Rather rugged for sure

by Spencer Doar

R.A. the Rugged Man left an enigmatic impression after his strange performance during May’s Soundset.  When the NY undergrounder prodded the audience, he quickly seemed to realize that no one knew who the heck he was—an East Coast legend who bucks the industry with impunity, leaving a trail of slain verses in his wake.  Not to say that realization changed anything, he just had new reason to do whatever he wanted.  R.A. interrupted his DJ to alter the set, generally ranted, broke into frequent a capella freestyles and ended up jumping into the audience, unable to get back on stage when his set ended. 

Point being I’ve spent a month on the fence pondering this Tony-Stark-facial-hair-sporting gent, and I think I’m finally coming down on a side: he’s a crass genius.  Public relations folks are quick to mention a quote of Biggie’s regarding R.A. the Rugged Man, “I thought I was the illest.” How that was meant is disputed, but listening to 2013’s “Legends Never Die,” the follow-up to 2004’s “Die, Rugged Man, Die,” it is easy to see what could have inspired such a statement.  His brutal honesty couples with profanity-laced humor in an unending, lispy flow to reveal a guy who is entirely aware of his circumstances.  R.A. is ever irreverent, sporting the same “screw this” attitude now as he did when he was a 20-year-old pissing off his then-label, Jive Records (for more…). 

Much like his Wu-Tang buddies, R.A. also dabbles in the cinema, teaming up with trashy exploitation filmmaker Frank Henenlotter to make 2008’s very-NSFW “Bad Biology.”  He wrote and produced the horror-comedy which depicts a “Godawful love story” between a woman with an abundance of genitals and a man with a sentient, mutant penis—you know, classic boy-meets-girl stuff. 

 At the crux of appreciating R.A. the Rugged Man is remembering that underlying his X-rated stylings there is a rapper with tremendous talent and ear for production.