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Rugged Intellect Renaissance Man Canada has a 'new' lyrical sensation: Rugged Intellect. Releasing an album with beats by Domingo and Buckwild (ao), and features by Sean Price, Ras Kass, RA The Rugged Man, Kool G Rap, a.o, sure gives some extra attention to the record, but... what?s actually way more important is that Rugged Intellect doesn?t get outshined by those stars. He holds it down and offers a remarkable and strong debut. Reasons enough to settle for an interview with the Renaissance Man.

What?s up Rugged Intellect? How things going?

Everything is marvellous right now, I got my eyes on the prize and it's about to materialize. I just wrapped up a few shows with Ice-T and Souls of Mischief, I been on my grind connecting with heads worldwide and the album is making noise so it's a beautiful thing!

Congrats on your album ?Renaissance Music: The Introduction? by the way. How have reactions been so far? Are you happy with how it?s been received?

To say I'm happy with the overall reception of this album would be a gross understatement considering the phenomenal response I have been receiving worldwide. But as opposed to letting it gas me on some Hollywood shit, it's definitely humbling and getting me real focused on the grand scheme of what I am seeking to accomplish, as an independent artist running my own enterprise... Many doors are opening that I didn't necessarily expect during the conception of this album, for example getting 3.5 Mics in The Source Magazine. The funny thing is that I get hit up daily with people telling me it deserved more but I ain't complaining, trust me!

RENAISSANCE

So, the album states it?s a ?Renaissance?: what (era) are you trying to give rebirth to and why?

Being raised on late '80s-early '90s hip-hop, my album is a direct extension of the sounds I grew up listening to and was influenced by later on. From day one, my intention was always to put together a project that would highlight the merits of hip-hop culture as opposed to denigrating it culturally like so many artists choose to do nowadays. It would be contrived to say my album will single-handedly spearhead the much desired hip-hop renaissance, but I think this album is definitely a part of the catalysing force that will bring the art form back into a position of respect, honour and pride towards the culture and the pioneers who laid the foundation.

Do you really believe Hip-Hop is going to have a renaissance at a certain point? Or is your album in the first place meant to pay homage/respect to Hip-Hop history by introducing the younger audience to what the golden era sounded like by making such music yourself?

From the moment I started working on this album to the day of its release, I saw hip-hop undergoing tremendous changes that at times made it seem like the classic hip-hop sound was on its death-bed. To answer your question..., yes, I believe it will undergo a renaissance because it is actually happening right now! 2007 is quietly becoming the year where quote unquote real hip-hop stroke back in the face of convoluted materialistic snowman rap. Just last week Common's album debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and that record is straight boom-bap. If that is not a Renaissance then I don't know what is. In regards to the second part of your question you pretty much answered it yourself, because this album is reintroducing core values of hip-hop culture to younger generations while introducing Rugged Intellect as an MC and as a living, breathing organism. If I was to make any other type of music than what I am doing now then that would be a complete disrespect to my affinity for hip-hop culture and the lessons I've learned from being surrounded by some of the most legendary individuals this culture has ever seen.

What else - apart from albums like yours - does Hip-Hop need right now to make the renaissance jump off (to another level)?

I think awareness and education are key concepts in terms of continuing the legacy laid down by the pioneers of the art form. In order for the culture to move gracefully then it is mandatory for its disciples to acknowledge, respect and build upon the foundations of the artform.

RUGGED INTELLECT

Please introduce yourself a little more to people who are not familiar yet?

Rugged Intellect is the quintessential definition of a hip-hop entrepreneur that came from the ground up paying dues. My album is the culmination of everything I seek to accomplish with music and life in general as an individual coming from very modest and humble beginnings. I have to emphasize that I've paid a price much more expensive than any dollar amount to get where I'm at and I will stop at nothing to actualize my ambitions.

Your name ?Rugged Intellect? could be seen as 2 opposite poles: the reckless, impulsive ?Rugged? and the measured, meaningful and well-thought ?Intellect?. Is this merge how you see yourself as an MC?

Even if I wasn't an MC, the title Rugged Intellect would still be applicable to my personality in regards to the duality of my character. I am both Rugged and Intellectual. As long as I can remember this duality has steered my life in the direction that it's taken. By the same token, this duality translates in the type of lyricism and approach I take on the microphone hence creating the perfect moniker that would describe who I am to the uninitiated listener. My style is raw and rugged but at the same time intellectual in the sense that my lyrics are well thought-out and utilizing the street intellect I developed by growing up in a cutthroat environment.

What is your earliest memory of Hip-Hop Culture?

