R.A. The Rugged Man currently lives in Berlin, Germany, roughly 4,000 miles away from his hometown of Long Island, New York. As the story goes, he wound up there because of a girl.
In 2013, while on tour with Redman, Masta Ace, Onyx and Wordsworth, he met the future mother of his children at the merch table and the rest is history. But despite the major geographical change, R.A. hasn’t noticed too much of an upheaval.
“I spent my whole career on the road, anyway,” he said in a recent interview with HipHopDX. “When I’m home, I do the same shit. I lock myself in a room and write and edit. It’s the same shit.”
Traditionally defiant, R.A. admits his ability to speak German hasn’t improved much and he really has no plans to become an expert on the Deutschland language.
“I used to know German when I was a kid,” he explains. “My mother’s German. And this ain’t working too good. I’m stubborn against society, so the longer I live here, the less I want to talk the language. You know? I always want to go against the grain with shit. You know, I’m a pain in the ass like that. You know?”
View this post on Instagram
Lol classic shot.. my kids are like “Dad What the fuck are you wearing? ”.. I try to bring my kids everywhere.. they both have cameos in my latest video LEGENDARY LOSER… but there’s a scene in it where I shoot myself in the head… so their mother had to take them to play to make sure they wouldn’t see blood squirting out of their daddy’s head… lol If you haven’t seen the video yet link is in bio #AllMyHeroesAreDead #HipHop #RuggedManLives
R.A. has practically made a career out of being a “pain in the ass” for the past 30 years. Since stepping on the scene with Jive Records in 1992, he’s continued to push the envelope and do things on his terms — no matter what. But having kids has softened the veteran MC ( just a little).
“Kids make you calmer,” he says. “Kids are a lot of work. They beat you up. Before the kids you’re like, ‘Yeah, I’m young forever! I’ll never … I’m 20 years old ’til I die. I’m going to go fuck, fight, beat shit up, go crazy, break things.’ And then you have kids and you’re like, ‘Eh, I’m going to go take a fucking nap. Let me hide in a room for 10 minutes and try to write a rhyme real quick.'”
Somehow, R.A. did manage to find the time to write another album with the same lethal pen game that spawned 2004’s Die, Rugged, Die and 2013’s Legends Never Die — the appropriately titled All My Heroes Are Dead. Ironically, the 22-track project features a dream list of some of his musical heroes, including Onyx, Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Ice-T, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck and Brand Nubian (yes, Lord Jamar included).
Ahead of its release, R.A. shared two clips promoting the album, which spoke volumes about his feelings toward mainstream rap. In Part I, he throws a Drake-loving kid over a bridge and in Part II, he fires a gun at a boombox about to play a Cardi B song. Even though he might not like the current landscape, he understands it.
“The world that we live in is you have to reign social media,” he says. “If you control them … that’s why 6ix9ine had this tremendous career for that year before he ratted everybody out. It’s like if you control them and keep on trolling them and trolling them, by saying some outlandish shit, they start fucking with your personality. They don’t even care if the music is good, so they’ll ignore 20 ridiculously incredible MCs, but they’ll go for somebody that has a weird social media personality. That’s what the world is right now.”
Much like the video for the Psycho Les-produced “Legendary Loser,” R.A. has copious amounts of fun clowning characters such as 6ix9ine and Stitches but also at himself. It’s evident in the way he describes himself in the song — albeit he does it with a healthy dose of comedy.
“I keep the dead awake but, can I get a break?/Controversial, outspoken, hip-hop Frank Zappa/Bad breath, body odor, overweight, stank rapper/I misbehaved a bit, the industry was afraid of it/I couldn’t take a shit without lawyers litigating it/(He’s a slob, he’s obnoxious, he’s a misogynist!/He hates women! This shit is toxic) yo bitch, stop it.”
Throughout the duration of All My Heroes Are Dead, R.A. not only shows off his rhyming prowess but also a more mature side of himself.
Like on the song “Wondering (How To Believe)” featuring David Myles, he reflects on death and the loved ones he’s lost. Then on “Gotta Be Dope,” he, A-F-R-O and DJ Jazzy Jeff flex their otherworldly talents, delivering that authentic Hip Hop that purists so desperately crave.
In “Legendary Loser,” R.A. also makes a reference to his bumpy road with the music industry in those early days. He signed to Jive Records when he was just 18 years old and later ended up at Capitol Records, but that relationship didn’t last long.
“A point I might of missed, more irritating than psoriasis/Is at the height of this, they tried to hire a psychiatrist,” he raps. “My career fell apart, taught me how to be humble/Watch the $1.8 million dollar deal crumble.”
But R.A. learned from those experiences and when he looks back, there’s only one thing he says he’d do differently.
“I would have fought to find a better strategic businessperson,” he explains. “Because artistically, I did it my way. But there’s other artists that did it their way, and they still had somebody working their business while they were doing the art their way. But what happened was, I didn’t have the businessperson who’s helping my money grow once I get it. I just wish I had, throughout the years, somebody to put my business plan together a little tighter. That’s the one thing that I’d do differently.”
But musically, R.A. is content with what he’s put out there — although these days, he knows not every lyric would necessarily fly.
“I said terrible things that I’m like, ‘Eh, I wouldn’t say that today. That actually wasn’t right,'” he admits. “Like, this one might hit people the wrong way, because I was doing shock value and stuff, but I don’t regret it. It’s like my whole thing was to go against everything and everybody and society, and say shit that hurt people who were hurt easily by words. That was what I was going to do — be ignorant. That was what I was going for as a kid.
“Then you get older, and you go, ‘Oh, you could fight society not with bad words, but you could fight them with all kinds of words.’ You could actually use the words to teach and smack them in the fucking head with things they don’t want the world to know. There’s other ways to shock it and beat them in the head, too. And a little bit of life lessons and age could change your worldview a little bit, and through the years, everybody changes their worldview. If you don’t, you’re an idiot.”
Check out the All My Heroes Are Dead album stream, cover art and tracklist below.
1. All My Heroes Are Dead (The Introduction)
2. Legendary Loser
3. Golden Oldies f. Slug & Eamon
4. Wondering (How To Believe) f. David Myles
5. Dragon Fire f. Ghostface Killah, XX3eme, Kool G Rap & Masta Killa
6. All Systems Go
7. Cancelled Skit
8. Angelic Boy
9. Gotta Be Dop f. A-F-R-O & DJ Jazzy Jeff
10. First Born f. Novel
11. E.K.N.Y. (Ed Koch New York) f. Inspectah Deck & Timbo King
12. Hate Speech
13. Living Through A Screen (Everything Is A Lie) f. The Kickdrums
15. The Slayers Club f. Vinnie Paz, Chris Rivers, Onyx, Chino XL, Brand Nubian, M.O.P. & Ice-T
16. Life Of The Party
17. The Big Snatch
18. John John Skit
19. Who Do We Trust? f. Immortal Technique
20. Malice of Mammon f. Chuck D
21. Sean riP (Interlude) f. Shaun P
22. The After Life f. Sarah Smith & Kelly Waters