RA the Rugged Man Interview

– What is your side of the story on what happened with Jive and what the reasons were for them to drop you?
I am right they were wrong. That’s all.

– You were on all the Soundbombing albums from Rawkus, did you ever consider getting signed to Rawkus?
Nah they are a gay ass label. They did ask me. Why you think they put me on 5 of their albums. It’s a gay ass label, I don’t wanna be there. The thing with Rawkus is, it was a little indie label and they tried to act like a major label. So if you were signed to Rawkus, you were gonna have to give them creative rights and you also had to let them own your masters. And I’m like “Yo you not fucking Def Jam or Warner Bros, or fucking Sony. Chill out and treat us like the little indie label that you are.” That’s why when I did business with them I only gave them a song or two. And all the songs I did for Rawkus I still own, I don’t sell off my masters. If I’ma sell my masters, it gotta be some Jive records money or Capital records money. It gotta be something grand, half a mill you know.

– You have worked with a lot of artists throughout the years, why wasn’t it until 2004 that you finally released your debut album?
I have 500 songs, I could have put out albums at any time. I actually completed an album on Jive and I sued them and I had lawyers fighting for me to get me the fuck off that label and make sure it wouldn’t be released. See, the thing is, what I ended up doing is I ended up pimpin’ the game cause the label thought they were pimpin’ me. So what I would do is, I would sign with Jive, I took a whole bunch of advancement money and never put out a record, they don’t own shit. I signed to Capitol Priority Records and took a whole bunch of advancement money, they paid my cell phone, my rent, my bills, my studio, for 3 years and they don’t own shit cause I didn’t do shit. It was basically me hustling the game for a lotta years. One of the greatest record I ever made in history, was in 1994 with Buckwild called “Every record label sucks dick”. I knew the game back then before cats knew the game. So I figured if I’m not gonna get pimped, I’m gonna pimp. The only reason I started putting out records now, is because there are these little indie record labels and you can say ok, I own my masters, you know you could license the record for this many years, but I own the masters, I own it for live. If there’s ever a soundtrack or if I ever perform, there’s never a conflict with the records you know. These indie labels they don’t give you much money upfront but they give you the best record deals ever in history of records. So I’m like “Ok, we can put out albums now.”

– So what made you decide to do “Die Rugged man Die” on Nature Sounds?
That’s why. Cause I own my masters, I make half the money of what the label makes off of that record. And 15 years down the line, every song on that record is still mine. Everything I recorded for Jive Records, I have to go try clear it through Jive Records. I can’t even use my own music. And none of these fucking artists can.

– Was it a strategy for you to wait this long to put a record out or didn’t you find out til later that that was the best kind of record deal for you?
Nah I just didn’t even care about putting out records. I was rappin all over the place, I was in the streets. I already had my legacy, I was premiering on a lotta shit, every rapper on the planet, don’t matter, name a rapper on the East coast, from Redman to Puffy, whoever the fuck it was who thought they were somebody, they all know who I was, what I was doing. You know, I am not into the business, I’m not into the game, I don’t play games, I’m into the art form of HipHop. So if I have to sign my soul over and destroy everything I worked hard to be great at, to sign a record deal and to make music for record labels I’m not gonna do that, so I’m like fuck it. I perform here, I rap for my people I rap in the street I keep my name in the street, my legacy is strong, mothafuckas is on my dick, they respect me. I don’t need to go “Oh I put out a record with a fucking label that owns my goddamn ass.” So, putting out records, what does that mean? What does putting out a record do for you? It’s not a big thing to me. A million artists a year put out records. If I put out a record this year or don’t put out a record this year, I am still as goddamn great as I ever was. I am still a great MC who made history, who influenced fuckin goddamn countless rappers. You know putting out albums don’t change that.

– You also write columns and articles and you have recently signed a book deal about your love for boxing. If you had to choose between writing and performing, which would it be?
Of course HipHop, I am not a real writer, I barely know the English language. With the writing thing, kids go to school for that shit, educate themselves on how to be real writers. I am just a personality with a little funny voice and they like my voice.

