Self proclaimed ‘King of the Underground” R.A. the Rugged Man has held a place in the kingdom of rap music since the early 90s. His style is wild, fast, and sinfully rhythmic rap bars that can leave you floored. All My Heroes Are Dead released on independent label Natural Sounds is the third studio album by R.A. the Rugged Man and may very well be his magnum opus showcasing his masterful lyrical style projected by machine gun rapping cemented by fire beats.
From the introduction to the album with “Introduction” and “Legendary Loser” the album kicks in hard with R.A. dropping a lyrical smackdown with potent hard end rhymes and sub linear couplets and triplets dancing along each song with the whimsical debauchery he is known for. “My life makes Shakespeare tragedies/ look like Adam Sandler comedies” He says in “Legendary Loser.”
All My Heroes Are Dead is an album that showcases range in terms of technical style, variances in beats and songs, and lyrical content. The majority of the album is a rapid onslaught of velvet East Coast hip-hop like a baritone serpent dancing between your ear drums. Tracks like “Wondering (How to Believe)”, “The Afterlife”, and “First Born” break up the lyrical assault with slower, more sentimental tracks that cover more sensitive and personal topics. R.A. the Rugged Man takes aim at political correctness and cancel-culture throughout the album, especially on “Hate Speech” while still having fun and showcasing his mastery with tongue in cheek quips like “I’m spitting visions/ Nostradamus missed.” This album bumps and it takes more risks than most modern rap albums or albums of any genre but it does so, so authentically that you can forgive some of the appalling lyrics because you know it’s serving its intended purpose to disturb the listener. This becomes especially apparent in the song “Angelic Boys” which is a commentary on mass shootings and mental illness literally taking the point of view of a mass shooter. It’s shocking and disturbing but powerful in its crazy attempt to employ radical empathy.
The album is pumped full of features that largely make the songs pop and add to the trend of range, variance, and experimentation. Slug From Atmosphere, Eamon, Ghostface Killah, Immortal Technique, Vinny Paz, Ice-T, Chuck D from Public Enemy, and Kelly Waters are just some of the features out of a total of 25 on the album. All My Heroes Are Dead while it is an album of great range, it also feels like it is a defense of the genre. A defense of the underground hip-hop that has been largely displaced by new rappers over the last decade and a half. The album pays great homage to the lineage of hip-hops and only stumbles when it comes off a little boomerish over its complete dismissal of modern rap (and consistent mention of it).
All My Heroes Are Dead is a home-run from R.A. the Rugged Man and largely cements his legacy as “King of the Underground” planting the flag that lyrical rap music isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.