Filed under: G Rap Week,Interviews,Newest Latest,Not Your Average,Steady Bootleggin',Video Clips
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
It’s not all “classic rap” around the Unkut Dot Com offices. Between reviewing CD’s for magazines and getting sent free shit, I have to listen to pretty much everything that comes out, and it’s no picnic. let me tell you. I only really bothered putting Rugged Intellect‘s album on to hear the G Rap feature, but it turns out this Canadian actually has more than a nice guest list to offer.
Robbie: When I first saw the track listing to the album, I thought to myself “Either this guy’s forked-out a lotta cake to these dude’s to get ‘em on his album, or he’s actually dope enough for these dude’s to do tracks with.” I was glad that it was the latter.
Rugged Intellect: [laughs] Yeah, definitely man.
So how did you connect with all these legends?
When I was first putting together this album, I hooked-up with Domingo, who I’m sure you’re familiar with. After the situation with the label that I was signed with kinda disintegrated, me and Domingo hooked-up. He really believed in my talents and we came to a decision that we were gonna work on this album, and him being in the industry for so many years, he had a lotta relationships with a lotta of these artists. He facilitated some of these artists getting on the records, like Kool G Rap for example. That’s why he was co-Executive Producer of the album, coz he was instrumental in helping me do a lotta things.
Being from Montreal, how did you get your foot in the door in the US?
Even before I started rhyming, I told myself “If I was ever to rap, I would definitely want to make it in New York”, because if you can’t make it New York, then there’s no purpose in you even rhyming. That was always my focus. Even when I was over here and didn’t know anybody, that was always my motivation. So when that dude got at me with the deal up in California, that’s why I took it so quickly. I was like “Bam! This is my shot! I’mma take it. Boom!” Shit didn’t work out the way it was supposed to, but it definitely led to a lot of those opportunities, like working with Domingo and a lotta other people.
Who was your original deal with?
It was with this label that was started by an A&R at Dreamworks, when Dreamworks was still together. I was young, I was just trying to get my foot in the industry, so without really thinking what I was getting myself into, I got into this situation that turned out to not be in my best interests. I got to work with DJ Muggs, DJ Khalil – coz I was out in the West coast for a bit – but once that disintegrated I couldn’t use those songs, so that’s when I hooked-up with Domingo and started working on a new album.
You’ve got a song where the hook says “Fuck The Violators”. I assume you’re not going at Baby Chris and them on there, right?
[laughs] Nah, nah. It’s definitely not dissing Violator Records or Violator Management, I got nothin’ to do with that. That was just people that violate you -people that either wanna try to tear you down or violate you in the business context. A funny story is that somebody was supposed to jump on the record – I’m not gonna get into who that is – but they were managed by Violator so when they heard that line they thought I was dissing them. But that was no the situation.
It must be tough because people can always read too much into certain line, so it’s impossible not to upset somebody.
Yeah. A lot of the times the average hip-hop listener…they kinda look for lines like that a try to analyze them: “Oh, so-and-so is going at this person!” That’s not always the case, but it adds to the mystique of the lyricism.
I liked that “Biters Block” concept. It’s almost expected that people rip-off lines now.
Thank-you, man. It wasn’t something where I came out and I was like “I’m just gonna diss all these rappers to get attention”. I just wanted to do a record addressing people in the industry that have managed to have a career off biting other people’s style. If you listen to Fabolous or Lloyd Banks – they sound just like Mase to me! So it wasn’t just a record where I was like “Fuck so-and-so”, it was just like “How come nobody ever talks about that shit?” How come nobody ever talks about people that bite other people’s style to get on? That’s not cool.
You even brought up the question of whether or not Pun would be raggin’ on you because you’ve got the multi’s flippin’ all the time.
