R.A. the Rugged Man may be the most likable egomaniacal bastard you've ever met.
Without hesitation, he calls himself one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time. He boasts about how he's never lost a street fight. He never hesitates to tell you how often he sleeps with women, and how satisfied they are afterward.
But behind the narcissistic, up-his-own-ass ruminations barely believable to begin with lies Rugged Man's self-deprecating, funny side.
Less Rugged Man, more Affable Man.
"My career is like, I'm the cool underground guy who never gave in to the labels," Rugged Man says. "Or was too much of an asshole to work with. Whichever works for you."
Say what you want about the rapper, but Rugged Man has persevered in spite of a take-no-B.S. approach that has sidetracked any mainstream success. Within hip-hop circles, he's considered a sort of underdog of the industry. He'll happily tell you as much.
"Obviously, I put myself as one of the greats in history," Rugged Man says. "I really do. Historically, maybe I don't go down as reaching as many people as I should have. Maybe that's the one flaw. But without question, I'm the most underrated in history."
The rapper started his career at 18. He ran with Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep as they grew in the ranks. Major labels courted Rugged Man before he settled on Jive Records, with whom he never released a single record over what lawyers often call "artistic differences." Jive says Rugged Man was a boorish, violent lout. His retort: He literally, uh, relieved himself in offices there.
"They wanted me to do corny shit," Rugged Man says. "I was young and crazy. Had a little bit of a temper. It'd be stupid shit. They wanted me to change my lyrics because they were too disrespectful to women."
Rugged Man refused to release an album under Jive, instead contributing to other records. In 2004, after 15 years in the business, he finally released a solo album, Die, Rugged Man, Die, on the indie label Nature Sounds.
In that time, the rapper has expanded his arsenal, writing a monthly movie column in Mass Appeal magazine, contributing to two books and writing articles for a handful of magazines. A boxing enthusiast, Rugged Man is co-authoring a book on the sport. Recently, he also co-wrote and produced a movie with cult filmmaker Frank Henenlotter called Bad Biology, due out later this year. Unlike Eminem's 8 Mile or 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Trying, Rugged Man's movie is unrelated to the rapper's life.
"If it had been my autobiography, it'd be triple-X rated," he says. "Actually, talk about autobiographical there's one scene where one person gives a woman a 45-minute orgasm. They're not even having sex anymore, and she's still orgasming. That's what I took from real life into the movie."
For now, Rugged Man will continue to tour, write and direct. And drum himself up as a hip-hop martyr.
"Fifteen years of struggle educates you in ways," Rugged Man says. "I've grown up a little. Don't get me wrong, I still have that little spark, that temper shit where I go nuts. It's not every day. It used to be every day I'd get like that. Now it's like, every four or five months."
R.A. the Rugged Man with iCON the Mic King and AWAR
The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.
Saturday, Jan. 27, 9:30 p.m.
Tickets: $10 in advance, $12 at the door; visit ticketweb.com.