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    “It’s funny, I’m mad famous for being unknown!” R.A. the Rugged Man raps alongside Killah Priest and Masta Killa on the Ayatollah-produced “Chains.” “I’m back by unpopular demand,” he continues over the hard guitar riffs of “How Low.” And finally, “I don’t care about the past no more, I don’t want to get rich, trust me, I’d rather be poor,” he raps in his lispy twang on the dark-as-night “Midnight Thud.”

     Despite his early-on affiliations with the likes of Notorious B.I.G. and Mobb Deep (check this guy’s resume!), R.A. the Rugged Man has become more of an urban legend in the world of hip-hop, recognized more for his absence from the game than for his potent angry white boy persona that superceded the more recent emergences of Eminem, Bubba Sparks, and the like.
But with Die, Rugged Man, Die (Nature Sounds), R.A. finally graces hip-hop with a worthy debut album that unleashes the past of R.A. with a blunt truthfulness and honesty that can best be summed up with the warning on the cover: “The characters and events depicted in this recording are the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Any similarity to actual persons living or dead are completely intentional.”

      The introduction track “Lessons” is a well-crafted lesson on the upbringing of R.A. within the hip-hop industry as he quickly dispels any notion that he is just another white boy trying to strike in on hip-hop while it’s hot (“They say a white boy need a black boy to win, Bubba did it and so did Slim, Just Blaze is hot now, why don’t you get with him?”). Still, he continues on to give listeners an idea of just how much he has seen throughout his career: “A week before they blew up with Mystikal and Jay-Z, the Neptunes came to see me at D&D, I knew this chick named Norah, a lounge singer, A year later she a six Grammy award winner, I seen Flatlinerz, I seen Canibuses, I seen Lil’ Zanes, Yeah I seen mad misses.”

      The coming-of-age “A Star Is Born” brings R.A. full circle with tales of his initial signing to Jive tapering off into the more modern-day and “less wealthy” Rugged Man. “I’m a special ed student with a A+ flow,” R.A. boasts on the J-Zone production “Brawl,” where R.A. proves himself to be the true-to-life character that Zone plays on wax.  But the boasting gives way to more self-deprecation on the title track with R.A. as he laments, “Yo, I don’t care what people say, I’m a piece of shit, I’m gonna live my life that way, I’m a total fuck up, my whole album sucks?I went double-platinum last month, then I woke up!”

      Going more conceptual on “Black and White,” R.A. teams up with fellow New Yorker Timbo King for the interracial raps of the two with Timbo firing off blackjacks, black Timbs, and black ink to combat R.A.’s White House, White Sox, and white sheets. And the flashbacks of “On the Block” lend credibility to Rugged Man’s claim elsewhere that, “I don’t want fans that don’t know who G Rap is.”

      Urban legend or just a lost cause, R.A.’s Die, Rugged Man, Die finally attaches an album to the original grimy white boy of hip-hop. And with questions like, “Who else riskin’ their career to stick to being different?” scattered throughout the album, it’s hard to believe the truth on R.A. has been held back this long. Live, Rugged Man, live.

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