RA the Rugged Man is one of the most famous unknowns in the rap game, from being signed at an early age to dropping classic records with hip-hop legends, the man has been there and done that. We got a chance to sit down with him and really find out what goes on in the head of the dirty rotten rhymer.
What’s up man, nice to see you back in the saddle so to speak, what’s been going on?
Back in the saddle man, I have just been working on this album, promoting this album “Die Rugged Man Die”, one of the best albums you could ever pick up. ”Die Rugged Man Die” in stores now, ill ass hip-hop, real hip-hop. I know everybody says that but I’m one of the only real motherfuckers left.
Before we get into the album I want to give some of the new heads a little history on RA. Where you from? How long have you been rhyming and who got you started?
I started rhyming in 1986 when I was 12 years old. I met this kid Bob and he was a beat-boxer. He was blowing up windows in shopping centers with M-80s. We just linked up because he had all these rap tapes, he would be beat box and I started spittin. We just kept at it at 13, 14,15 years old going to the house parties ripping everybody, getting nice. I turned pro, got a couple record deals. I had a 9 record deal bidding war with Def Jam, Jive, MCA, Tommy Boy, Priority, Capitol pretty much every label that existed at that time. I made the deadly move of signing to Jive, which ended up instead of doing KRS-One type shit they wanted to do like Britney Spears type shit (laughing), so it was a bad move, but hey that’s life. But, I continued through it and signed to Priority records and do some song for them, I have done a lot of underground stuff. Just destroying rappers, I have spent my whole career being one of the bestâ€¦so whatever.
Now, you were signed very early in your career, to Jive I believe like around 94 when majors were signing dope hip-hop, how did that come about?
Yeah, I signed to Jive in ’93 and they started releasing singles in ’94, but I actually got a deal with Jive in ’92 and that was when the bidding war was popping off in ’92 but I signed the papers in ’93. I came out in ’93 with “Every Record Label Sucks Dick” and the joint with Biggie came out in ’94 and I got my little underground following.
There is so much speculation on how you got dropped, let’s hear the real story.
Let me tell you the truth though, something that nobody knows and I always say it but people can’t seem to get through their heads is I didn’t get dropped, I LEFT! That’s what happened, they had their hands full, they were still putting out my records and wanted to put out my records. Man, the label hated my guts, 80% of the people hated my guts but the President and the A&R wanted to keep me. I demanded to leave, if 80% of the label hates me and we can’t fix it. If 80% of the machine is against me we are going to fail, so I demanded my release. I did a lot of fucked up things, I did some things in my god damn career. I threw some temper tantrums, little going nuts here and there, some scaring people. I mean, but the rumors started spreading like “oh he shit on this person, and put raped the President’s wife behind the rolling rink” (Laughing). I was like really I did this now, people saying I ripped a bloody cat apart and put the blood on my dick and I was like “really did this happen”. But, for real I was 19 and I had a lot of money compared to the rest of my life, I was broke and now all of sudden they are throwing record label money so all of sudden I’m a little silly in the head. I mean I was silly in the head before hand, so give a couple dollars to a young kid and he’s going to get a little sillier.
Would you ever sign with a major label again?
I like what I’m doing right now, because I own the masters of my music. It’s a 50/50 split and it’s less fame, which is fine with me (laughs) and its decent money and I’m eating off of it. I’m kind of very comfortable right now, so at this time in my life I don’t think I would. I might if they wanted to give me 100% of freedom to do whatever I want and throw ridiculous amounts of money on the table and not sign me for 6 albums but just for 3. I mean if it was a contract they wouldn’t give an underground artist and it was something that wasn’t selling your soul to them, then there is a possibility. It would have to be where I could buy my father a house, buy myself a house and maybe throw some kids in the world and be able to afford them (laughing). You know?
You have a song called “Cunt Renaissance” with the late Notorious B.I.G. â€“ What was it like working with BIG?
BIG, you know this is a question I’m asked a lot and when we were coming up, we were coming up at the same time. I mean I had my deals and he has “Party and Bullshit” on the street on the “Who’s the Man” soundtrack, and we both had all this huge hype. We just respected each other as emcees, but I didn’t think it was some hip-hop legend, I was just like this is my man BIG, he’s dope; he’s a dope rapper (laughing). So it was like if I went in the studio with members of Screwball tomorrow it was the same feeling you know. If I got in the studio with Masta Killa, it wasn’t like “wow, I’m with a legend” you just didn’t realize what was about to happen. It was just making music with a dope rapper, it was dope BIG was a dope emcee. It wasn’t like “Yo, your going to be a legend, let’s take pictures” (laughing). It was just like yo, your dope let’s rap.
Around ’98-’99 you drop the now classic “What the F*ck” with Akinyele, were you actually signed to Rawkus?
I wasn’t signed to Rawkus, I was signed to Priority and I used to sell Rawkus songs. The problem with Rawkus is they acted like a major label but didn’t have major label money. The would like give you a 6 album deal for a couple hundred grand to make the album, and you were like I should be going to Sony or god damn Interscope for that kind of deal. So I was like yeah give me 5 grand and I’ll give you my DATS and you can make some money off of it. So I was like give me another $5600 and I’ll give you another song, I was just selling them songs and that was actually my only relationship with Rawkus.