– How did you get into that?
Just being R.A. the rugged man. Couple of magazines were like “Hey can you do a guest spot here, can you do a little guest appearance in this magazine?” and then you know you doing two, three magazines and all of a sudden other cats hit you up and then couple people here hit u up “Can u do this here for this magazine?” and the next thing you know you writing for 78 magazines and people throwing book deals at you. It’s like who’s hot at the moment. There are writers that are better than me, but I am a little bit hot at the moment. They all call me. Haha. But yeah, HipHop is what I’m great at, writing is just some funny shit, because I barely graduated school. I was in all the retarded people classes.

– So the R stands for retarded? Haha.
R.A. – Retarded Ass haha. But yeah I was in all the slow classes like all the special kids, like behavior problems. You know kids that didn’t know how to behave, not know how to keep their pencils in their hands. I was in the special ed classes. The bobo classes. I was in all of that shit.

– The book is about boxing.
Yeah Dana James of Testify books approached me, she is the editor of all the Ego Trip books. She did a lot of classic HipHop books. She did books with Ricky Powell, books with Eminem, you know books with a lot of people. And she likes strong voices, she kept approaching me to write this book, I was like “Jesus Dana, what the fuck, I don’t even know how to talk the language, barely, how the fuck am I gonna write a book?” And she came at me with a contract and said “Here’s some money go do it.” And I’m like ok. Haha.

– Aren’t you afraid that the book might get people to think the implications about your behavior are justified? You have a little reputation about your behavior.
I did a lot of positive things too.

– Well, you know people always point out the negative.
Well good. I like being hated. I love it. The fair part is, that the being hated is starting to wear off. I need to do something crazy to get it back. Like I been saying lately, the people are liking me now, I am good guy R.A. all of a sudden. I just do what I do in life and if people hate me they hate me and if they love me, the love me.

– You are currently working on a movie called “Bad Biology”, can you tell us some more about it?
We shot it in November. I co-wrote it, produced it and casted it and fucking production managed it, and location-scouted it. And fucking set decorated it, goddamn I did so much fucking shit for that movie, executive-produced, financed it, haha. Nah, director Frank Henenlotter, who is a cult film making legend, he did a lot of very fucked up B-movies. And I been a fan since I was like 10 years old. Back when I was signed with Jive, I was 19, I approached him to direct one of my videos cause I was a big fan and we kept in contact ever since. So about a year and a half ago I came up with this idea with Frank and said lets just grab some money and do some real fucked up indie shit, a lotta nudity, a lotta real perverted weird shit but real classy at the same time. So we made a little classy sexy horror little bizarre twisted love story. And it’s a classic.

– When is it coming out?
Well we are editing right now. We won’t be done with that for another 2 months. And after editing, Prince Paul is doing the original score, he has to lay down the score and then we gotta take the picture and bring it to Cali to do the after effects and the colorization. So the shit ain’t gonna be done for a while. We are planning in probably getting it in festivals at the end of the summer, having it out by late ’07.
It’s low budget so it’s gonna be a fucked up B-movie, but at the same time we shot it at 35 mm so it looks like we spent some money. It all depends on who the distributor is in each country. It will definitely be out on DVD so you definitely be able to buy it.

