GENRES: Underground Hip-Hop, East Coast Hip-Hop, Boom-Bap Style
TOP TRACKS: The People's Champ, The Definition of a Rap Flow, Learn Truth, Bang Boogie, Shoot Me in the Head, Still Get Through the Day
Sorry for reviewing this one so late. I really didn't hear this one until very late. I will admit.
For those of you who do not know him, R.A. the Rugged Man is a Long Island rapper who first came around in the Early 90's as teenager. From a young age, he was already working with the likes of Biggie and RZA on projects and collaborations. However, he did not really put out any of his own solo material. He was notorious for two things. One, his bad-ass and semi-disturbing reputation for being more hardcore than anyone and doing more crazy things on stage than any rapper of his time. Two, his incredible gift of an amazing rap flow.
With his sophomore release, Legends Never Die, R.A. the Rugged Man proves that he is a man with much more experience than his official track record may show. He released the album independently with a rather small budget as he stated in his opening track "Still Digging Wit Buck". He talks about his values and tells people to brace themselves for this classic of an album that he's about to hand to them. He criticizes music snobs, people who illegally download his music and of course big record labels and their executives. It's clear from the beginning that RA isn't very trusting of..well, anyone for that matter. But more importantly, this classic style beat and incredible rap flow and lyrical content show that he is not messing around and sticking to what he knows. Unfortunately, this does get a bit stale towards the back end of this album. However, Legends Never Die is still a very good hip-hop release.
The first single off the album, "The People's Champ" is incredibly gritty and very hardcore. RA the Rugged Man is a total bad-ass. Such an aggressive boom-bap style instrumentation does not fail and the track is well aided by RA's SHARP flow. His bombastic bragging is outlandish but impressive at the same time. I loved this track. Really reminded me of early 90's hardcore East coast hip-hop.
Another one of the more incredible moments on this record is "The Definition of a Rap Flow". God Damn this flow is hot. RA can't be matched with flow and he schools every new school rapper who thinks they had the best flow. His flow is so smooth at times on this track that it's hypnotic. I love that the beat is simple so it doesn't take away from the main attraction and that is RA's flow.
However, what adds to RA the Rugged Man's persona is the fact that he uses his flow and lyrical talent to send messages and get a bit more insightful and specific. There are times on this record where he is very skeptical and politically conscious like on the track "Learn Truth" he talks about atrocities in the world and he is brutally honest and harsh. RA the Rugged Man hasn't and will probably never be one for holding back. In addition he talks about the media on "Media Midgets" but this form of cynicism sounds a lot more like sour grapes than it does actual insight.
RA the Rugged Man is an underground rapper. He has a rather small following compared to some of the more commercial acts around today and for the most part he's fine with that... or is he? His constant bashing of media and mainstream hip-hop somehow lead to me to believe that a tiny part of R.A. the Rugged Man wishes that he could be in the limelight showcasing his incredible talent and flow to the rest of the world who doesn't even know who he is.
For these reasons, he really can't seem to land too many credible features either. For example, Tech N9ne's verse "Holla-Loo-Yuh" was obnoxious and overdramatic in a way that only Tech can replicate. Also, Hopsin's verse in Underground Hitz was very hypocritical. Hopsin talked bad about the current hip-hop game and new-school rap when he is essentially a thriving member of the new school. Really didn't make sense to me.
However, I did enjoy "The Dangerous Three." Brotha Ali and even Masta Ace for that matter really delivered on their verses and it was really the lone time that the features outdid R.A. The Rugged Man on the track. Which was rare, because as an MC I don't think RA the Rugged Man has ever been better. His flow, his lyricism, his personality and consciousness are always on point. Quite honestly, not a bad verse on the album although some are indeed better than others.
Some of my favorite moments were when R.A. shed off the bad-ass hooligan character and let through a more sentimental R.A. the Rugged Man like on the track "Legends Never Die" where R.A. gets really deeply personal and emotional when talking about his dad. He talks about how his dad raised him well, how he loves him, and more interestingly how the only thing he regrets about not going big is not being able to share money with his dad. Really meaningful track and it was a nice change of pace even if it was for a short time. Even on the closing track, RA the Rugged Man tones it down and becomes a bit more of philosophical and social poet. However, this time he delivers more of a general and widespread personal message to people everywhere. Telling them how to cope with death and hardship, RA the Rugged Man's honesty is thoroughly encouraging at some points in the track. It seemed like a really nice way to close out the album for him.
BUT, if this album had one major downfall it would have to be the beats and production. RA the Rugged Man came from a world where the boom-bap, simplistic beats were key to success and generally very effective. However, now he has inserted himself into the much different 2013 hip-hop scene and his beats really haven't evolved at all. The beats and the instrumentals for that matter on tracks like "Tom Thum", "Underground Hitz", "Luv to Fuk" and "Laugh, Clown, Laugh" are very dated and very cheesy. The instrumentals, melodies and background sounds come off as really weak. In 1994 these may have worked but now they don't cut it for a hip-hop album. All of the MC's from the days of the early 90's have evolved production wise like Jay-Z, Nas, or even the Wu-Tang Clan so why can't RA? It's a damn shame because some of these tracks have amazing rapping and MC work but the production brings them down.
Thankfully for RA the Rugged Man, the rapper is much more important than the production in today's hip-hop world or any hip-hop world and so this album still manages to be very solid. Overall a good release from a very talented veteran of the game who has promised he has more in stock. Past a few roadblocks which admittedly did take away from some of the tracks, this release is lyrical and verbal gold. All other rappers should take note of RA's verbal flow but I really don't think anyone's looking for Boom-Bap style East Coast Classic Hip-hop anymore. For me personally, I'd rather go back to the Wu-Tang Clan or Notorious BIG who did it better than RA the Rugged Man in an era where it was considered revolutionary.
FINAL SCORE: 7 / 10