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Album Review: R.A. The Rugged Man, Legends Never Die

It’s been nearly a decade since his official studio debut Die, Rugged Man, Die in 2004, but through a series of impressive guest features alongside the likes of Jedi Mind Tricks and Blu, R.A. the Rugged Man has remained a ferocious MC to be reckoned with. Now, the Suffolk County veteran has returned to the fold with his latest album, Legends Never Die, a bruiser of an effort replete with hard-hitting boom-bap beats and dense lyricism.

From the opening Buckwild-produced “Still Diggin Wit Buck,” Legends Never Die finds the Rugged Man in top-tier lyrical form. Songs like the Apathy-produced “The Peoples Champ” sees him packing layers of multisyllabic tongue-twister rhymes into every verse. Similarly, R.A. channels his inner Kool G. Rap on the Cold Chillin’-inspired “Definition of a Rap Flow (Albee 300),” spitting technical gems like “Who would’ve figured me to be deadly/They never be ready to bury me/Better be ready/Nobody better than me” with pin-point precision.

Yet amidst the tight-knit flow and staccato internal rhymes, R.A. still maintains an understanding of the conceptual underpinnings of his craft. Rather than allow his technical prowess to take control of the album’s direction, R.A. crafts a comprehensive LP that covers the whole gamut of his eccentric personality. His Talib Kweli-assisted single “Learn Truth” finds R.A. toning down the manic persona to deliver a sober analysis of world politics. Similarly, “Still Get Through the Day” is an emotionally triumphant track in which R.A. details the tragic nature of his family’s medical history with unflinching honesty.

Of course, these moments of conceptual maturity don’t preclude R.A. from delving into his unbridled id on the record. Cuts like Marco Polo’s “Shoot Me In the Head” and “Luv to Fuk” are works of brilliant ignorance. Similarly, crew cuts like “Sam Peckinpah,” “The Dangerous Three” and “Holla-Loo-Yuh” offer him an opportunity to exercise his battle-hardened bars against an ensemble cast of lyricists from the likes of Tech N9ne, Masta Ace and frequent collaborator Vinnie Paz. The album’s finest moment comes with the song “Legends Never Die (Daddy’s Halo).” Anchored by Mr. Green’s raw live-sampling production, the song is a touching eulogy to R.A.’s late father. It’s an emotional knockout of a record that where even a hardened MC like R.A. chokes up as he ends his verse.

Legends Never Die has many successes, but there are a few missteps amidst the 18 tracks. Despite a fantastic beat from Buckwild, the track “Media Midgets” is an underwhelming anti-media concept. “Underground Hitz”’s cliché production is another miss, where R.A. gets outmatched by Hopsin’s guest appearance.

With the exception of a few fillers, Legends Never Die is a truly compelling entry in the two-decade discography of R.A. the Rugged Man. It’s an album armed with exceptionally mastered production, stunning guest features and raw, emotional delivery from R.A.. —Sean Ryon (@WallySean)

  • soma

    seriously one of the hardest, sickest, funniest, and totally listenable albums I’ve ever heard. everything he writes is heartfelt and real, but never takes itself too seriously.
    Shoot Me In the Head is awesome and I thought media midgets is a unique take on a legitimate problem.

  • z

    DID U REALLY SAY HOSPIN OUT SHINNED R.A.???? GTFOH

    • Dr Koul

      I know that is just ridiculous

  • R

    hard to call Media Midgets a misstep when the beat’s as good as it is. probably the best on the album imo.

    also “where R.A. gets outmatched by Hopsin’s guest appearance.”.. not even gonna touch on that

  • http://www.facebook.com/mc.martyj Marty Skuse

    Sell out hype wagon XXL knocks the track which murders the media… SMH

  • hippaToDaHoppa

    R.A. got outmatched by Hopsin? Are you serious? Hopsin’s verse was the definition of generic, and, besides that beat they were on, was the lone weak spot on the album.

  • fuck xxl

    xxl suck a dick ra body hopsin, you would have to be deaf not the hear that.

  • GoDucks2013

    If you think Hopsin outmatched RA you are out of your mind lol.

