Review: R.A. The Rugged Man (@RAtheRuggedMan) Live @TheJazzCafe

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.

A Lock­smith

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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Wasif Sayyed

Wasif Sayyed

Wasif Sayyed’s many years as a writer, rap­per, pro­moter, ment­or and hip-hop pro­du­cer have shaped him into an enthu­si­ast­ic and insight­ful cul­tur­al cryp­to­graph­er. He loves read­ing and cook­ing, and can hear the whis­per of an unsheathed liquid sword from 50 paces. Twit­ter @WasifScion

About Wasif Sayyed

Wasif Sayyed
Wasif Sayyed's many years as a writer, rapper, promoter, mentor and hip-hop producer have shaped him into an enthusiastic and insightful cultural cryptographer. He loves reading and cooking, and can hear the whisper of an unsheathed liquid sword from 50 paces. Twitter @WasifScion

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