Album: Legends Never Die
Record Label: Nature Sounds
The return of the obscure Long Island MC is a mighty odyssey
It's been 9 years since Long Island MC R.A. The Rugged Man released a full- length album proper, and even if the casual listener may be unaware to his existence, for those vigilant in the underground way of Hip Hop then "Legends Never Die" is somewhat of an event. It's certainly an event for Rugged Man too; after years of features with a plethora of celebrated below- the- radar stalwarts and no chance to properly show his worth, the 18 song length of "Legends Never Die" (usually a length reserved for Mixtape releases) is justified.
Rugged Man clearly feels the need to stake a sort of claim right from the off on "Legends Never Die", but that's by no means the entire premise of this album. His brutal, unrelenting and in- your- face flow covers many spectrums of prose, from heaving braggadocia, obnoxious black humour to deep and relevant social/ political critique. If it's not told in the most flowery of deliveries then that's entirely the point; "Legends Never Die" is blunt, and very self- consciously so. "I'm about to give you a level of skill you won't hear in the mainstream" he spits on the intro "Still Diggin Wit Buck", and in a way, that's a cathartic modus operandi for the whole piece.
Rugged Man's silly, deliberately over the top self- indulgence appears first on tracks like "The People's Champ", which sees him stating "My flow is Michael Angelo, The Sistine Chapel, you ain't even finger painting." He's at it with more approachable style on the fantastically old- school bass- charged shuffle of "The Definition of a Rap Flow", during which he barely stops to take a breath.
Then there's the political spectrum he tackles. He delves into politics frequently and often when you might not be expecting it, like on the brick- to- skull smash of "Holla- Loo- Yah". The album's highlight however is "Learn truth", which finds both him and collaborator Talib Kweli spitting righteous, worldly conscious fire. "My flow is fuckin honest, you said you wanted to hear but you lied 'cause all you wanted was for me to lift up your spirits" says Kweli in the opening verse. Rugged Man meanwhile spans almost the entirety of evil history, before bringing it back to modern prevalence in stark fashion with the line "The government is poisoning the minds and lives of the babies that are born poor."
He launches a vicious right- hook at all media corporations on "Media Midgets", which entails perhaps the most soulful production on the album, providing a laid back platform for lines like "We're living in a nation living in intimidation due to primitive media manipulation" to strike home hard.
There's also the distinctly personal, like "Legends Never Die (Daddy's Halo)", an incredibly moving ode to his deceased father over an acoustic variation on the beat behind Beyonce's "Halo." Closer "Still Get Through The Day" is even inspiring, as Rugged Man delves deep into personal tragedy via vivid imagery to attain a kind of "Life goes on, everything will be ok" kind of mentality on the other side. It's brilliantly motivational.
Things are a little sillier on the brutally self- deprecating "Shoot Me in the Head." "I'm hated I got liberals wishing for the Death penalty and Conservatives wishing my mom had aborted her pregnancy," before going on to ponder "kids wanna be me, why you wanna copy this loser." In the second verse he gets more political as he shoots "you think they was looking for Bin Ladin? that's a croc, they was looking for him like they was looking for the killers of Biggie and Pac," all interspersed with a deliberately absurd hook.
"I've had a long career, but really this album is just the beginning, I got plenty more in store for you", he promises on "Shuko Outro." Whilst it seemingly took 9 years for Rugged Man to assemble this kind of vernacular brilliance, there's no reason why he couldn't do it sooner next time. He's the kind of MC who could drum up witty and facetious verses without much thought, and it's a style that he's sure to explore more. In the meantime, "Legends Never Die" is a fine odyssey through the mindset of an MC who deserves to be treasured.
Key Tracks: Learn Truth (ft. Talib Kweli), Legends Never Die (Daddy's Halo), Still get Through the Day
For fans of: Celph Titled, Jedi Mind Tricks