  • Neon Binky

    This just tells me that XXL is still completely out of touch with the concept of real hip-hop, if you think that Hopsin’s phoned in bar was anywhere near the quality of RA’s. Also, biased much on your critique of Media Midgets?

  • BillyBobJohn

    album is so dope

  • Clarkkent113

    This album is absolutely incredible. It really brings me back to the late 90s/early 2000s underground scene without getting stuck in the easy trap of not being original. Paying too-much homage can often be dangerous for MCs but Joey Bada$$ and RA are able to do it with ease.

    Talib’s Prisoner of Conscious is gonna be hard pressed to beat this 2013 gem.

  • Nick

    Outmatched by Hopsin? Whaaat!

  • Matt Kies

    XXXL your magazine is complete garbage.

  • Slaytanic

    XXLOL… what a fucking awful “publication”. This article highlights how little your writers know about Hip Hop, with your generic praising & outlandish criticisms.

  • JeromeFromTheTime

    R.A. was not outdone by Hopsin’s mediocre verse. I’ve never heard R.A. get out rhymed by anyone so far. Also, How do you give the beats a “L” rating than say “It’s an album armed with exceptionally mastered production…”

    Huh????

  • JK

    Already been said a number of times, but Hopsin’s verse was completely generic rap-by-numbers bullshit. No way did he outshine R.A.

  • Jay DeLuca

    Got Lyrics…album is DOPE like the METHADOME Clinic#23hoopdr3@mz

  • TheDude

    he didn’t pay for the extra X. :P. The albums a classic, we’re all very aware of it. media midgets and Make you famous were on point too.

  • http://bit.ly/10mGDTH Michael

    He really speaks to you on learn truth & daddys halo, I felt like those two really brought pure attention to lyricism I give this a 7.5 out of 10.0

  • yuck

    HAHAHAHA RA MURDERED HOP!! who signs ya checks. see this is why hip-hop is for intellectual fans!! NOT dumbass critics.,…NEVER DUMB-ASS CRITICS

    GO REVIEW A DRAKE ALBUM YOU BUM, REAL HIPHOP IS NOT FOR YOU.

    and MEDIA MIDGETS IS TOUGH AS SHIT! that smooth ass grass roots hip-hop beat. the whole thing from front to back could be fuck radio, fuck tv AND IT WOULD STILL BE VICIOUS CUS ATLEAST SOMEBODY HAS THE GUTS TO SAY THAT SHIT. laffy taffy, black and yellow? chicken noodle soup. YOU LITERALLY CANT SAY FUCK RADIO ENOUGH!!
    you fuckin clown.

    “telling you their lies and you believing it, the mob minded media mentality speaking to insecure sheep looking for leadership… <<<you call that a MISSTEP YOU FUCKIN FOOL?!?!

    THAT IS RIDICULOUS SOCIAL INSIGHT APPLIED TO HIP-HOP,

    YOUR A MISSTEP..

  • yuck

    here i left this counter review for that other reviewer…the white kid with the glasses… but yall can get it too. real shit
    and it goes……

    “dated” …..good lord… I think
    what your referring to is the “boom bap” w/ soul baseline style of
    production which is a blatant throwback to the essence of funk/soul
    hip-hop, which is surgically utilized by such artists as RA to fly
    directly in the face of hollow modern beats and production…you know
    the over used snare and machine gun symbol on EVERY pop-rap track…
    auto-tune homo crap.
    as if to say “hey all you mainstream acts..this is what you lack…soul…because you sold yours).

    there’s absolutely NOTHING the least bit corny about these beats. What a ridiculous miss usage of the word.
    and
    when it come to speaking the truth about modern society, industry &
    politics..YOU CAN’T FORCE IT ENOUGH. especially when living in a
    society that submerges each and everyone of its citizens in LIES from
    the very second they wake up. Shit makes me sick whenever someone speaks
    out openly against bull shit without the least bit of reservation and
    their not recognized or congratulated for their bravery, sacrifice or
    insight..their criticized… because though we may all agree..once or
    twice tops..should be enough…just be happy someone said what were all
    to afraid to say! not to mention..it desperately needs to be said over
    and over! ef radio..ef tv..endless portals for live LIE feeds.
    seriously.

