Few artists are ever as controversial as they are influential. New York legend R.A. the Rugged Man has lived up to such a moniker by simultaneously inspiring generations of rappers while being banned from every major record label’s offices and even barred from performing during the late-90s underground explosion. But by combining the authenticity of his undeniably rugged life with his undisputed mic skills and understanding of the genre as a Hip-Hop historian, his music has both survived and thrived off the strength of bootlegs and word of mouth through high profile collaborations and high quality official releases, setting a standard for “Real MCs” that few have ever attempted to match. Frequent collaborator The Notorious B.I.G. was once quoted in reference to R.A. by stating “And I thought I was the illest.”
Originally from a broken home in Long Island’s Suffolk County, R.A. was raised by a Vietnam veteran/mental patient father whose exposure to Agent Orange left his brother Maxx physically and visually impaired and his sister Dee Ann unable to walk or speak. Finding refuge in Hip-Hop, R.A. began his whirlwind rap career at the age of 12. His immediate growth as an artist and constantly raising profile soon caught the attention of the majors and R.A. found himself at the center of a nine label bidding war. While he eventually signed with Jive, his vile behavior proved too much for the label to handle as they left him to die without an album in stores to his name.
Taking matters into his own hands, R.A. pioneered the truly independent indie-rap hustle, pressing his own vinyl singles and racking up one of the most impressive resumes in Rap history. From Wu-Tang and Mobb Deep to Biggie and Kool G. Rap, not to mention productions from Erick Sermon, DJ Quik and The Alchemist, his discography reads like a Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. The Rugged Man has also been championed by critics for his show-stealing work on the three ‘Rawkus Soundbombing’ collections, as well as contributing “Break the Walls Down” to the Platinum selling ‘WWF Aggression’ compilation. The past decade has fortunately seen many of these classics released and remastered on both his 2004 debut ‘Die Rugged Man, Die!’ and his ‘Legendary Classics’ compilation that included “Uncommon Valor,” his collaboration with Jedi Mind Tricks that saw him awarded the prestigious “Hip-Hop Quotable” by The Source magazine. R.A. has also been acclaimed for his writing, regularly contributing to Vibe, Complex and Mass Appeal magazine as well as landing a book deal with Testify books. R.A. is also the screenwriter and producer of the Cult Film Bad Biology and is working on his directorial debut; a documentary based on the life of his father Staff Sgt. John A Thorburn
Currently, R.A. finds himself in the studio, readying his new album for Nature Sounds. Joined by celebrated producers Buckwild, Marco Polo, Ayatollah and Lil Fame of M.O.P., it promises to not only live up to his legendary standards, but exceed every grimy expectation. A traditionalist, innovator and trailblazer, R.A. has devoted his life to Hip-Hop, stating “The only reason I live is to be the best at what I do and I get better at it every year of my life. I can’t wait to unleash it to the world.”
-Words by Chaz Kangas