R.A. the Rugged Man has always been one of the most top tier lyricists since the beginning of his career nearly two decades ago. So it should be no surprise that his new album, All My Heroes Are Dead, shows off plenty of it. From the very stellar introduction track where he spits, “Whether rappin’ slow or rappin’ fast. I’m back at last with a masterclass. From double time to boom-bap, I gotta switch the form. Go from battle raps to club records, to politics, to porn. Not the snitchin’ gossipin’ blog era of TMZ. I’m from the Golden Era, home of EPMD.” The New York-bred veteran emcee shows off a variety of different lyrical styles over a very engaging instrumental that switches melodies and tones several times to show that R.A. could masterfully emcee any style or instrumental you throw at him. While also showing how much he has grown as an emcee and person since he put out his last solo album, Legends Never Die, seven years ago. Letting you know you’re in for a truly masterful album that’s easily the best of his career thus far.
From the jump with records like lead single, Legendary Loser, that was produced by Psycho Les and The Kickdrums-produced, Golden Oldies. The latter featuring Slug of Atmosphere and singer Eamon, R.A. quickly establishes his fun, yet playful no-holds bar personality. Slug’s feature being one of several standout throughout the album, that includes Wu-Tang Clan members Ghostface Killah and Masta Killa, along with Kool G Rap and reggae artist, Xx3eme, on, the SHROOM-produced, Drag Fire. One of the most absolute banger tracks you will ever hear that’s easily among not only the best Hip-Hop tracks, but tracks/songs you will ever hear regardless of genre.
While there’s several great features throughout a good portion of the album, R.A. can definitely hold things down on his own. As he shows with such tracks as Angelic Boy. A very great storytelling track, co-produced by Chris Conway and The Kickdrums, that like Eminem’s single, Darkness, released earlier this year. Sees R.A. taken on the perspective of a white man as a mass shooter. Tracks like the very soulful, The Joker and Mr. Green co-produced, First Born, that features Novel and the A-F-R-O & DJ Jazzy Jeff featured, lyrical chopper track, Gotta Be Dope. Really show the great versatility and diversity, as well as pure talent that R.A. truly has an emcee too.
By the time we get to the midway point of the album, the veteran emcee goes back to his traditional boom-bap ways with the very standout, E.K.N.Y. (Ed Koch New York). That’s a very lyrically dense look back at the gritty image of 1980’s New York City life. That’s perfectly painted through R.A.’s lyrics along with Wu-Tang Clan member and fellow New York native, Inspectah Deck and Timbo King’s guest features over the very powerful Mr. Green production. That has Deck spitting easily one of the best guest verses on the album and that I have a feeling will stand as one of the top guest features of the year, by the time we reach the end of the year in December. With, “I’m a ’88er, straight from the days of the pissy elevator. Teeny boppers, graffiti rockers, cops, and jealous haters. Dangerous back blocks, crack rocks and mad cops who clap shots. Aimin’ to kill and steal a stash box. From psycho niggas fightin’ with whites and Hasidics. Remember Willie Turks, Yusef Hawkins, and Michael Griffith. N.Y., prolific, kicked it with the lowlifes and Deceps. Who squeeze TECs, G-checkin niggas for weak checks. Sinister dark minds, victims of hard times. Pan Am Flight 103, Central Park Five.”
Another real highlight of the album is the the SHROOM and Hughes Payen co-produced, Living Through A Screen (Everything Is A Lie). That’s a really superb storytelling track about how practically everyone is mostly living a lie with all the stuff they do and live through their screens. Whether it be their phones, video games, TVs or whatever else it maybe. With The Kickdrums adding the perfect very soulfully complementary hook. That’s perfectly followed up by the very boom-bap backed Mr. Green-produced, Contra-Dictionary that features a great uncredited hook from Locksmith. While the next track, The Slayers Club, is a truly undoubtedly monstrous posse cut. That features everyone from Brand Nubian to Chino XL, Chris Rivers, Ice-T, M.O.P., Onyx and Vinnie Paz. Not your regular posse cut, the beat constantly switches up for each artist, as more so like a DJ mix. So smoothly where you can really hear every single emcees verse and style, as it switches from one artists verse to the next.
Reaching the latter part of the album, the very soulfully reflective Prince Paul-produced, Life Of The Party. Perfectly epitomizes the journey of the album and R.A.’s own personal life and how much he has not only grown as an emcee, but the several leaps and bounds he has grown as a person since his last album. Or maybe he’s just holding it in as much as he can, as crazy and very over the top tracks like, The Big Snatch, shows and is definitely a track you don’t play around kids or anybody not of a certain age. That can even be too much for some adults. While you know you also can’t have an R.A. the Rugged Man album without touching on political themes. Which he does on the Tone Spliff-produced, Who Do We Trust? That features Immortal Technique and the Chuck D featured, Malice Of Mammon. Before closing out with the very soulfully emotionally reflective, The After Life. That features both Sarah Smith and Kelly Waters on the truly emotionally soulful hook. For a very emotionally soulful touching and introspective track to all R.A.’s deceased loved ones that’s the perfect track to close out an album that’s dedicated to all his dead heroes. Easily one of the best tracks you will ever hear to close out an album too. Overall it’s jus barely shy of being a classic album, but still a truly great masterful album that’s among not only the best Hip-Hop albums. But albums period to drop so far in 2020 and a perfect way to start a new decade with an album that’s also a must-listen for any true passionate Hip-Hop head.