– How did you cast the people for it? Cause it has a cast with some names to them.
The cast is fucking outta control. We had limited funds, so I spent 3 months just fucking sitting there, calling everyone I know and had so many rappers audition for this shit and some rappers didn’t get the parts, cause you know what happened was, I held the casting calls and then I would take all the videotapes to the director and he would make the final decision. So there were certain rappers with big names that didn’t make it in the final cut cause the director didn’t like their auditions. But the people who did make it in the movie, J-Zone, the director – as soon as he saw him play a little drug dealer part, he thought he was so bizarre looking and so funny that he was like, as soon as he had seen him he said I don’t think we don’t have to get him to read again, just let me meet him, have him read one time and he’s got the part. So he got the part real easy.
Then Vinnie Paz from Jedi, actually what happened with him was, Paz wasn’t the first choice for that part, Tech 9ne was. And Tech 9ne, the day before the shoot he was on some wanting to re-write the scene. He didn’t like the main joke in the scene, he thought it was too fucking perverted and I couldn’t re-write it. That was the main joke in the scene. I’m not gonna give it away, but as soon as you see it you will see what I’m talking about. So Paz had invested 15 grand into the film, so I called him up early in the morning and said “Paz get over here, this guy Tech 9ne ain’t showing up, you not exactly what I was thinking about for this particular part but come down please.” I actually had him set up for a different part, a smaller part. But Paz rushed down there with Reef the Lost Cauze and we threw them two in the scene. Way better than what it was with Tech 9ne.
There’s a whole bunch of cameos in there. Staff Srgt. Thorburn, John A. My pop, he has a little cameo. The main lead actress in it is a new upcoming actress named Charlee Danielson. She looks real innocent, like she wouldn’t do nudity in a million years. You would never expect that. I got my little cameo on in there too, my two minute scene. I got a little sexy scene. I did a love scene. What happened is, the director, we were writing the scene and I said that was gonna be my cameo. He said, “You know, he is so rude to her, that I think he should remain clothed, cause he is throwing her out the apartment, she is fully nude and he is clothed, so it will be more rude. She is more vulnerable” And I’m like “Motherfucker you just don’t want my shirt off. I’m a little sloppy, I’m a little hairy”. And he was like “No no, she is more vulnerable.” I don’t believe him, I just think he wanted to keep my clothes on.

– Was it a different experience working with music artists for a movie? Was it diffent collabing with artists for a movie instead of musically?
I don’t know, oh you know what, I put my man Remedy in there too. He helped us find locations. He didn’t even audition, he was location scout. And the director liked him and he got the part. There’s a couple more musicians in it. Prince Paul got a little cameo too.
But nah, they just show up and do their thing. Certain rappers showed up right on time, just like they would for a studio session and other rappers didn’t show up at all, just like they would for a studio session. It depends on who the artist is I guess. And some co-operated, some are difficult, it’s just like regular rap.

– Coming from New York, I also have to ask you, how do you feel about the scene nowadays, what are your thoughts on the NY State of Mind, bringing HipHop back, the South coming up etc.?
Well everybody knows the South will never be able to lyrically fuck with us. NEVA. Even though they got some nice rappers. Ludacris got skills. (note: Ludacris is originally from Chicago.) As far as the whole down south thing is concerned though, Cali did that shit in ‘92 when like Dre and Snoop and everyone was coming up. Other sections get their shine. But if they think the South is taking over and it’s gonna remain South throughout the history of HipHop, that’s an impossibility. We will always remain, we will always be the fucking creators. We started this shit.

– You don’t think Nas is right about HipHop is dead?
That was just a retarded thing for him to say. All these little rap nerd kids were wearing HipHop is dead shirts way before Nas came out with that on his album. I seen little rap nerds wearing that. Nas didn’t mean it like that. Nas is a huge HipHop fan, his whole album is telling the whole world about how much he loves HipHop. Nas… Nas is stuck in a mainstream world, he is looking at mainstream HipHop.
I think mainstream HipHop is corny. If you tryna say HipHop is dead cause 80 percent of the mainstream artists suck, then its dead. But I exist. This shit ain’t dead. I’ll fuck up every one of these rappers. Kool G Rap exists, it ain’t dead. I’m sittin’ in the car, listening to Killah Priest’s new record with Priest, he is playing me his new songs, HipHop obviously isn’t dead. I’m listening to some of the greatest lyrics ever spit right now in 2006 and 2007. Which is not on a mainstream level, which is actually good. Wack shit is on the mainstream. So if you look at HipHop as a mainstream culture, then its dead. How about 1990, was HipHop dead just because MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice came out? You know? Was HipHop dead when Sugarhill was the only one selling records? I don’t know, just cause the better motherfuckers ain’t selling records, it’s not dead. So I don’t know what to say.

– What new projects besides the book and the movie, can we expect from you musically?
I am working on my new album. When I was doing the movie I signed to do another album with Nature Sounds so I can get some more money and throw it in the movie. I am also working on the soundtrack for Bad Biology with Prince Paul. My new album is retarded, I just started it and I’m on the 3rd song and it’s been the three best songs in my career so far. I also got a greatest hits type of thing coming up.