Flatline: I wanna know more about your past...what first got you into hip hop and made you wanna start rhyming?
R.A.: There was this one kid, Human Beatbox Bub and he was a kid from the neighborhood that used to rap and beatbox and he was blowing up these shopping center windows with M80's and I met the dude doin' that. I said "what the fuck you doin'?" and he was like "watch this! watch this!" and he blew up the fuckin' window and glass shattered everywhere. So we jetted off on our bikes, chilled and he was like "check out this tape, check out that tape" and we started rappin' together. Then I kinda stepped up my game, got a little better than him and moved on to the other dudes in the neighborhood, just kinda went around the country battlin' and rappin' wherever the fuck I could rap, you know?
Flatline: You were 18 or 19 when you hooked up with Jive Records right?
R.A.: Well, goin' on 19 I had nine record deals on the table for a lot of money because I kept holdin' out..."fuck you, I don't need your ass". A lot of people, when they're young and get a record deal, they're like "oh shit!...a record deal!"....(laughs)....then they jump on the wack ass record deal. I just held out for a lot of money and ended up gettin' a lot of money but not makin' the right decision goin' with a wack ass label like Jive, but you know, that's where I went.
Flatline: What took so long for you to finally release "Die, Rugged Man, Die"? What was the recording process for that?
R.A.: You know, just do it as cheap as possible but make sure the shit don't sound cheap at all, you know? (laughs) I hate underground records that sound like it was recorded on a fuckin' little wack ass mixing board. I like my music to be competitive. Like, you put my music on next to whatever the fuck is hittin' and you might think my shit sounds better...but do it for as little money as possible. The recording process was goin' to see talented ass dudes who didn't have big egos who go "this R.A. shit is a cool project to be a part of, let's kinda almost do it on the strength"....and we made a competitive record. I really think that my record is competitive with the best shit out there AND a lot better than the shit that's selling.
Flatline: That's gotta be really gratifying for you to finally release the album and for it to get such a positive response from critics and for it to be selling really well...
R.A.: Yeah, well, I think there's still bigger things to come for me...this is the tip of the iceberg, just crackin' it open. I still think I got a lot of years in this rap game left in me and I'm gonna kick the fuck outta everybody!
Flatline: You hooked up with Masta Killa and Killah Priest on "Chains"...since that track turned out so nice, would you consider working with them as kind of a super group?
R.A.: You know what it is man? I like my music, my shit, my way. I'm not really into collaborating where I don't have the final say on shit. I actually had a little rock band thing goin' with members of Bad Brains a year back and everyone was all amped on it, but I wasn't eye to eye with muthafuckas. I like doin' R.A. shit my way, my mixes, my songs, my subject matter, my hooks. When I work, I'll shit on 15 of my ideas in my head in a row...that ain't good enough...that's ain't good enough. Then I get the idea in my head that I like and I'm like "wow, I got it"...
Flatline: Are you a perfectionist that way?
R.A.: Yeah...yeah man, yeah...I mean, yeah, I'm tough. When you ain't got real money behind your shit and you ain't makin' your shit right, I mean are they really going to pay attention? Whether it's big time or small time, they've BEEN paying attention to me for 12 years...and it's for a reason. I'm not even in my prime yet...I'm getting better and better every year.
Flatline: Any chance of some of the tracks you did with Bad Brains being released?
R.A.: Apart from the track "How Low" on my album, there's about four or five others in existence. Hey man, if someone wanna throw me some money my way for that shit, we'll put it out...get us a rock budget, we'll put it out. (laughs)
Flatline: What do you think about Eminem?
R.A.: Well...I really...don't know what the FUCK he did with this new album and even Eminem fans ain't feelin' it. I think he'll come back better next year.
Flatline: Safe to say that he's not giving props where they're due? Stuff he's spittin' is the kind of stuff you've talked about for years...
R.A.: I understand that...and everybody says that, and yeah, it's true. But I don't go around and whine about it cause you look like it ain't true. But Em and me are not even on the same page. He sells records to Ashlee Simpson fans, Lindsay Lohan fans...he's a fuckin' pop artist now. It ain't even hip hop to me no more with him. He could put out a record like "Encore" and sell two million...it doesn't matter if it's his worst work yet cause he's a pop icon. So me, I'm not a pop icon. I gotta make sure that my music is great every god damn time. No one wants to do their own shit in hip hop no more. You see what Chuck D did for hip hop. He made a whole moment and changed things, you know what I'm sayin'? Muthafuckas today are just clowns in the game...it ain't even about shit no more. It's a fuckin' big fat joke and somebody gotta change that. When so much bullshit money gets pumped into something, a culture is gonna get fuckin' defeated. If we could get past this bullshit wave of wackness and survive, then nothing could kill hip hop.