My earliest memories of hip-hop were probably the jams in my neighbourhood park back in the day probably around 1989. Back then, I didn't even know what hip-hop was but I was always fascinated by what was going on. I grew up in a multi-cultural neighbourhood with a strong West Indian influence so I was exposed to hip-hop by childhood friends and later on by my older sister who was into hip-hop before I was and I remember her listening to her Run-DMC and Public Enemy tapes. At a certain point, I even had lines on the side of my head, I must've been maybe 8 or 9 years old. There was a record store in the neighbourhood called Mike's and he carried a wide variety of vinyl and tapes that he would bring back from New York so that's another place hip-hop was emanating from in my environment.

Where and when did you decide/feel that you wanted to be a part of/in it?

From a young age I was very much into writing poetry and around 1997 I started rhyming although in secrecy since my connection to hip-hop was something I jealously kept to myself for the most part. There wasn't a specific day or event that made me say OK I'm gonna start rhyming, things just gradually progressed to the point where I was making songs and performing at the neighbourhood jams.

Hip-Hop being a black culture, it must?ve been hard for you with the German/Moroccan background to be part of it. Please tell us more about how you experienced this? Did it really was about the skins at a certain point?

Growing up in a multi-cultural environment has blessed me with the insight to never look at people based on the color of skin or ethnicity. Although coming up there were certain instances where I was discriminated upon because of my complexion, I never let it get in my way of accomplishing what I was trying to do because I felt that at the end of the day all that really mattered was if you had skills or not. In many instances, I would get a lot of love because I was the only white kid around where I was at that was rhyming so people took a liking to me since I represented the culture in my own way and not trying to caricaturize the culture in a disrespectful way.

Did you have to fight and jump over barriers to get foot on the ground? ... Like,.. has there been a moment you almost wanted to give it up, tired of fighting against those barriers?

I think that whenever one takes the road less travelled there are bound to be a lot of obstacles to surmount and whether or not you are able to surpass them will determine your degree of success. I knew from the jump that being a career MC would be an arduous task especially coming from a place where there were little to no outlets available for artists like myself to get on and make a living from it.

Do you believe it?s harder for a Canadian artist to establish his name, just because he?s not from the States?

Depending on the degree of your skills and work ethic there is no reason one cannot excel at their given endeavours regardless of where they are from and I like to look at myself as an example of that statement.

Were you a fan of the golden era in Canada with Michie Mee, Dream Warriors, Maestro Fresh Wes...?

Most definitely! Maestro's ?Let Your Back Bone Slide? is one of the first hip-hop records I ever heard and I have nothing but respect for his contributions to the hip-hop scene in Canada. Dream Warriors had that song ?Ludi? and that was a cool record but I never really got into their music too tough.

You feel like there?s not enough attention and respect for what originators like Maestro did for Hip-Hop?

Within the Canadian hip-hop community these artists always get their respect and I'm pretty sure if you asked them that same question they would say the same.

FEATURES

In other interviews you have extensively been explaining how Domingo been the glue between you and the featured elitist artists on your album... But how did you meet Domingo in the first place?

When I was first conceptualizing the album I reached out to Domingo for production through mutual acquaintances. When I returned from California after my first failed record deal, Domingo said he would do whatever he could to get my talents exposed to the world. After we did ?Say Goodbye?, things got a lot more serious and we started knocking records out left and right.

You often state you were a prot?g? from Domingo. What exactly has been the role of Domingo as a mentor then in your career (other than being the dude with the extensive network and such...)

Being under the wing of an industry veteran like Domingo was instrumental in teaching me the mechanisms of the rap business, among many other things I will not get into right now. It was probably the greatest learning experience I could ever ask for in terms of being put on to elements that have helped me take my career to the next level.

Domingo is often overlooked as one of Hip-Hop main producers, how come do you think? ... And please set the record straight why he?s one of the biggest and most underrated...

If you look at Domingo's catalogue you will ask yourself the same question, having produced for everyone from Big Pun to KRS, Eminem and Rakim. I think the reason he's the most underrated is because Domingo doesn't put himself out there like a Hollywood type of dude and he lets the music speak for him rather than saying Jazzy Phizzle Producshizzle on every goddamn record!

It's been since Maestro Fresh Wes that any Canadian artist worked with Buckwild right? With this being your first album how rewarding does it feel?

Working with Buckwild was real dope and I look forward to doing more songs with him on the next record.

How did it feel to work with people you?re a fan of yourself? Kool G Rap, AG, Ras Kass, Heltah Skeltah, RA,...

Collaborating with such a legendary cast of artists was enriching and extraordinarily influential in taking my artistry to the next level. By working with the best, you have to bring fire to the table or end up looking real stupid. Based on my own appraisal as well as the media and fans' reception, I can look at this album proudly knowing that I officially held it down with some of the best to ever do it.

Did you go in the studio with them, or was it rather an internet file transferring experience?

