the film were recently unveiled by horror entertainment site Fangoria showing a production that looks less biopic and more blood-soaked nightmare [click here].
“That’s like a little bugged-out sequence that we shot with some cult horror people,” R.A. explained to DX. “It’s not the whole movie… It’s a mockumentary. I’m playing it like a straight documentary in a lot of it. But then I’m gonna switch it up and throw a little bit of fun shit in there. Like, what happens is, I got an interview with my mother and she’s talking all these crazy stories… Telling me, ‘Your father escaped the mental hospital.’ Supposedly the true story is that my father beat up three doctors…and left ‘em unconscious and escaped [through] the hospital window… So what I did [in the movie] is when my mother’s going ‘And he escaped the mental hospital…,’ I cut to this crazy, exaggerated, him in the hospital just murdering everybody [scene]. Then we cut back to reality [and] my father’s like, ‘They exaggerate about me a little bit.’ [Laughs]”
The film is largely a document on how the toxic chemical Agent Orange, which was used by the U.S. Military during the Vietnam War, affected not only R.A.’s father, but may have led to the handicaps and tragically premature deaths of R.A.’s sister and brother. But R.A. assured that even with the story’s heavy subject matter that his film is for all comers.
“The story’s so dramatic,” he noted. “And I don’t want people to watch the movie and just hate their fuckin’ life and be depressed and [be like], ‘Oh, a sad story.’ And me telling it [like], ‘Oh, look how sad we are. Everything’s sad.’ I wanna kinda have fun with the story and tell it in a lot of fun ways, and show the happy side of the family… I don’t wanna do all that ultra-dramatic, Academy Award bullshit. I wanna make it fun.”
Unfortunately, as the financer of his own film, R.A.’s estimated timeline for the completion of God Take, God Give is longer than your normal studio-financed project, with a projected seven-eight months more of shooting and editing still left to complete.
Fortunately, as the owner of the film R.A. can not only cast his own family, but friends like the beautiful adult model and actress Jelena Jensen (“That’s my homegirl,” he noted. “She killed it.”). The Playboy beauty also appeared in R.A.’s previous film project, Bad Biology, a horror film/sex comedy that just got picked up for distribution in the United States, the U.K., France, Germany, and Japan, with in-store dates for the DVD to be announced soon. The film was co-written and produced by R.A., and directed by Frank Henenlotter, legendary B-movie director of Horror-Comedies Basket Case and Frankenhooker, and as R.A. noted, “As fuckin’ weird and silly as the movie is, it won the ‘Best Picture’ at the New York Film Horror Film Fest [earlier this year].”
In addition to the DVD release, there will also be a soundtrack to Bad Biology released alongside the film featuring tracks from Kool G. Rap, Atmosphere, Smoothe Da Hustler, Killah Priest, Ras Kass, Jedi Mind Tricks, Reef The Lost Cauze, as well as the film’s original score by Prince Paul.
Speaking of the legendary De La Soul producer, R.A. revealed that there is a currently in-the-works music project with he and the mastermind behind such conceptual group projects as the Gravediggaz and Handsome Boy Modeling School.
“I don’t know how much Prince Paul wants me to keep [under wraps],” he said before adding, “There’s another rapper involved, another iconic Rap figure. And cats are gonna think it’s a bizarre concept when they know what it is. It’s me and another cat and Prince Paul, we’re starting a group together.”
But before that eye-grabbing project makes its way to stores, fans of R.A. salivating for new material from the underground legend will receive two other platters to feast on.
“I got two albums coming out in eight months,” R.A. revealed. “I hadn’t put [an album] out in awhile, so I said, ‘Let the world hear my history.’ ‘Cause there’s the 12-year-old kids, the 15-year-old kids that don’t have a clue about ‘Every Record Label Sucks Dick,’ or they don’t even have a clue [about] the shit I did in the late ‘90s, nevermind the early ‘90s. And they might not have heard a couple of these tracks that I had [with other artists], maybe the one with me and Hell Razah and Tragedy, the 'Renaissance' verse, which is like a crazy, ill verse… I’m just putting a collection together – the shit I did with Biggie, the shit I did with Mobb Deep, the shit I did with Sadat X.”
While the official tracklisting for Legendary Classics Volume 1 (due in October, with a Volume 2 planned for after the release of R.A.’s next studio album) wasn’t provided to DX at press time, R.A. did reveal that in addition to his previously-released joints there will be some “lost songs” on the best-of collection.
