2008 Born in the USA
2007 Mr Universumi EP
2006 Semihot Ruudolf Mega Mixtape
2004 Doupeimmat Jumala seivaa Finnish Rap Champion in
2001 (as Rudy Rääväsuu) and 2005.
BY REPUTATION (mostly generated by his lyrics), MC Ruudolf is a mythical figure of Herculean proportions, whose own bio describes him as: “half man, half muscle.” He is also a man of faith, one-quarter Mexican, an aficionado of action films and a twice-crowned Finnish Champion MC who once ruled the streets with his notorious freestyle raps. His calm flow, lyrical dexterity, ironic play on hip hop clichés and straightforward attitude have lifted Ruudolf from cult favourite to a household name. Now working on his fifth (or so) album, the hip-hop heavyweight talked to SixDegrees about life, language and classic cartoons.
You have a new album coming out in May. How is it coming along?
Well, let’s just say you’ll have to wait and see if it’s actually out by then. Not that we’ve run into any difficulties, but we were pretty optimistic when we decided on the release date. It was supposed to give us a date to work on – to get us moving, basically. But we’ll try not to let it be late by months or years, at least.
Your tracks often build on looping old soul and funk samples. Where do you dig for your beats?
I don’t know. I listen to a lot of that stuff. Every now and then I come across a song I dig that would make a good sample and be fun to rap over.
You’ve claimed the title in the Finnish Championships in rapping twice. What makes you so great?
(Ahem) I guess it’s just the natural talent seeping through my divine body. It’s just something that can’t be explained. It can’t be rehearsed – you simply got it or you don’t.
When you were younger you were particularly renowned for your freestyle raps...
Are you trying to say that I’m old?
Um, no. But I read that you haven’t been doing as much freestyle lately.
Yeah, there were times when I wasn’t so intensively into freestyle, but over the past couple of years I’ve been doing it on-stage again. I’m not quite in the form I was back in the day. I don’t practice on my free time as much, so it might not always be that brilliant. On the other hand, for the last two summers I’ve been rapping on the streets again, and that’s where it’s worked best. If you want to find out how my freestyles are today, come around to the Carrol’s corner (that’s Keskuskatu and Aleksanterinkatu in Helsinki – ed.) this summer and find out.
How have you managed to maintain your street cred while rapping about God?
I don’t know, I’m just Ruudolf, whether that gives me street cred or not.
You’re one quarter Mexican. How did Mexican blood end up in your family?
You should rather be asking me how I ended up in a family with Mexican blood. It’s not like I somehow drew that Mexican heritage inside me, that’s not how it works. Not everything revolves around Ruudolf, you know. My father is half Mexican and his father was all Mexican. And one day, little boy Ruudolf was born with one quarter of Mexican blood. And that’s how it happened.
Do you speak Spanish?
Si... Yeah, that’s about it. And my father doesn’t really speak any Spanish either. I actually know more than him. (Laughs)
Is rapping in Finnish more challenging than in English?
In the beginning we rapped in English, same as everybody else at that time. There wasn’t any Finnish rap to listen to and to draw from. It was like you either rapped in English or you sounded kinda silly. We didn’t really know how to rhyme in Finnish, how to bend and stretch words to get the timing right and so on. That changed at some point, and nowadays a lot of kids have heard so much Finnish rap that they have a much better foundation to build on. In principle it’s still easier to rap in English, just because there’s a billion more words and more options at your disposal. But I don’t really think about writing my lyrics as being difficult, like “oh, how am I going to make this work in Finnish?” The bigger problem is not having anything to rap about! If you have a good idea for a song the rhymes are secondary. They’ll find their form eventually.
Your trademark Masters of the Universe T-shirt, is that a relic from your childhood?
Nah. No way did I have a shirt that cool when I was a kid. I’m glad it’s not from my childhood – people would probably think I was a pretty chunky kid, since it still fits me. I bought it a few years ago.
Were you a big fan of the cartoon as a boy?
Yeah, I remember watching He-Man on TV, and I had a few of the action figures too. There are plenty of cartoons and toys that were really kick-ass back then. I also have a G.I. Joe T-shirt, though in Finland it was called Action Force. I had tons of those action figures.
Who was your favourite G.I. Joe character?
I’d have to say Snake Eyes, but I suppose a lot of other kids liked him as well. He was the baddest ninja of the bunch. I guess the fact that he didn’t speak was kind of cool. And you can’t go wrong with an all-black outfit.
Roni - Monsp