R.A The Rugged Man has been a staple of the underground hip hop scene for decades. His new album ‘All My Heroes Are Dead’ is out this Friday and features the likes of Ice T, Kool G Rap, Ghostface Killah, Jazzy Jeff, Chino XL and loads more. I spoke to him about the making of the album, the current pandemic and his kids favourite tunes.
Yo hows it going man? How you handling the current lock down situation?
Personally, I’m loving it man, loving the time I have, spending it with my family, being with my kids every day. It’s gonna be one of my memories with my kids. You know, I’m always on the road, always working and this things got me stuck here with my family. Financially it’s not going to be good for me, and I know a lot of people are losing their jobs, but as I said, I’m loving spending all this time with the kids.
Are your kids fans of your music?
Hey! The guy asked, are you guys fans of my music, you like daddy’s music. What song?
The Taylor Swift remix, whats the other one you like?
Kids: Crazy daddy song
So your album ‘All My Heroes Are Dead’ is almost here, where did the title come from?
Myself and Immortal technique were talking about a concept for a song, and he was talking about our era, you know Cosby’s in jail for this, Hulk Hogan’s basically a racist, and all of our heroes and everyone we came up on are dead, they’re gone. Then when we were working on the song, we didn’t do that concept, and I was like you know what, that shit, that’s a good name for a Rugged Man album, because a big part of my life is hip hop, and an era that’s not looked at like we the live ones. To the world, to society, we’re dead, we’re the underdog. and then all the greats, the greatest MCs and spitters of all time are getting overshadowed by these guys who can’t even rap.
Then you can go in to Heavy D, Sean Price, My father, all the great filmmakers, all the great musicians. Historically you’re only on earth for a short time, and then you become decrepit and you die. You know every day you turn on your computer and another one of your heroes is dead.
You mentioned Sean Price, and your father, and I see them both on the album cover, along with A-F-R-O, and in is that Reverie?
Yeah that’s Rev, that’s my girl. I love her. She’s awesome.
Thought so, I was curious as she’s not on the album?
Yeah so the guy that did the album cover, he’s actually from England, I believe ‘The Dude Designs’ and he doesn’t really do comic book work, he does movie posters and stuff. So he doesn’t create from scratch, he redraws from film clips and pictures. So for the cover I actually did a photo shoot where I was posing like that with the weapons, well not with the weapons but in that pose. I had A-F-R-O go take some pictures where he was holding a bat in the air, and he said ‘OK, you need some entourage?’ so I said yeah, I need a chick from that era and I had all these model chicks sending me pictures, and I said yo send some pictures, cause this was just supposed to be background, and then Reverie, she’s such a hustler, everything I asked her for she had for me same day, that’s how she works. She gets shit done.
So I forwarded her pictures to the artist and he was like ‘yeah, she’s got some spice’ I said OK and he drew Reverie, but this is supposed to be some 70’s, 80’s exploitation, you got to put some giant tits on that body. So I hit up Rev and said look, I know some girls get mad if you change their body but this needs to be some exploitation movie poster, do you mind if we draw some giant tits on you and she said ‘hell no, that shit’s great’. So basically it was down to the illustrator thinking she looked really cool, for some post apocalyptic shit, and he was like ‘Yo, she looks like she’d kick my ass’.
It’s been 7 years since your last full album, is this project something you’ve been working towards since then, or was there a start and end date to it, how did it all come together?
I’m recording constantly, making music is what I do. Releasing albums is the hard part for me cause I’m an independent artist, and I don’t want to put in all this work, release something and people not even know its there. So I was recording songs six years ago, five years ago, four years ago and I’d listen to the songs and they’re good, but I’d think, OK, this sounds like Legends Never Die, or sounds like this. Or this sounds dope but it’s not really fitting my album.
I needed to make sure the new record topped Legends Never Die, and at the same time wasn’t the same record, and just topped it. Also in that time my daughter was born, my son was born so my whole life changed. So I had a different world view in a lot of ways, and I was creating different music, and then all of a sudden I knew the direction I wanted to take for a full length album.
Also, in between the new record and Legends Never Die, I did at least 50, 60 features or songs, I’ve been working and working and working, and I’ve got 50, 60 songs recorded for different projects that are unreleased, so it’s not like it takes me that long to do a project, it’s just deciding what I want to release. I don’t put out a lot of albums, so when I do they make me do the songs at shows, and I want to make sure if I do it live at a show, it’s still a stage performance and I can make a show out of it and rock a live concert. It’s not just like here’s a beat and a rhyme and a scratch. I have a couple songs where I do that but even then if it’s a scratch I try make it repetitive or a memorable scratch. Where I can keep repeating the same kind of thing and making a crowd rock to it.
