Given the fact that he’s only released one full studio album in a career that spans nearly two decades, you would think R.A. The Rugged Man [click to read] would be disgusted with the way the Hip Hop industry has treated him. However, that’s far from the truth for the Long Island-native. Taking the reins of his career rather than relying on record labels, R.A. has had a relatively successful journey thus far, with his name continuously being listed as one of underground Hip Hop’s leading voices. This is evident on the 2004 Nature Sounds-released Die, Rugged Man, Die [click to read], as well as the plethora of tracks he’s put out over the years.

With that said, Legendary Classics Vol. 1 [click to view] is not so much a “best of” album, but rather a collection of unreleased and rare tracks R.A. The Rugged Man has created that deserve notable mention. Several of these records come in the form of previous collaborations, such as the raw, east coast gem “Who’s Dat Guy” with Mobb Deep’s Havoc [click to read]. Over dark piano keys, the two rappers trade bars about their relentless demeanor. Then there’s “3 Kings,” which shows the dynamic between R.A. and one his early emcee inspirations Kool G. Rap [click to read]. Along with Big John, the trio uses “3 Kings” as a lyrical example of what today’s Hip Hop is missing.

While other collaborations, such as “50,000 Heads” with Sadat X [click to read] or “Give It Up” featuring J-Live [click to read] provide diverse commentary, the most convincing performance from R.A. comes on the deeply emotional “Uncommon Valor.” Originally released on Jedi Mind Tricks‘ [click to read] 2006 album Servants In Heaven, Kings In Hell [click to read], R.A. potently describes the experiences his father and other veteran soldiers endured during the Vietnam War, so much that it received “Verse of the Year” accolades from HipHopDX that year [click to read].

Though some would think R.A. The Rugged Man’s path would not share mileage with Notorious B.I.G.’s, nonbelievers are silenced on the sexually-induced “Cunt Renaissance.” While Biggie’s words are highlighted by his smooth and catchy delivery, R.A. immediately jumps in with a verse that shows characteristics of a mad man. As such, it’s almost like the Hip Hop edition of The Odd Couple. Closing out the album, “Every Label Sucks Dick”  is a record that 15 years ahead of its time, rappers will most certainly agree with R.A.’s feelings and sentiment. Painting a picture that is true today over a vintage Buckwild beat, R.A. subsequently puts his own spin on industry rule #4080.

For his dedicated followers, Legendary Classics Vol. 1 is a nice road down memory lane. On the other side, fans just getting into R.A. The Rugged Man will find a handful of lyrical that should inspire them to delve into his catalog. 18 years later, R.A. The Rugged Man is still as arrogant and cocky than ever. The fact of the matter is, he backs it up with undeniable proof.