For all of society to prosper they must engage in the Arts. Yet most in society are not truly gifted artists though their rarity fuels the rest of the populace. Hip Hop, an Art of many expressions, is a forced anomaly that is a forum made and for the Black and Brown unheard. As it has been capitalistically mutated for years, months and days, it is fought with daily to be a forum for all young and rebellious to manifest their worth. A worth that won’t be justified here by the oppression faced by its users and consumers. It simply should be that those doing Hip Hop ought to merely express themselves. When it happens incredibly it is an anomaly in this westernized world matrix.
Rugged N Raw, with his successful and ever growing experimentation on last year’s LP Anomaly Book 1 is indeed a sincere originator. Here is our build on Anomaly Book 1, the upcoming Book 2 and his mind of Art…
RNR: Anomaly Book 1 is one of the first projects, actually the first one that, even though I had shows, I really just took the time to construct it right so that it flows more fluidly. So that I could put more effort into it. Not to say the other ones didn’t but there’s certain things that when you’re concentrating on recording that you’ll think of that you wouldn’t think of when you’re first recording. It was a lot of fun. I wanted to experiment with some new sounds a little bit. But you kind of have to ease your way into stuff like that. I feel like if you give people something far too different, if you’re not a platinum selling artist, they don’t want to hear it. No matter how much people say they want to hear something different, when you give it to them they freak out. So you kind of have to throw in little sprinkles in there. I don’t mind doing it. Whenever I put more product out there the more I get to try stuff and get to be appreciated.
SUNEZ: Why Anomaly? And how many Books can we expect?
RNR: Anomaly was something that quite a few people have said about me and my music in general. I guess because it’s kind of tough for people to figure out and put me in a box. They’ll think I’m one thing and then hear other songs and will be totally thrown off. And I guess as far as who I am as an individual it throws people off. Not that that’s good or bad. It is what it is. Sometimes when you’re given a label it can really bother you because no one wants to be labeled. But at the same time if that’s what I am then I’ve kind of embraced that and I’ve made the album as such and I don’t have to put myself anywhere. I can make the album sound however I want. And it’s fine because the whole point of “Anomaly” is something you can’t figure out.
The whole reason I wanted to have a Book 1 and Book 2 is, I guess, for that flexibility. That I can do different stuff. This way Book 2 doesn’t have to sound anything like Book 1 and somehow still makes sense. I guess I’ve always been a scatter brain. My mind will be here one minute then over there the next. I can’t be one of those guys doing a whole album talking about one thing. Sadly enough in Hip Hop if they listen to a certain kind of Hip Hop that’s what they like. Me, I’m the kind of guy that I can listen to some early 90’s Hip Hop then I can listen to some West Coast Hip Hop. And a lot of this corny shit that’s out now there’s even some of it that I can listen to it but I take everything for what it is. I listen to a Pitbull song I’m not gonna go, “this is the truth right here,” but everyone likes to have fun. So when I want to have fun I’m not gonna listen to MF Doom, I’m gonna listen to Pitbull. If I want something that makes me think I’m not gonna listen to Drake. My ipod is so random with so many different things. In a weird way I want my album to play that way. And I know you can’t please everybody. I’m not trying to please everybody. You don’t like the album that’s too bad. There’s millions of other artists. They can listen to them and that’s fine. I feel like this is my music and I’m going to do it my way and have fun doing it. The minute I don’t have fun doing it then I have no business doing it. So I think …I don’t wanna box myself in. This way people have no idea what to expect but it kind of ties together. Like this first album I wanted to put more stories in it. Like with the Truth Serum album and the Mohammed Dangerfield album there were a lot of personal experiences in there but I wanted to tell other stories as well and touch on a couple of other things. And I like that I’m not constricted to a certain thing.
SUNEZ: There were reviewers that found issue with the seemingly contradictory topics covered through Anomaly Book 1?
RNR: To each their own. I don’t get upset at anyone’s opinion. But I don’t know how well the dude knows my body of work. I don’t know. One person that really caught a lot of flack for having conflicting points of views was Tupac. He’ll have “I Get Around” then “Dear Mama” and they’ll say something about that. How can you have a song called “Dear Mama” then disrespect women?! When really, he’s not talkin’ bout his mama on “I Get Around.” He’s talking about girlfriends he’s had, he’s talking about the road life. If he’s going from city to city he can’t make a connection and be with them forever and ever. I think people just hear a couple of words and get a couple of words and hear what they wanna hear. I find there’s nothing you can do to change that because that’s something almost every person has in them. It’s just admitting it to yourself. And I know I’ve even done that with artists in the past. I may not have liked a couple of songs and I didn’t listen to it for a while. Then you listen to other stuff and say, ‘well, they suck but I still like this song.’ Or ‘I see where they’re coming from and I still don’t like it.’ And that’s fine because I’m entitled to that. I think a lot of people are scared to step out of the box and feel different types of ways. Everybody’s a hypocrite and that’s okay. It’s just human nature as long as it’s not harming others we feel different things at different times. If you’ve broken up with a girl you’ve been with for a very long time you’re not going to have a very optimistic view of love. At the same time if you just got a promotion or have some big news coming you’re not going to be the biggest advocate of pessimism either. So I like to show the whole range of emotion. One minute I’ll talk about just being with my girl. The next minute…everybody likes to think about a whole bunch of girls or whatever.