Flatline: In just speaking with you, I can tell you came up in the 80's when stuff was so raw...
R.A.: You know what it was? I was blessed to be able to live through that shit to see those times. I'm not dissin' the young kids who didn't see it...it ain't their fault they were born in 1985...(laughs)...or 1988 when Kane dropped "Long Live The Kane".
Flatline: It seems to me like a lot of younger kids don't want to go back and discover that stuff though...
R.A.: You know what it is? Some kids do...but most of them don't. Kids are kids though...kids don't like being educated half the time. They want whatever's simple. But once in awhile you get that little 15 year old kid from the Bronx or a little 16 year old kid from Jersey and you talk with him and he knows all the old records...he's a DJ and he collects and he knows this and that and you're like "Yo!...good for you motherfucker!!" (laughs) They do exist out there. But I was blessed to see that era and I'm happy I saw it. I'm happy I got to rock 1987 house parties with guns being busted off and all the shit that hip hop was back then. Hey, if I didn't see that shit, I wouldn't be the great emcee that I am today.
Flatline: That's true...I completely agree with that. What's your favorite memory of hip hop back in the day?
R.A.: My wildest memory was back in 94 when I was trying to get off Jive Records. Jive had this showcase and Flex was DJing and Tribe Called Quest was hosting it and MTV and BET was there and it was me and...who was hot on Jive back then?
R.A.: Yeah, Fu-Schnickens!...and Keith Murray....and man, I started a fuckin' 900 man riot. I was grabbin' speakers and throwing them...started kickin' at muthafuckas and dudes rushed the stage and bouncers was throwin' us up the stairs cause they said we did $40,000 worth of damage. We was upstairs and we didn't have no guns or nothin' and everybody was waitin' outside...with guns for us! (laughs) My boys was breakin' the couches, makin' weapons out of couch legs and shit. My boys are like "let's go out in the street, let's face these muthafuckas!" and I'm like "wait a minute, they got guns." Then finally I'm like, "let's do it" and muthafuckas were holding us back but we was tryin' to break through anyway...
Flatline: That's crazy!
R.A.: (laughs) Yeah, that was a fun show. My A&R got punched in the face, I was so happy...and one time, I seen Kenny Parker at the tunnel and he told me that him and KRS ONE sat in the car, drivin' around, bumpin' my underground classic "Record Labels Suck Dick" over and over and over again....
Flatline: That's gotta be the best feeling...you got the blastmaster bumpin' your shit!
R.A.: For six hours! That's what Kenny Parker told me...why would he make it up? I never met KRS in person...never met G Rap either.
Flatline: You and Kool G Rap gotta get together.
R.A.: Yeah, everybody tell me I gotta do a record with dude.
Flatline: He worked with The High & Mighty on "Talk Like Sex pt 2" on the Smut Peddlers album....
R.A.: Yeah, they paid him...they paid him....
Flatline: Are High & Mighty and G Rap not cool?
R.A.: The rap game is about givin' muthafuckas checks...did you think they were cool with me?
Flatline: I don't know...that's my next question.
R.A.: I rap on their shit right? So you make the decision. Throw a lil' cash in my bank account Milo and I'll rap on your little High & Mighty record. (laughs)
Flatline: (laughs) You and Eon were cool on that "Homecoming queen" track....
R.A.: Yeah? I don't remember it. (laughs) Eon ain't a bad guy, it's the other kid that really pissed me off. That Milo kid, he really pissed me off through the years but he's out the game, nobody paying attention to dude, so who gives a shit?
Flatline: The High & Mighty are done now aren't they?
R.A.: I never knew they were here.
Flatline: (laughs) you like "Home Field Advantage"...you like that album...
R.A.: I ain't never heard it. (laughs)
Flatline: Hilarious. So, are you happy now...as an emcee and as a person?
R.A.: Yeah, some days. I'm happy with myself as an emcee, I'm happy with myself artistically. I'm happy with life that I'm even here...I'm not banged up and shot up...and not as broke as I thought by the time I was 30, you know?
- Flatline for rapstation.com