With a line like that, I threw that in there to make the song even more ambiguous. A lot of people that aren’t properly educated on the fundamentals of lyricism, the first thing they tell me is “Oh, you’re biting Big Pun”. First of all, just because someone raps with multi’s or raps fast, that doesn’t mean they’re biting Big Pun. You listen to a song like “Men At Work” by Kool G Rap – “the innovator with greater data” – that was around before Pun was around. That was not something that Big Pun invented. Pun always said he was a student of the same people that I listen to, like Rakim, G Rap and Big Daddy Kane for example. Me saying “If Pun was alive, would he flip and get mad at me?” – I wasn’t even saying that I think I’m biting Pun. If people wanna say that? What would Pun say? Fuck what anybody say – what would Pun say if he heard my record? Unfortunately, Pun ain’t around no more – Rest In Peace, one of the greatest of all time – but I’ve had the privilege of working and connecting with people like Showbiz, Domingo and Buckwild, and these are people that knew Pun as a person and worked with him as an artist. It’s not like I’m trying to be on some Guerilla Black shit!
I found that line amusing when you said “No disrespect but you sound wacker than E-40″. That’s kind of a backhanded compliment.
I respect what E-40 does, so it’s not to disrespect to him as a human being, but I don’t think lyrically he’s anything good. I heard this record he had done called “Tell Me When To Go”, and the shit was just horrible man. I can’t believe this shit is selling records and you’ve got actual, dope hip-hop that’s not even moving ten copies. There’s a lotta artists nowdays – I think myself included – where if this was ’98 or ’99, we’d all have deals. It’s crazy how the industry has just flipped, where if you’re actually lyrical, you’re not even getting on, man.
What’s your process for putting together your lyrics?
To me, the most complicated part of putting together a song is picking the beats. I’m really, really picky, but once I hear a beat that I like it’s not a problem. I just come up with the hook and then we go from there. A lot of producers are like “I’ve got this beat I made for you” and it’s always not good. Don’t send me the beat that you made for me. Send me all your beats so I can listen to ‘em and we can go from there. I don’t really like writing in the studio. I like to come to studio prepared – everything is memorized, no paper. One take, no punches. When I make a record my mind state is “Road To The Riches” – no punches, just straight spittin’. You can have the dopest lyrics in the world, but if the beat is wack then it’s just not gonna fly, man. There are some artists who’s catalogs have tremendously suffered because their beat selection has been garbage the entire career, and the lyrics were phenomenal.
[in my best Biz impersonation]”Nas, Nas, Nas….”
Nah man, c’mon. I think because everyone wanted Nas to do Illmatic all over again, but if he did Illmatic every album, people would be like “Oh, he never grew. He just stayed in the same chamber”. I think his albums are hot. Nastradamus was garbage. That was a wack album, the beats was terrible, but nah man, I think Nas got good beats.
He always has a few crazy tracks though. I can’t take anything away from him. Have you done any shows with RA The Rugged Man?
RA is an animal, man. I’ve seen him do the Worm on the floor, breakdancing. I’ve seen him play the song “Let’s Chill” by Guy to seven or eight girls in the crowd. He took this girl on his shoulders and her head smashed against the ceiling and shit! That shit was hilarious, man. He’s a fuckin’ beast, yo.
[laughing] Do you prefer to drink or smoke?
I don’t really drink anymore. I used to drink a lot, but after a while it’s really pointless, man. I like smoking weed, coz I can smoke and then two hours later I’m ain’t high no more and I’m good. If I was doing this interview drunk, I would probably sound really, really stupid right now. I think a lotta artists, that’s what they do. They do interviews when they’re high or whatever and say some real stupid shit, man. If I was their publicist I’d be like “Damn, you just ended your career right there man”.
So what’s next?
I’m gonna be releasing a compilation of unreleased and rare recordings that I’ve done throughout the years, that people haven’t really heard. That should be coming out in December or January. It’s got songs that I’ve done – that are not on the album – that I’ve done with Sean Price, some shit with Party Arty and the Ghetto Dwellers, Punchline. CL Smooth is on it. I’m working on a new album as well.
Rugged Intellect - “Unsigned Hype”
Rugged Intellect feat. Kool G Rap - “All Fair”
Rugged Intellect - “Biters Block” (Remix)
Rugged Intellect feat. Rass Kass “Next Dose” video:
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