SUNEZ: Like “Last Man on Earth.” Many of us have had those daydreams like I’m the last man I’m going to rock this!
RNR: Exactly. Who hasn’t thought of something like that before?! Who hasn’t sat there and watched Nia Long and Vivica Fox on the screen moving together and been like, ‘I’ll take both of them right now.’ You’re lying to yourself! I’m just saying. So not everybody’s gonna like it. And it’s one of the reasons I like making the music I’m making. It’s not that I’m trying to alienate everybody. It’s just I don’t have a lot of the same views that I guess I’ve been kind of—I don’t wanna say affiliated with. I guess when you do underground music and you’re in that circuit a lot of people are very like minded. Not everybody but many. And when you’re there because it’s really the only place to do shows and you’re trying to gain a new audience and you don’t quite think like everybody a couple of the people in the audience will be like, ‘thank God, somebody that’s different than all this.’ And then there’ll be people like, ‘hey, what’s he doing here? This is our party.’ I mean cool. If you get everybody saying they like it that means somebody’s lying.
SUNEZ: This takes me to one of 2010’s best works, Mohammad Dangerfield with you and Hasan Salaam?
RNR: There are so many misconceptions about the both of us. That’s not the main reason we did the album but it factors into it. Truth be told Hasan is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life. He’s one of the funniest , charismatic people I’ve ever met. And like you said, with some of the songs he’s made people think that’s how he is in person. That he’s just going to walk around stone faced like he doesn’t have a sense of humor. And I always knew he had a sense of humor because I met some of his peoples he used to rhyme with before him. And I was thinking, ‘man, if he’s hanging around with them I know he has a sense of humor.’ I just didn’t know he was funnier than everybody. I guess one of my most popular songs was the “I’m Broke and Proud” song and people are like, ‘oh, he just likes to be funny all the time.’ When I really don’t make many funny songs. I just do it because not a lot of people do it. It’s my lane but I can do just about anything. I’m not going to say I can do everything because no man is perfect. The Mohammad Dangerfield was one of the most funnest albums I’ve ever made. We only had about one or two songs that we scrapped. Everything else we were pretty much on point. We might disagree as far as who’s going to go first or ‘I don’t like this hook,’ whatever the case may be. It’s not perfect but we never had a shouting match or not talk to each other. It’s not like the album almost didn’t come out because we didn’t talk. We were still chillin’ and everything just like before the album and we have afterward. I definitely learned from that experience and when you share a project with someone and you just have these other thoughts you want to have on your own it definitely sparked the process to do my own stuff. We’re still working on some songs together and see if we’ll do a second album together. That’s the homie right there. I enjoyed it and it went back to that whole thing like when you call someone on the phone like, ‘yo, I got my verse.’ I miss doing that. I ain’t done that since I was in college. So it just took it there like that time when you got sharp with your rhymes with somebody. It was awesome.
SUNEZ: Your storytelling is a strong point and on “2 Times A Loser.” Is that all really true?
RNR: That’s exactly what happened. That story is a 100 percent true. I didn’t use [Anthony Hamilton] as an example. No joke. It was weird too. When I won that contest I really thought it was just some guy talking trash. On some ‘yo, I’m down with Nappy Roots, Atlantic Records.’ I’ve heard people say stuff like that before so I was, ‘one of those guys.’ And I ain’t really seen him on the TV like that or anything. I didn’t have a cell phone so I had the spiral notebooks and I wrote down a bunch of numbers, email addresses—that was my phonebook at the time cuz I’m really disorganized. To this day I’m really disorganized. It was just there and I put it in the washer [ruining it] but I didn’t really think anything of it. When I seen homeboy again—I seen him around. No joke he was in Rite Aid with his basket of condoms like, ‘I’m about to go on this tour real quick. Word.’ And that is definitely a true story. And I’ll say this when I rock the song at shows some people say that you get your one chance. I really don’t believe in that. One thing I did leave out of the story is that a few days after that happened my Dad passed away. I seen him on Monday and then my Dad passed away that Saturday so I didn’t do music or nothing for three months. So even if I hit Anthony Hamilton up I would’ve disappeared on him anyway and he may not have really remembered me. So that was my chance per say but it was still dope that he remembered me from a few months afterward. He didn’t have to remember me with all the people he met and everything. So I just think it’s dope and if we ever link up again and he doesn’t remember me then I’ll just have to knock him unconscious and he’ll wake up in the studio [laughs]—nah. He’s definitely a dope artist though so he’s still Anthony Hamilton. Hey, remember me dawg?!!
