The Rugged Man is back. And when I say this, I don’t just mean he has a new album out, I mean he is BACK! We’ve been waiting seven damn years for a follow up to ‘Legends Never Die’ and while he addresses his absence on the title track, it’s great to have him back in the booth, behind the mic and in all his rugged glory.

No doubt we’ve all heard a couple of the singles – from the fun yet filthy ‘Legendary Loser’ complete with hilarious vid, the mellow / funky ‘Golden Oldies’ with Slug, the honest and dark ‘Wondering (How To Believe)’, and the absolute flame thrower posse-cut ‘Dragon Fire’ featuring Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, Kool G Rap and XX3eme – and after about 5 full spins on opening night, I can now confirm, that this is a beast of an album. It’s well balanced, brutal in parts, goofy in others but flames all the way through. And it’s jam packed through the 22 tracks. In fact, the cover art really sums the album up – it’s like a Hollywood action flick and R.A. is the star of the show – even with an emphatic supporting cast including Onyx, Chris Rivers, Chino XL, Vinnie Paz, Inspectah Deck, M.O.P and more.

If you take all the elements of your favourite rap releases this year and throw it all in one place you come out with ‘All My Heroes Are Dead’. He speed raps with skill and clarity (‘All Systems Go‘) but never overdoes it and doesn’t lower the lyrical quality to do so. The boom bap is certainly evident, underpinning 90% of the album with real drums, real beats and none of that atmospheric, lo-fi, minimalist stuff. You have the introspective, thoughtful, deep narrative tracks like ‘Angelic Boy’ and then the kick you in the throat, shock value ‘Hate Speech’. All equally as well delivered as the other.

Finally, it’s not just the delivery or the content that has this album rocketing towards the top of the ‘Album of the Year’ charts, it is how well the album is put together, balances features and focus, builds throughout the 22 songs and keeps you engaged for the full 76 minute run time. It’s literally like an audio movie but not in the concept style albums like Prince Paul, Sticky Fingaz or Marco Polo / Masta Ace joint from last year. IF you have a weak stomach or just can’t handle the pure filth, then you’ll need to carefully pick your tracks – otherwise it’s as entertaining as anything put out this year.

Bangers: Dragon Fire, E.K.N.Y, Hate Speech, The Slayers Club, Wondering and many, many more.

Score: 9 / 10. Is it a high score? Sure it is, but there are a handful of albums this year that have been almost flawless and this is one of them. Production, flow, features, playability…. it has everything that makes a classic hip hop record. Now we just need time to pass so we can label it as such (or ban it for the level of filth both metaphoric and lyrical!)

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About The Author

By Brutus Maximus

Founder of Raw Side Hip Hop. Been rocking with the hip hop culture for over 30 years. Love the creativity, authenticity of the art and the culture as a whole. Shout out to the real ones making and supporting true hip hip and the artists who make it!