When it comes to hip-hop legends, far too many have passed on. No doubt, Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac or Big L would find lots to rhyme about in 2016 and 2017. I bet 2Pac, for one, would have some pretty powerful things to say about a Trump presidency. Unfortunately we'll never have a chance to find out.
Thankfully though, not all the legends are gone. R.A. The Rugged Man has had a strange and stumbling career with only two studio albums, a compilation and two unreleased records in his discography, but he hasn't wasted a single word.
Raised on Long Island, Richard Andrew Thornburn was rapping at age 12, building a name for himself almost instantly. By the time he was 18, there was a nine-label bidding war to sign him, which Jive Records eventually won. R.A. parted ways from the label (after a sexual harassment suit and some truly bizarre behavior) before his debut, "Night of the Bloody Apes" was released. The album still has legendary status to this day.
In the mid-'90s he signed with Priority but his contract was absorbed by Capitol Records shortly after. Still without a major label debut, he started releasing independent mix tapes in the early 2000s. During this time period, he recorded with Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan, Chuck D, Talib Kweli, Rakim, Mobb Deep and several more of the most influential rappers of the last few decades. B.I.G. was quoted as saying, "I thought I was the illest," in reference to the Rugged Man.
It wasn't until 2004 that he was able to release his first album, "Die, Rugged Man, Die." The album is gritty and dark, celebrating the Rugged Man's antipathy for pretty much everything on Earth, especially the hip-hop game. His work is so autobiographical that it's impossible to discount the power in his verses.
His second studio album, "Legends Never Die," was released in 2013 to rave reviews, but still didn't quite set the rap world on fire like it should have. The track, "Definition of a Rap Flow," should be required listening for any student of rap or anyone attempting to get into the rap game. It's perfect. Period.
When he's not onstage, The Rugged Man writes dark horror comedies for Frank Henenlotter, argues publicly with boxing champ Floyd Mayweather and hosts the web series, "Film School," on Film.com. R.A. The Rugged Man is an artist to his core and his three decades in hip-hop have only made the game better. Really, most MCs struggle to be half the rapper The Rugged Man is on his worst day. He might not have three new mix tapes out every year, but R.A. fits squarely into the old chestnut of quality over quantity.
R.A. The Rugged Man
Thursday, Jan. 12. 9pm.
Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century Dr., Bend