    However you made some strong points most, and actually managed to
    articulate subtleties most other critics wouldn’t have even picked up
    on. props. the measure of an artist is both skill and integrity there is
    no room for personal opinion when reviewing art, only technical
    breakdowns. ‘Holla loo yuh’ for example personally I dig the song. But..
    does the beat sound like something tech9 has featured on at-least 12
    past albums and mix-tapes respectively…yes! regardless of how much I
    like the song i would be forced to deducted points from artistic
    integrity (AI) because of the safe-non forward thinking measure which
    lead to that production landing a spot on the record. you dig?

    however on the flip, the reoccurring classical theme or overtone to
    the album which I don’t particularly care for returns points to artistic
    integrity and album rating because of what you know about the artist
    what what you know about hip-hop as a knowledgeable critic. let me
    explain…
    1. the artist is clearly going for a grass roots hip-hop approach for the record.
    2. classical music typically has NO place in core hip-hop.
    3.
    thus the classical mesh is experimental and quite risky. when
    considering the artists seniority its safe to assume the artist is well
    aware some people will love it, others will hate it. and is willing to
    sacrifice the latter for the former.
    4. if that inst PRIME example of uncompromising artistic integrity(AI) i don’t know what is.

    RA is vile and hard to listen to at times but again…that’s a
    personal artistic approach which will either appeal or not appeal to the
    personal preference of listeners so…that CANT effect album score as
    long as he sells that approach skillfully and as an authentic part of
    himself.. which he did.

    RA actually tuned the self loathing
    wayyy down. and you should also keep in mind…To attack ones self
    publicly in any setting is a highly effective way of preemptively
    disarming potential verbal assassins. he already has rappers beat in
    skill, by attacking himself in ways they wouldn’t even imagine. Their
    left COMPLETELY disarmed this is social behavior 101.come on man..your
    supposed to know this stuff..people seem to listen to you.
    please that that seriously.

    “telling you their lies and you believing it, the mob minded media
    mentality speaking to insecure sheep looking for leadership”..Dayum
    (media midgets).. wow..yea I give your review a 6/10. Legends inst below
    an 8.9…that is IF you know hip-hop. period.

  • Logic

    Hopsin couldn’t outshine a candle.

  • 23

    Calling Media Midgets a misstep and saying R.A. gets outmatched by hopsin really says alot about XXL and their view on hiphop..

  • Anonymous

    I agreed with most of this review until the part about Media Midgets and Underground Hitz. Personally, I enjoyed Media Midgets. It’s not the best track on the album but I found it to be pretty solid. Also, Hopsin outshined R.A. on Underground Hitz?!? I was listening to the track and waiting in anticipation of Hop’s verse and I was completely underwhelmed. All I could think about was how shocked I was that he couldn’t come harder than that after being given the opportunity to be on an R.A. album. I’m not sure what this reviewer was listening to…

  • Anonymous

    Just read the comments. It seems I’m not the only one who did not agree. SMDH give the album a perfect score. It doesn’t get much closer to perfect than this.

  • dr koul

    I disapprove of this review. XXXXL props for RA

  • gay magazine basher

    sean ryan is a fag puppet. xxl is the limp wristed fist up his ass that makes him dance.

  • IKOMT

    Hopsin is good….on his album Raw. He was underwhelming and ruined a lot of the song here though. Very disappointed as his guest features tend to be tight as fuck.

    To say Hopsin outshined R.A on that track is insane, you sure you heard the same track the rest of us heard?

  • Master Öf Weed

    That song with Hopsin was pretty mediocre and could have been better. Every song on the album was good except maybe 2 or 3 of them but Media Midgets and Make You Famous were the two realest songs on the album.

  • Smackdown Sam

    Great album. Hopsin is nowhere near R.A.’s league. I’m glad XXL gave R.A. some attention though, more people need to appreciate his work.

  • Skinny_Kid

    ““Underground Hitz”’s cliché production is another miss, where R.A. gets outmatched by Hopsin’s guest appearance.” Did you even listen to the track? lmao Hopsin’s verse was nowhere near R.A.’s dumbass.

  • 69

    wheres the real review because unless this album gets xxl any other review is a joke