“It’s an ill collection, man,” he noted, “for especially cats that fuck with me. And especially for cats that don’t know my history, if they pop it in they can go, ‘Oh my God, this dude, how the fuck did I not know?'”
There will be a DVD accompanying the Legendary Classics CD featuring not only R.A.’s own videos, but cameos he has made in videos for Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang Clan, and others, along with R.A. interviews, performance footage, a trailer for Bad Biology and much more.
Roughly six months after the release of Legendary Classics will come the second release in R.A.’s two-releases-in-eight-months plan, the full-length follow-up to 2004’s Die, Rugged Man, Die [click to read]. The disc is currently untitled, but R.A. did confirm with DX that his new album will drop sometime in Spring 2010 and will boast an eye-popping lineup of producers, tentatively including Easy Mo Bee, Buckwild, Scram Jones, Lil Fame of M.O.P., Ayatollah and Marco Polo.
And with being currently 10 songs deep into the album’s recording, R.A. was able to go ahead and reveal that his new album’s likely first single will be a straight spittin’ song produced by longtime R.A. beatmaker Mark Niles entitled “Definition Of A Rap Flow.” R.A. additionally revealed that the album will also include his stab at a sure-to-be controversial political joint (“With my kind of twisted, weird humor,” R.A. assured), the Marco Polo-produced, interestingly-titled “Fat Fuck.” Also in the mix for R.A.’s next full-length is, as he explained, “One of them sex songs. I did one of them ‘90s type joints, the ‘Put It In Ya Mouth’ type. And I got my man Eamon singing the hook. He had the Pop record a few years back, ‘Fuck It I Don’t Want You Back.’ He came in and he obliterated the hook. He was on some dirty, disgusting, horrible shit.”
One artist that likely won’t be collaborating with R.A. anytime soon (unfortunately) is Eminem. This past May R.A. was asked by XXL magazine (along with other Caucasian Hip Hop artists MC Serch, Bubba Sparxxx, Alchemist, Ill Bill and Paul Wall) to offer his thoughts on if Eminem is not considered the best rapper of all time because of his whiteness [click here]. R.A. told the magazine in part, “It’s racist having Eminem as the greatest rapper of all time. That’s like the Last Samurai with Tom Cruise. All the Asians die and Tom Cruise survives walking through the body pile at the end. That’s racist.”
“That’s not controversial, what I said, it’s true,” R.A. told DX when asked about what he told XXL. “I just don’t wanna sound like a hater. But the thing is that this is an art form that’s full of greatness and history. And you can’t just go by the most popular – the most popular person that exists [so] that means he’s the greatest. You gotta go rhyme for rhyme, flow for flow, lyric for lyric, voice for voice, historical impact…who said what before everybody. To even put Eminem above a Melle Mel or a Rakim or a KRS-One is just so blatantly disrespectful. [But] I’m not gonna hate on Em, because that’s what they want white rappers to do.”
While R.A. has referenced Slim Shady in rhyme before [as he did in a bit of self-deprecating humor on the gut-busting “Even Dwarfs Started Small” when he spit,“He ain’t sell no records, Rugged Man, he a wack job/He’s not pretty like Eminem, he’s a fuckin’ fat slob”], he has never dissed his superstar stylistic brethren, and reiterated to DX that his comments in XXL were not shots fired at Em.
“Here’s the thing, I hate race, man,” said R.A. “I hate it. Even with [President Barack] Obama. I just hate race. I hate it. I wanna look at Obama like a man. I wanna look at Eminem like a man. I wanna look at everybody like a man. I’m not trying to say, ‘First white boy that did this.’ Everybody’s a fuckin’ human being, and everybody could be a piece of shit equally… I just hate the whole race thing… Let’s just judge people for who the fuck they are and what they can do, not none of this, ‘This is a white rapper, so is he better than everyone?’ I don’t want you to judge me as a white emcee, ‘cause I hate most other white rappers. I don’t want you to go, ‘He’s the best white rapper.’ Fuck that! I want you to put me next to a good brother that started the game and say, ‘Yo, look at these two historically.’ If I could compete on that level I would be so happy.”
Legendary Classics Volume 1 is due October 27 from Nature Sounds.
UPDATE: R.A. responds to HipHopDX readers, see below.