“He’s got his thing together/rocks some cool suspenders/He’s straight out of New York/they call him Rugged N Raw…” – “Man of the Hour”
There are looks embraced and imagery veiled to propel one’s niche to stardom. Then there are those who have defined and accentuated their character dynamically and genuinely. Now the unique MC is no gimmick, following their development is no chore and we willingly take part in clearing the path to their deserved notoriety. With his 3rd solo album, Anomaly Book 1, Rugged N Raw masters his persona with a work that shares the sincerity of his ideas in one of the most fun packages since the primes of Biz, Redman and Doom.
The R N R persona is the ideal, everyday brotha in urbanized hell, toiling through the 9 to 5, looking for love and seeking to express his ideals, frustrations and insight as tough as the namesake. The persona is no shield but a creative breaking of the 4th wall as his conversational tones in his storytelling is effortless (“Two Times A Loser”), the focused fury of demanded retribution displayed on “Go To Work,” or the understanding of his commitment to his woman on “Meaning of Love” conveying a very real, completely creative Original man.
Beatwise, there are only select instrumentals that could survive without R N R’s verses yet the production arrangements and stylistic choices make Anomaly much more than the sum of its parts. The Rock’d up Swing arrangements on “Last Man on Earth,” the DJ GI Joe cuts and stutter break on “Let It Knock,” the bio chorus with Soul wailing on “Man of the Hour” all highlight the comedic chambers making R N R’s production choices well planned. Clearly diversity is the most powerful feature on Anomaly’s production from the sweet chorus by M. Josephine and matching guitar licks on “Gone Forever” (prod. GIMJ), Joe City laying a driving bass and digital glitches on the frenetic “Watching Me” as R N R throws out all his frustrations with Mohammad Dangerfield partner Hasan Salaam or R N R matching his wild verses with his own cascading horns on the self-produced “Anarchy.”
Still, the binding element to the elevation of all Rugged N Raw albums including this peak in his career is his perfected skills as an MC. His content is never plagued by didacticism due to his ability to write so visually as on “Forever Gone,” his punchlines are some of the sharpest making his battle tracks needy of precise attention (“ This is my turf. Stop and smell the vanity…Just a chip off the old block/smack celebs, chip off the Botox…” – “Man of the Hour”). R N R also has some of the greatest articulation on wax that when matched with his inflecting voice lets tracks like “Anarchy” have its lines (“I’ll cut ya head off and start dribbling”) and precise syllabic syncopation absorb immediately into the brain. His works also anticipate his live performances as the classic “Jellyfish,” easily one of the realest “club” Hip Hop songs of the decade awaits video treatment and live performances for the privileged few (“I can’t dance, not worth a shit/ me and the club, no perfect fit/ in free before ten/ don’t got no cheese/ don’t rock tight shirts showin’ taco meat/ keepin it real there’s none better…”).
R N R is a living MC, able to embody his all on wax as an entertainment experience the way the aforementioned greats did in their primes. Anomaly Book One ultimately is the most fun hardcore Hip Hop record to be released in years.