I worked with every artist directly, even sleeping in the studio booth the night before I did the joint with Ras Kass at DJ Cintronics' studio in New Jersey. Most of the collabo?s were recorded within a week at Mercy Sound Studios and Powerhouse Studios both in the NYC. At one time we had Sean Price, AG, Party Arty and RA in the same room, definitely some memorable times.

I know you recorded with Sean P in the same room though, i saw this funny video (check it out here) ... Why did you record that one to launch it on youtube?

Well basically there's a lot of non-believers out there who want to throw salt in your game whenever you do something exceptional so I got Sean Price to say I was garbage to satisfy the hoards of haters out who like to say I never met the artists I work with and all that fly stuff. I bet they got real mad when they saw that video!

Did you feel like those features were necessary to get the project more shine, anticipation?

Everyone involved in this project agrees that pairing me up with these legendary MC?s would be the boldest way to highlight my talents to the world and show the hip-hop community I could hold my own with some of the best.

Another Canadian, Marco Polo, being from Toronto, is kinda blowin up right now, any collab coming up?

I am open to working with anybody that got fire beats whether they are from Canada or Kazakhstan. Me and Marco have never met but I wouldn't be against doing work if the beats were suitable to what I am looking for at the time.

Considering the amount of legendary artists on your albums, you and Marco Polo are responsible for bringing back the voices from that era, so you can claim that Canadians have a big deal in bringing back US rap history right?

I guess you could say that, but like Rakim said, It ain't where you from, it's where you at...

Most definitely. How would 'Renaissance Music' be like if it was without classic artists you picked now? What new/other artists would you like to have in the line-up?

Without the classic collaborations Renaissance Music would still be a quality hip-hop release with the same lyrical and instrumental superiority it contains although it might not have made the same amount of noise. See one thing I realized is that, any artist who wants to make a career in the rap business must understand it's not only about your skills because most rap fans are too blahzay to care about new artists unless they are co-signed by XYZ.

What artists you wanna get for the next album?

In the span of my career I would love to work with Rakim, Nas, Big Daddy Kane, Percee P and Pharoahe Monch among others. On this album I got a chance to work with a lot of artists I always wanted to collaborate with so the list is getting narrower now.

INFLUENCES & MORE

I read in another interview with you that you?re influenced by Big Pun and Rakim a lot. Why do you think especially those artists have such an impact on you?

Well, with Rakim... he is the greatest rapper of all-time and you can bet your bottom dollar that 98% percent of MCs have been influenced by the God. If you listen to Big Pun's Capital Punishment, he makes several references to Rakim even directly quoting classic lines. To me Ra represents the apex of emceeing and lyricism and to want to be like the best is expected in any profession or discipline. If you play basketball you want to be like Michael Jordan or Dr. J, so for me these two artists (out of many others) raised the bar in hip-hop and set a new standard that any self-respecting MC would want to match up to.

What makes Big Pun one of the greatest for you and how much of his style made marks in your style?

Pun is one of the greatest because of his ability to cover any style or topic without ever compromising the lyrical dexterity he was known for. I always respected him as someone who overcame a lot of struggles to be respected in hip-hop and his music will forever be appreciated.

In your track ?Biters Block? you bring up amateur rappers that don?t got a style of their own. Being the devil?s advocate: isn?t it a thin line between getting influenced by someone and biting someone? Could you explain what sets a biter apart from someone with clear influences?

Being influenced by another artist is knowing how to recognize the artistic merit of others while still retaining your style. Biting is flat-out mimicry and that has no place in hip-hop. Like No Limit Records had a rapper named Krazy and if you listen to him, he would mimic 2Pac down to the adlibs and even the way he laughed. Things like that are unacceptable and that?s why I made a song like Biters Block to let the hip-hop community know originality is still not tolerated in real rap circles.

?Imitation is the best form of flattery?, you state in the same track. Who would you like to get flattered by? Who can get your style for free without you being upset?

No one can get my style for free and I'll tell you why. I could give you a lyric sheet I just wrote and tell you to spit it and it still wouldn't sound like me.

?If you wanna make it, just keep it stupid?... That real sceptic and sarcastic at the same time... Please explain what you exactly mean by it...

That was just a commentary on the state of hip-hop when intelligent artists with real talent and potential get virtually ignored in the favor of promoting artists like Hurricane Chris with his ?Ay Bay Bay? bullshit.

FINAL

Since there?s already been quite a buzz around RI on the internet, I?ll give you some lines here to make it even bigger... What you wanna say/shout to the people? Spread all the rumours you?d like!

Peace to everybody supporting the Rugged Intellect machine, this is only the beginning!

What should readers of this interview do when done reading?

(Laughs) Hopefully they will say 'Damn, I need to go check this album out!'

 

POSTED 08|01|2007
conducted by cpf

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