R.A. The Rugged Man @ Jazz Café Review
[with AFRO & Eamon. Support by Locksmith & Stig of the Dump]
A Locksmith to the Rugged Man
Live Rugged Man, Live
R.A the Rugged Man’s notoriety foreshadowed his musical output for several years; something he doesn’t shy away on his record’s lyrics. Accounts of being banned from being in the same room as Aaliyah; defecating on studio mixing boards, pimping women for free beats and being blackballed by Def Jam records (as confirmed by Method Man recently) are all true.
Whilst launching as a brash, offensive, ‘crustafied’, belligerent emcee, R.A’s professional trajectory has ascended him to a position of a revered Hip-Hop scholar and custodian, who unlike many in the post-racial fallacious Hip-Hop world, admits his position as a ‘white boy living off what Black people created.’ To this day R.A. pays dues to the art-form’s fore bearers with several shout outs in his set to Rakim, Big Daddy Kane,Jungle Brothers, Kool Moe Dee, Schooly D, Wu Tang Clan and others.
There’s a heart-warming recent story about a talented 16 year old emcee named AFRO, who won a Rugged Man competition in September and then broke his ribs in a car accident. R.A. Invited AFRO out to New York in October where he introduced AFRO to Hip-Hop legends such as Queen Latifah, Chuck D, Kool G Rap, Chip Fu, Sadat X, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Havoc and others. Several of the aforementioned have pledged collaborations to AFRO’s début project and R.A the Rugged Man, so blown away by the young rapper’s skills, promised him a Europe tour n November. With AFRO was billed on the Jazz Café card, we learnt that R.A the Rugged Man keeps his promises.
Undercard support emcee Locksmith amicably acquainted himself to the audience with a laid back Richmond, California smiley swagger. All whilst having authority to successfully curtail noisy and drunk jabberers at the bar with a ‘Shut the fuck up’ before an acapella rhymed intro.
Locksmith worked through a set including a 9th Wonder collaboration, laid back and funky DJ Quick-esq beats, and traversing usual self-referential Hip-Hop landscapes of browbeating insincere emcees, call and responses and growing-up tales. Whilst a chanted hook over the grimy sub bass of ‘Willie Lynch’ proudly shouts ‘I don’t give a motherfuck!’, it is evident that Locksmith clearly does. In an age where ‘having fucks left to give’ is going out of fashion quicker than Nike Shocks/Jeggings/Rockports (pick one). Locksmith’s references to his heritage (Black and Iranian), rites to passage ernesty and justice in Hip-Hop is caring and endearing.
It was set closer ‘Hardest Song Ever’ that finally lifted the curtain to the human behind the dude rapping on stage. Introducing this as a ‘very personal song’, Locksmith spoke about being molested as a child in the company of his babysitter.
‘The shit she would do to me, nothing else could undo
…she told me “strip down, no need to feel ashamed”
She brought another child, she said “let’s play a game”
My stomach’s in a twist, what you expect? Shit
I’m barely 5 or 6, I don’t know what sex is’
Amongst a male dominated audience, it was spine chilling to hear Locksmith recount his feelings of dealing with such trauma; doing-away with the fallacy of men refusing to show vulnerability or sex-related insecurity.
‘I pushed away any woman I could connect with
That’s the shit you do when you deal with being molested
…Am I scarred, am I flawed, am I gay then?
I’ve always loved women, that can’t be the explanation’
In a culture still dominated by machismo and faux-honesty, as Locksmith lapped up the audience’s applause with an on-stage crowd selfie, it felt as if the night’s most remarkable moment may have already occurred.
Legends Never Die
DJ Snuff expertly blended 90s Hip-Hop to warm the audience up for headliner R.A the Rugged Man, who was introduced to rapturous applause by monolith Stig of the Dump.
Crowd in a frenzy, R.A the self-professed Caveman and Black Nat Turner, trail blazed through newer stompers (Definition of a Rap Flow, The People’s Champ, Holla-Looh-Ya, Dangerous Three, favourites from previous album Die Rugged Man, Die and visiting 90s benchmarks (Every Record Label Sucks Dick, Cunt Renaissance with Notorious B.I.G.)
Some reflective moments aside that paid reverence to Rugged Man’s father (Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam story), this was not a show with subtlety – and that was absolutely fine. R.A the Rugged Man’s mastery of the mic is amongst the best in the craft; pouncing around the stage like a deranged buffalo-jaguar hybrid whilst still maintaining perfect diction navigating dense, intricate flows with his head vibrating like a tuning-fork. The folklore, the history, the fame – nothing is relevant when ultimately, all R.A the Rugged Man cares about is wowing the fuck out of an audience with emceeing expertise to neck breaking heavy beats.
It was wonderful to see the mentor-protégé relationship between R.A the Rugged Man and AFRO with the former encouraging cues for call and responses, choruses, and hype man duties. AFRO’s solo moments were indeed awesome: highlighting incredibly musical cadence with breathtaking flow not dissimilar to the Big Pun and Freestyle Fellowships of the world. If AFRO refuses to believe the hype inevitably bestowed upon him, he will mature into potentially one of the best live emcees ever. A surreal nugget of the night was the presence of Eamon (Fuck It (I Don’t Want You Back), who performed his chart-topping hit (it was very enjoyable) and stuck around for hype man and chorus duties at times.
Legends Never Die
R.A put on a smashing, rowdy, raucous show to a booming sound system with puppeteer like dexterity for crowd direction. A strongly recommended experience for no-frills Hip-Hop entertainment. But the magic of the night; the realisation of something powerful and revelatory occurred earlier with Locksmith’s transparency and artistic vulnerability. It is true that some revolutions start from within.
by Perry Dominoes
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