Few artists are ever as controversial as they are influential. New York legend R.A. The Rugged Man has lived up to this billing by combining the authenticity of his undeniably rugged life with lyrical skills feared by nearly all of his hip hop peers. 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 rising profile soon caught the attention of the major labels, 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 his career to die without an album in stores to his name. To make matters worse, the rapper’s stage shows had become so out of control that he was banned from performing in the United States.

Taking matters into his own hands, R.A. pioneered the indie-rap hustle, pressing his own vinyl singles and racking up one of the most impressive resumes in rap history. From collaborations with Wu-Tang and Mobb Deep to The Notorious B.I.G. 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. This independent hustle led to show-stealing appearances on the three Rawkus Soundbombing collections, as R.A. became one of the most recognizable faces of the “underground” hip-hop movement that began gaining steam in the late 90s and early 2000s. A new generation of fans began discovering the Rugged Man’s music in the 2000s, as he was featured on the Platinum-selling WWF Aggression compilation, got awarded the prestigious “Hip-Hop Quotable” by The Source magazine, and inked a deal with indie label Nature Sounds. He dropped his debut studio album Die Rugged Man, Die! in 2004, and followed up with the 2009 compilation Legendary Classics, finally giving fans remastered versions of Rugged Man classics that had never seen the light of day. R.A. has also been acclaimed for his writing, regularly contributing to Vibe, Complex and Mass Appeal magazine, and later landing a book deal with Testify Books. He expanded into film by producing and writing the cult classic Bad Biology, and is currently working on his directorial debut – a documentary based on the life of his father Staff Sgt. John A Thorburn.

Now, two decades after his career began, R.A. has improbably outlasted nearly all of his peers. Having been banned, forgotten, blackballed, and left for dead, the Rugged Man has somehow emerged in 2013 with a thriving career, a nonstop touring schedule, a die-hard fan base, and a new album that is sure to solidify his place as one of the most important figures in underground hip-hop. Featuring A-list guests like Tech N9ne, Hopsin, Talib Kweli, Brother Ali, Krizz Kaliko, Vinnie Paz, Masta Ace, Sadat X, Eamon, and more, Legends Never Die is not only a celebration of R.A.’s illustrious career, but an exciting look at what’s still to come. “Honestly, I feel like this is only the beginning,” says R.A. After all these years, the fact that the Rugged Man remains an innovator in the art of rhyming is probably the most remarkable aspect of his story. “The only reason I live is to be the best at what I do and I get better at it every day of my life,” he says. “I can’t wait to unleash it to the world.”