Tonight, one of underground rap’s most notorious legends, R.A. the Rugged Man, throws his own birthday bash at Drom. Joining him for tonight’s shindig are critically acclaimed West Coast MC Blu and politically charged syllable killer Diabolic. We spoke to R.A. about completing another Rugged year, readying his next album Legends Never Die, and (given his reputation as a respected movie buff) his thoughts on the Oscar nominations.
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Happy Birthday! How has the past year been for you?
Oh man, it’s been amazing. I spent the year in the studio nonstop, working on my music, touring the world and being with my fans. My career has been moving forward nonstop. I really haven’t had too much bad happen to me and I hope that the good luck streak continues.
Who have you been in the studio with?
I’m working with everybody, man. For my new album, I got my old Rawkus buddy Talib Kweli. We went in there and really dropped some super lyrical shit. Tech N9ne’s been a good friend of mine for a long time, we finally got in the booth. Fastest rhyme I ever spit in my career type of shit. I got two songs with Vinnie Paz. Brother Ali, Masta Ace, Rakim, the young boy Hopsin, the Demigodz, I’ve been working. Buckwild did a couple beats, Apathy produced one and Ayatollah, I got a bunch of incredible producers. Mr. Green is one of my favorite producers now, I love working with him.
You also spent the year touring heavily around the world. Do you recall any particularly outlandish or crazy crowds?
Yeah, that’s my job. Even if the crowd isn’t crazy, you get the crowd crazy. Kids bouncing and stomping. That’s my job, to turn the crowds into maniacs. It’s funny, I was in Austria last month. Me and Havoc of Mobb Deep did a show in a big ass giant Austrian castle. It was crazy, the crowd was all drunk and having a party. A lot of the crowds in Austria are real rowdy. Anywhere in the planet though, if there’s an R.A. show, I’m going to make sure they go crazy.
Considering how different your style is from both Blu and Diabolic, what made you decide to bring them together for your birthday show tonight?
Well, hip-hop is hip-hop man. Me and Blu just worked together on a music video last month. He’s an incredible artist. Nature Sounds, my label, said Blu wants to do a show when he’s in New York. I said I wanted to do a birthday jumpoff, can we make it the same thing? Then my man Diabolic and I were just kicking it and he said “Yo, let me come through and rock on that birthday joint,” and I said “Yeah, of course.” Each of them is quality artists, I’m not gonna say no. If they’re great artists and legitimate hip-hop artists, let’s show the world.
How did you first link up with both of them?
Diabolic is a Long Islander. I’d been hearing people saying I should do “something with Diabolic, he’s up and coming.” I heard the name but never heard his music. Then I heard he shouted me out on a joint talking about Long Island. Then we met and he happened to know shit about my family because this girl he was dating lived in my old neighborhood. And he knew my little brother Johnny O, who owned the vacuum cleaner store in the neighborhood. He was a supportive cat who became a fan, and I became a fan of his. And Blu hit up [Nature Sounds] about getting me on a joint and I said “of course.” He made this crazy wild beat with a slow temple that sounds like this wild Shakespearian shit. It’s theatrical man, it’s crazy.
This sounds like a pretty incredible birthday. Do you recall any birthdays in the past that were particularly wild?
Well, I used to throw really wild ass birthday parties. Back in the late ’90s, I used to throw these off the hook parties that were just illegal. We had naked women all over the place, and the venue would be all “We can’t serve alcohol where women don’t have a bottom on.” I didn’t know that law. They were trying to shut down my party because there were naked strippers trying to fuck each other with dildos. Violence, insanity, that was over a decade ago. The only thing is, I see the pictures and my little brother was probably 16 or 17 in them days, hanging out with naked hookers, and now I’m like “Damn, I’m a shitty brother.” I’m a little bit more on my calm down days, I’m trying to have a nice music party.
Your every-other-week movie web series Film School for Film.com shows you’re a pretty big movie buff. What did you think of the Academy Award nominees?
They’re cheesy, you know? There’s not enough movies to nominate in the first place because there’s nothing good being made. The one thing is, I’m glad the old bitch from Amore got nominated. She did her thing, she was fucking amazing. And I’m glad Michael Haneke got his directing nomination. That’s the one thing the academy did do right. William Friedken got snubbed for Killer Joe. Gina Gershon should have got an award too.