The show must go on. Even if you do have two broken bones in your foot. Energetic American rapper, R.A. The Rugged Man, chats to RACHEL DAVISON ahead of his show in Perth later this month.
“Yeah I fell over; jumping up and down like crazy…” says R.A. Thorburn, aka The Rugged Man, in a strong New York accent. “I do what I want to do. Three days after it happened I performed in front of 450 people and four days after it happened in front of 20,000 – so nothing can stop me unless I lose my voice.”
Rugged Man is heading to Perth on the back of his second (official) studio album, Legends Never Die, which features guest appearances from Talib Kweli, Tech N9ne and Masta Ace to name just a few.
It’s been almost 10 years between albums so he’s hardly what you’d tag musically prolific, but Rugged Man keeps busy, regularly churning out the singles; plus there’s his film cameos, movie reviewing, horror screenplay writing and his recent spurt of filmaking, which includes Talib Kweli’s new video for Human Mic.
There’s also the notorious live shows. His bio claims he was banned from performing in the US in the late ‘90s due to them being so out of control. So what can we expect here later this month?
Well there’s some recent YouTube footage of him throwing a wheelchair into the audience and last month he posted on Facebook: ‘An old girl friend just said this to me, “Throwing a wheelchair isn’t crazy, you’re (sic) craziness is too refined now, you used to throw your own shit on people’s faces.”… haha.’
But it’s hard to decipher the facts in amongst all the hype.
“I’ll have a wheelchair, I might have crutches, I dunno but I’m gonna go crazy,” he reveals on the phone. “Expect the most energetic, outta control, unbelieveable hyped-up monster show of energy and lyricism. Barely ever in my career when I’ve performed a show have I left the crowd not amazed. Australian crowds are also very energetic and do a lot of crazy stuff, so we have fun.”
Rugged Man believes Legends Never Die is his best work yet and the lyricism surely does impress. ‘A lot of rappers make throw-away music just to get shit out to blogs. I make music I’m proud of that I’ll be performing in 20 years still’ he recently stated on social media.
At the start of his career he got signed and then dropped by major label, Jive Records, before the album he recorded even saw the light of day, so it’s to be expected that Rugged Man loves to talk about the current state of play in the music business.
“Now every asshole with a fucking demo tape can get on Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr and get their music out to everywhere on the planet and that wasn’t happening in the ‘80s,” he explains.
“Everybody thinks they are a fucking real rapper because what happens is they put out a record and then they have all these non-musical people online saying, ‘oh that’s a great song – you’re great!’ and they believe what a couple of Facebook fans say and they keep going and then get slapped in the face for it.
“The average person isn’t a real musician. The average person has no clue how the beatmakers do it or the nice things the engineers do to make the record perfect… so a lot of mediocre artists are being rewarded. The average person listening to something doesn’t go, ‘this guy (let’s say Timbo King) – woah… his rhymes are better than this mediocre raper that is heavily hyped by a corporation,’ they’ll go with the more famous rapper who can’t rap.
“When I was growing up I looked up to a lot of great MCs and you had to prove yourself to be put on a pedestal back then,” he says. “When I was a kid about 11, 12-years-old, the best rappers were the best rappers in the world. Big Daddy Kane, G Rap, Grandmaster Caz… all the masters that you’ve heard of and they were all the greatest.”
So who is Rugged Man musically digging right now?
“In my 20-something year career I’ve worked with all the heavy hitters you know – Trackmasters to Erick Sermon to Buckwild and Alchemist, Ayatollah, DJ Quik and Mr Green (his current producer).
“But as far as musically, there’s a lot of dope MCs out there doing dope shit, you know? Reks from Boston, Nino Bless, they’re well up there. There’s a lot of dope motherfuckers out there making hip hop.”
He’s a man not afraid to be controversial and when asked what he’d like to get up to on his upcoming visit to Australia, we’re not sure any PETA supporters will be heading to the show.
“One time when I was coming over there I wanted to box a kangeroo, but everyone got offended. I wanted to video tape me knocking out a kangaroo. The show promoter was like, ‘no, no… it’ll fuck you up and put you in hospital’ – he wouldn’t let me do it – especially this time, with my broken foot, right?”