And the spot it was at is right across the street from where Knitting Factory used to be downtown. Peppers, that was like one of the first places I really rocked at. They had a battle that I did. The only reason I was there was that the month before I was there at a battle that went down. I made it to the final four but I didn’t win. There I got a flyer to the event that I rocked at eventually.
SUNEZ: So it all led to meeting Anthony by just adding on every time?
RNR: And that’s all it really is. People think there’s shortcuts to this but there really aren’t. That’s how you get your opportunities. By putting yourself out there and what you think is a shit situation and it turns into some pretty cool things. I had a show at Bowery Poetry club and it had thirty people and two days later I was on Shade 45 when Cipha Sounds used to DJ on there in the morning. Just putting yourself out there. If you don’t know anyone in the industry you gotta make those opportunities happen.
SUNEZ: A crucial track I found to be “Today is Tomorrow.”
RNR: The beat is like four or five years old. There are certain beats I always liked but never knew what to do with it. I let someone else hold the beat for awhile. Never came up with anything. I leased the beat to someone for fifty bucks about five years ago. I was like I’m still gonna use it cuz they’re not gonna do nothing. The mentality of the song is I guess I’ve seen a lot. The tricky part is showing your experience without sounding too experienced. Another thing about Hip Hop is that it’s the only genre of music where if you’re 40 or 30 or late twenties or whatever, they kind of brush you off. It’s turned into pop in the sense that if you’re not the new kid they’ll brush you off. My whole point is that I’ve seen a lot and there’s a lot more to see. I don’t really want to be restricted by anything. I wanted that to be my mission statement for the whole album. It’s just like a preview of some of the stuff that you were gonna hear. I really enjoyed writing that one.
SUNEZ: “Jellyfish” is an actual club banger that’s great to me.
RNR: I love that song. I gotta shout out Impaq. That’s been the homie for like 12 years. He did that beat. He also did “The Ultimate” [Truth Serum LP, 2008]. People would never know that’s the same guy that did both of those beats. He actually made that beat right in front of me. His whole club banger arsenal is ridiculous. He’s got gritty Hip Hop joints but he’s one of the few producers that ventures into different things. When I first wrote that song it was a whole different thing. It was a lot more generic sounding. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good which is worse than it being bad because at least a bad song you remember it. So I wrote a very unmemorable song to it but then I changed it. I want to do some ol’ club shit and put my own spin on it. I just wanted to have fun. It kind of sounds like some other songs I had back in the day I kind of had out of print. I wanted to do an updated version that sounded really dope. As I mentioned previously there’s some Pitbull songs I rock with. I’m not gonna say he’s my favorite artist and sit there saying, ‘I need your autograph dawg!’ I think him kind of being able to do certain things and have fun on a record I wanted to have that same fun but I didn’t want to copy off him. Something you could have fun with if people weren’t listening to the words. They still could bang to it. But if they listen they’ll be like, ‘this dude is crazy.’
SUNEZ: What’s the work in MCing and music making to get it right?
RNR: I just, I don’t know. It’s just my shit. I just really enjoy doing it. Just going from album to album. I think going through the songs before they’re mixed down I’ll listen to it like it’s new. Hearing it back for the first time I’ll get excited but I get tired of myself really quick especially when you’re first pushing a product it can be nerve wracking to see how people receive it. I think it’s understanding when you’re not where you want to be at. You’re always trying new things as there’s a real urgency. It’s having fun and doing things that don’t sound like the last record but there’s always an urgency trying to figure out what works. Even though a lot of people tell you to do this for fun not for the money and that’s true. If a guy told me today you’ll never make another dollar off music I would still make it I just wouldn’t put all my money into it because I just enjoy it. Anybody selling cds out there would be lying if they told you that don’t want to do it for sales. They’d be lying if they told you they didn’t want to make this a full time job. No matter how much somebody sounds like they wanna say the right thing. When I go to a show with my box of cds I want it to be empty by the end of the night. That’s what it is. You want to figure out what people like and don’t like but it’s such a crapshoot especially now to figure out. That’s why there’s so many imitators that fail. They see one thing that works and everybody jumps on that bandwagon so I’m just trying to figure out what works but without sounding like somebody else.
SUNEZ: That bind is there because you are making music for people so what they like does count in some way. But you’re not trying to sell out and do something to just pander to the audience. Are there songs you ever made and realized you were trying to make what the audiences might like and then scrap it?