That kind of leads me into the next question, what do you think was the ultimate downfall of Rawkus as a major/indie label.
They didn’t put out any records; they sat there and took four years to put out the next album. You can’t spend millions of dollars promoting Pharoahe Monch and Mos Def and everybody knows them now and you don’t drop another album. Say sit there and Pharoahe is on the side and there saying “oh the album isn’t done”. But, you look at Def Jam; they put out a Jay or Luda album every 10-15 months. They build their artists and then keep putting out records. I mean Rawkus; you can’t make any money if you don’t put out any records. The last 3 or 4 years of Rawkus they didn’t put out any damn records. That’s what happened, they didn’t know what the hell they were doing, they kept second guessing the artists, they kept second guessing themselves, and got caught up and lost. They tried to go commercial with that “Soundbombing 3″ bullshit and they aren’t a fucking commercial label and didn’t know how to do it. They should have just stuck to what the hell they knew how to do and do it.
Let’s talk about the album “Die Rugged Man Die” is out on Nature Sounds, how did you get together with that label?
The dude who owns the label started off as a writer and was writing all these articles on all these rappers for like 10 years, so he made hella connections. So he wrote up this like 8 page article about me and we did some pics with all these naked girls and shit (laughs). He was like yo, do a record we me sometime, not at that time because he didn’t have the label, but he was doing shit with High Times records. So, when he started this, he said “I’ll throw you this much money, and this contract”, and I was like yo, that’s a good contract, let’s fuck around you know.
You show your somewhat sarcastic emcee side with songs like “Da Girlz They Love Me” and “Casanova (Fly Guy), do you feel that comedy and humor is missing in today’s hip-hop?
It depends on who the artist is, you know you like an artist like Nas, he’s not a funny guy (laughing). I don’t think I have ever even seen Nas crack a smile in a photo, so if Nas came out and was trying to be funny, nah I don’t want him to be funny. But, a guy like Ludacris, he is funny and I like to see some silly shit. If you hang out with me in person, people think I’m a funny guy and I think that a person’s personality and humor will show in their rhymes. If they have humor, I think you should be able to hear it in their music, if they are more dramatic then you should hear that in their music. I don’t think people should act like something they’re not on their songs. I think there is humor in hip-hop. I mean, look at Snoopâ€¦I think everything he does is humorous, even if he is trying to play it serious he knows he’s doing it with humor. I think even a guy like 50 who talks some straight up shit; he still does his own type of funny shit. I mean these dudes are humorous and are funny people.
On a serious note, you talk about how you don’t care about the money and you don’t care about the fame, is that true or just a gimmick to sell records?
I won’t say that, I mean when it comes to money I care about eating, I care about paying the bills. I care about survival money, but when I’m talking about not caring about being a superstar or selling records. That straight up I don’t care about none of that shit, I don’t care about being a superstar. I don’t want to be that guy that can’t walk around and have my own privacy; I don’t want none of that shit. Everything I say on that record is 100% the accurate truth. I want to sell enough records where I can eat and get back in the studio. I don’t want to be Ashley Simpson or fucking Ja-Rule where their whole like is like being in a fucking music video (laughing). I want to kind of keep it where I’m at, as long as there is enough of “Die, Rugged Man Die” supporters to pay my god damn rent and get us back in the studio, I’m happy.
Now that you are back in the minds of hip-hoppers in 2005, what is the future of RA, will there be another album soon or do you have a protege waiting in the wings?
Its 2005 man, how many artists can stay as dope as I am for that many god damn years? People sleep how hard it is not to fall the fuck off. People talk about how easy it is to rap and shit, but why is it that all our favorite rappers fall the fuck off? From the best on the planet they all fall the fuck off, but I’m still fucking here, so I’m working hard to stay on top. My future is the same shit, surviving and being dope at what I do and hoping that I never fall off, but everybody falls off… except for Kool G Rap.
(Laughing) You mentioned that a lot on the album about how G Rap is the greatest rapper of all timeâ€¦
He isâ€¦He is manâ€¦undisputable; anybody that disputes it is mistaken. (laughs) G Rap is the longest reigning champion who can still wax everybody’s favorite rapper today. Whether his records are selling or that he is a big presence put G Rap on a song with Game and see what happens, put G Rap on a song with Nas again and see what happens. Whether you’re the best or considered the new motherfucker ripping shit, G Rap is always better. I don’t know how he does that, I mean Rakim as great as he was, he can’t do that anymore.
Since you have worked with so many people and been in the game for quite a long time, is there anybody out there that you would like to work with?
I want to work with a lot of dudes, I love music man, I love music. I would like to work with these dudes that got a little name for themselves so I can fucking rip them on their own shit
Anybody that is supposed to be the best rapper, who ever the public is talking about being the king of whatever put me with them and watch them get fucking annihilated, that’s who I want to work with. I will annihilate any emcee on record, it don’t matter.
Everybody, I mean fucking everybody support! I guarantee you that anybody that knows something about flows and lyrics that will not go fucking nuts when they hear this record. “Die, Rugged Man Die” is in stores right now, don’t download the motherfucker, go buy it bitch!
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