Hip Hop’s most shocking provocateur R.A the Rugged Man is back with his first album in seven years, ‘All My Heroes Are Dead.’ His ferocious rapping style and outspoken lyrics have won both admirers and critics. They come to the fore on his latest album because they’re a mix of reflection and introspection on his life. The more you listen to it, the more you can appreciate his point of view. You also realise how he’s come back from the dead and still thriving.
This statement appears in ‘Legendary Loser’. There’s a sample of a woman saying ‘scumbag’. It sets the tone for the album because he talks about all the times he’s been criticised while an aggressive boom-bap beat plays in the background. The chorus carries a strong message to anyone who doubts his credibility: “After all the motherfucking bullshit I’ve been through / if a loser like me could do it, so could you.” His commanding delivery makes you sit up and take notice, leaving a lot to take away from. It takes a lot of courage to bounce back from cruel words and a lot of shit in your life, and listening to this song is inspirational.
There’s an all-star cast, including Ghostface Killah from Wu-Tang Clan, Kool G Rap, and Immortal Technique. ‘Dragon Fire’ brings these talents to light. The beat reminds me of Wu-Tang’s faster songs, while the lyrics reference murderers. This song features Ghostface Killah, the reggae artist Xx3eme, (whose vocal abilities impressed R.A so much that he invited to sing the hook), Kool G Rap, and Masta Killa. I love this song because it gets me pumped up, and each artist brings their own distinctive flavour.
Initially, I thought R.A’s delivery worked better on the faster songs, but the deep emotional cuts hit the hardest. One song that I liked was ‘Angelic Boy.’ It’s about Johnny, a school shooter, who is mad at the world. The detail that R.A goes into is both harrowing and captivating. It’s interesting at the end, he lists most things the media like to blame for shootings, but never the victim who actually committed the crime. This makes the listener think about the way the media portrays these situations.
An overriding theme is how R.A. prefers culture from the 80s and 90s instead of the modern era. He feels that humanity is heading for destruction, with some clever wordplay on ‘Living Through A Screen (Everything is a Lie)’ “As we enter the Twilight Zone dimension / where they’re sure to shank ya with no redemption.” This anger on modern culture is present on ‘Golden Oldies’ where he talks about how he prefers older rap music to current rap. I love this song because it’s got an insanely catchy chorus and gives me a vivid insight into his mind.
‘Life of the Party’ has a chilled-out boom-bap beat. It reflects the calm delivery and reflective lyrics. They talk about how he used to behave and his redemption showing that he’s changed his mindset: “I try to keep ignorance to a minimum / I still smack up any fan that act up but I don’t put them in a hospital / I just get ‘em to behave and back up.” It is a calm track which shows R.A’s diversity.
‘Who Do You Trust’ features Immortal Technique. This is a huge collaboration because he is a hip-hop legend. I knew this collab was perfect because they’re both anti-establishment rappers and their ideas work well together. The song is a criticism about the government’s faults over the years. The delivery from both R.A and Immortal Technique is angry, showing they’re frustrated about the state of the world. The more you hear it, the better it gets.
‘All My Heroes Are Dead’ is powerful. It is one of the fiercest hip hop albums I’ve heard in years. It shows he’s still around and not going down without a fight.
Words by Ermis Madikopoulos