RNR: Let’s say it’s a song I stand by. There’s songs I’ve written and said out loud that they’re terrible. There’s songs that I’ve like. Actually this is the first album that I scrapped like 5 or 6 songs. I usually don’t record a song I don’t like. This is the first time I scrapped songs that I liked because they don’t fit the theme of..nothing…See. Everyone contradicts themselves. Even me.
I think I want to be able to have songs that if I make songs others don’t like I’ll be able to stand behind it. Even you’re trying to reach out to people I can sit there and defend every single thing. Even if it’s the crudest thing ever like if I’m saying some fucked up shit I still could be there and sit there and be like, ‘I stand by that song 100 percent.’ You kind of just go from there. It is tricky but you can’t sit there and worry about it forever. It kind of defeats the point. I’ve done enough stressing out in my life. I think when you get more mature, your priorities start to change a little bit and the way you feel starts to change. I can’t really worry about trying to please everybody but I always do like to get better. I think it’s something that’s easier to do than explain at least for me. Somebody else might be able to explain the shit perfectly. I’m just gonna do what I like. There’s certain things I wouldn’ have done in the past that I’m doing now. Certain types of music I wouldn’t listen to. There’s certain people that five years ago where you’d said that was your man or that was your homegirl you’re not around anymore. And it’s not cuz you beefed, it’s because you’ve grown apart and there’s no love lost. So I just feel with this it’s just certain things that me and this crowd of people used to vibe with and we don’t. I’m tired of seeing the same venues and peoples so I just want to do things and introduce myself to a new set of people. I will try certain things to get new people. If it works cool, if not.
SUNEZ: Tell me about the Bars on the Clock series on Youtube?
RNR: People don’t understand just how real I keep it. I really work there at the South Street Seaport. The guy telling me to get back to work is really my manager. Everybody involved are really my coworkers who decided to help out. Obviously some of them played it off to not be coworkers. It all started with just having the album I wanted to find ways to promote. This is an era where a lot of people are giving away stuff and I thought about doing that for a while. Putting out mad songs for free but that kind of waters you down a little bit. You’re just giving out everything then why are people gonna buy shit. Sometimes there are people that appreciate that more than the paid shit. I don’t want people to even remotely think that’s me but I wanted to find something to give away to people. My initial plan was just kind of sit in the office with a camera—you know like the whole cheap youtube shit and just like, ‘I got a new verse this week. What’d you think?’ When I was telling these guys about it they were like, ‘why you wanna do that? That shit is mad played. Let’s do a story behind it.’ And we came up with all these scenarios. The manager that’s telling me to get back to work he’s the camera man and the editor. He was one of the brainchilds behind everything. They guy in episode 5 that pushes all my boxes and everything. He’s a part of that and the third person who’s not in the videos but just as involved—Ronald of Iron Wolves Productions. We thought of doing something totally different and I had a blast doing it. Some of it we even did on actual work days. Sometimes it was winter time and things were slow and we’d shoot between boats. It was fun. I really work there. That shit is real. I’m surprised we didn’t get in trouble once. One thing that helps me out is I say hello to everyone that works there, security and all that. Security saw us with the cameras a couple of times but they didn’t say anything. I guess because it was me and we’re cool. We just kind of bowfingered that shit.
SUNEZ: What’s to be expected on Anomaly Book 2?
RNR: I really feel like I wanna make people upset. I know there are certain things that I haven’t talked about that people feel a certain way that I disagree with. There’s certain things that I’m in the minority of that I feel like I just really wanna say and I wanna spark a debate. That’s how I’m feeling. I’m still gonna have my fun songs and those songs that hit close to home. But I feel like I wanna be more the badguy than in the past. People who have supported me in the past—they aren’t gonna stop supporting me. I’m not gonna turn my back on the people that have helped me. It’s hard to explain cuz I don’t want to let it out the bag too much but I’ve got some ideas that need to be said. I want people to hear it and say, ‘that’s what I’m talking about,’ or ‘fuck you. You’re the biggest piece of shit ever,’ or ‘how dare you make that song?!’ And I want that cuz people thinking different of you and not knowing how to respond to you they just won’t have anything to say. Trust me, I know what I’m doing.
Initially Book 1 and 2 were supposed to come out in 2012 but I find for the stuff I wanted to do sonically and stuff I wanted to say it took a little longer. The Bars on the Clock was easier to push. I can’t give you the two albums in one year but I have something for you. It’s gonna be fun. I hope that people really appreciate [Anomaly Book 2] and I hope some people really curse me to hell on this album.
SUNEZ: [laughs] I look forward to that too my brother.
Also do the knowledge to 2012’s Anomaly Book 1 Review @ http://premierehiphop.com/2012/09/04/rugged-n-raw-anomaly-book-one-album-review/