So everything is show orientated, even if it’s slow jams, fast jams, banger jams, cause that’s what I am, I’m a live performer, I do hundreds of shows every year, that’s my bread and butter. So before I ever made a song I was a kid on stage, rocking stages and rocking shows, that’s what world I come from.
You’ve got some crazy guest features on the album, Whats it like working with Ice T for example or anyone else on the record, is there anything particular that stands out from the making of this project.
Well Ice T is one of the dopest in hip hop, and he was just so humble. He’s literally one of the most successful people in hip hop history, career wise. He was doing it in beat street days, television, movies, platinum albums, independent records out the trunk, heavy metal, he did everything, sold out arenas. That’s Ice T. A lot of people who hit that level you have conversations and it’s Hollywood and corny, but Ice T is one real dude, and he loves hip hop.
Hopefully Once this all clears up you’ll get to tour the album, I know you’re booked to do Jazz Café in October
Well I don’t know, you know. Lets see what the world has in store for us. I’d love to be back on the road. The worst thing an artist can do is release and they can’t promo the album properly, but I couldn’t keep the fans waiting any longer so I had to do it. I had tours lined up for April, May, June and July, I had a tour lined up for October. So I lost all the money I had lined up coming in, but the thing is, it’s the same the whole world over. People are losing their businesses, their careers, people could’ve had the biggest gig of their life lined up and lost it. Everybody’s shit is cancelled. So its not like ‘oh woah its me, my shit is fucked up, nah’ I have to count my blessings, I’m in a warm safe house, there’s no bombs blowing up near me, my kids are safe. Yeah maybe moneys is fucked up, but we’re all safe in my house, and the rest of the world we’ve never been safe. In the 50’s and 60’s there were pandemics that killed millions, and not to mention all the wars. Every day there’s war somewhere in the planet then you look at prison, there’s dudes getting shanked up, and dudes trying to rape dudes. So for me if it’s staying in my house with my family and not getting anyone sick is all I have to do it’s pretty easy from my side, and blessings to everyone out there who’s going through it, who’s family got sick through this shit, it’s a struggle for the world.
You’re featured on the Four Owls new album which is also dropping soon, how did that connection come about, and is there any other UK stuff you’re feeling at the moment
Yeah, I was at a festival in the UK and I met the Owls and Leaf Dog used to send me beats, banger beats, and he just said hey you want to do something, so I said yeah, send me the track, and he sent it over an it had some old school sample on it that was dope so we did it. We were planning on doing a music video for it as well, but I think they going to do something else now.
As far as other UK Artists, people get aggravated with me but I did a big show with Lady Leshurr, have I said that right lady La-shoore?, I think she’s got some dope really interesting flows and styles, I really like that chick and I was hoping to do some real different type stuff with her, but it hasn’t happened.
We’re almost wrapped up, you got any isolation tips, movie or music recommendations anything like that?
Music recommendations for the quarantine, you know I hate to be the shameless plug of my own album type of shit but that’s all I been working on, getting the world ready for April 17th the new R.A The Rugged Man album so that’s really what I been working on so I haven’t really been listening to new music. Breakfast time I put on a little 80s RnB, some Charelle, Alexander O’Neal, that kinda stuff.
Thank you for your time man, looking forward to hearing the album when it drops, you got any Shout outs or last words?
Yeah shout out to everyone who’s been supporting me for decade after decade, I been doing this for a lot of years and a lot of people keep coming back and keep being excited over these projects I release, so thanks for your patience. I know I don’t release a tonne of material, I’m just excited for the world to hear what we’ve been working on so hard. Shout out to my engineer Chris Conway. He made the record sound phenomenal, he worked on it really hard with me. Shout out to everyone one the album. As far as the quarantine madness, the worlds been beaten up and trampled on before, we’ve lost lots of lives to terrible diseases before, we just gotta stay strong together and hope as many of us get through this until the next catastrophe. That’s’ the rollercoaster of life and death, love and pain. You just got to hope for the best.
R.A The Rugged Man ‘All My Heroes Are Dead’ is out on Friday 17th April. Available on all digital stores. Or triple vinyl, CD and Cassette from his website