Legend [def.] – ‘a person whose fame or notoriety makes him a source of exaggerated or romanticized tales or exploits’
“Legend” is a word that is thrown about all the time in hip hop circles, and RA The Rugged Man has been linked with this word before on his previous release “Legendary Classics” â€“ a superb compilation of various highlights from RA’s career. Obviously everything RA says can’t be taken seriously (most of the time it should never be taken seriously) as he certainly likes to throw humour in to the mix, usually of the black variety. But with “Legends Never Die”, RA drops only his second album a mere nine years after “Die Rugged Man, Die”. Considering the album titles, and the fact that ever since his ridiculous verse on Jedi Mind Tricks’ “Uncommon Valor” he has made a living from dropping song-stealing verses, has he really earned legendary status? Referring back to the above definition, he most certainly hasn’t experienced the fame but MOST DEFINITELY has notoriety. This notoriety was gained through an unabashed reluctance to do what any record label suggested that may affect RA’s liberal views, and a clear infatuation with the word ‘cunt’. The brutal “Cunt Renaissance” with Biggie Smalls is one of RA’s claims to fame, whilst “Stanley Kubrick” and “Flipside” are curse-laden ramblings from a very charismatic and grimey emcee. “Die Rugged Man, Die” was a heady mix of this style alongside some more personal tracks like “Lessons” and “A Star Is Born”.
“Legends Never Die” is noticeably more intense lyrically, with RA adopting his multi-syllable style which shows influences of Big Pun. “Defintion of a Rap Flow” is the perfect example of how refined RA is at his art. The only person I can think that may match him for breathless flow is Esoteric, or Pun himself. This relentless verbal assault follows on “Media Midgets” which carries on RA’s hatred of the industry, critics and everything else in between. This is a theme which understandably ran through “Die Rugged Man, Die” as it was his ten years-late debut, but having now established himself with regular work and clearly not toning his act down for radio, the anti-industry message seems redundant at times.
There are a bunch of guests on “Legends Never Die” that demonstrate just how respected he is in the game. Talib Kweli delivers a tongue-twisting history lesson on “Learn Truth” which doesn’t quite usurp RA from his throne, whilst both Masta Ace and Brother Ali appear on the terrific “The Dangerous Three”, with Ali proving most lethal:
“Life gave me nothing free, but my ugly
Ass mug and a couple of fat nuts to squeeze
Dick dangling down in my dungarees
Hungry beast, I’ll chase your ass up a tree
You know what’s up with me, I’m sucker-free
Not uptown or uppity, it’s not my cup of tea
Feared one in the streets, won’t nothing bleed
Except my knuckle meat, caught up in your fucking teeth
Brother, please, I’m out here rhyming for survival
Plus I got a outta-body-mind-blowing live show”
Backed by Mr Green’s piano-led production, it’s the perfect style for RA’s rugged flow. There’s little to dislike musically when you have Ayatollah creating a sure-fire single with “Still Get Through The Day”, Marco Polo outdoing Stoupe with the beautifully intricate “Shoot Me In The Head” (alongside a stupidly catchy hook), and Apathy proving himself once again as a worthwhile beatsmith on “The People’s Champ”. For fans of RA The Rugged Man, this is essential. For fans of early Eminem, this is essential. For everybody else, if you can ignore the swearing and appreciate the intricacies of RA’s rhyming, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy this because at least 80% of this record is straight up dope hip hop.