A pen and a paper, a stereo, a tape: Rakim NYC shows (with interview)

The world of Hip Hop incorporates much more than its beats, words or moves. It’s a way of life, a way of living and a way of thought. Its music is what made the culture itself spread through the world. The lyrics flowing freely expressed the emotion and the lifestyle differently than on the pages of mass media. At first the words were rather basic. They rhymed and they told stories, but it was more just about flowing over beats than putting the beats to use over lyrics. ‘Rappers Delight’, the first Hip Hop classic, is a demonstration of just that. The basic rhymes in that song were expressive and talked about simple life, but did not paint the picture the way it is done nowadays.

Then a man came into this culture. Choosing MC’ing over ball game he struggled to make a name for himself. Often unable to get to the mike as he was too small to get attention, he persevered regardless. This man has done more for the lyrical part of Hip Hop than any other figure in all of its time. Taking Hip Hop lyricism and the Hip Hop thought flow itself on a totally different level Rakim opened up the doors to Hip Hop for everyone. It was no longer just flowing over beats. It became poetry over beats and became the way millions all over the world see it now.

Rakim has been MC’ing for over 20 years now. He was honored in the 2006 VH1 Hip Hop Honors Awards for major accomplishments in Hip Hop. Still, he does not stop. His boat has not sailed into the abyss of the past. Nor, has he become an executive mogul, dropping albums just to prove that he ‘still got it’. Taking a break from working with Eric B. over 10 years ago, he’s put out 2 albums and a compilation of his earlier works since then. His 3rd album was unfortunately delayed due to a high number of changes and so on, courtesy of Aftermath and Dr. Dre. It was perhaps illogical to expect the man who made Em and 50 to oversee Hip Hop’s greatest lyrical treasure in his work. So, starting his own label, Ra Records, Rakim established just that for himself: the freedom to create, to focus on work freely and the need not to ‘Sweat the Technique’. Making his own beats in addition to writing, Ra has become even more self-sufficient in his craft. His business manager is a business entrepreneur, who has worked with Fortune 500 firms, non-profit ventures and Nobel Prize winners. His record label is working on signing new acts.
Coming back from a long break in performing, Rakim put on a show in BB King’s in January of 2006. The crowd of over 1,200 spectators packed the small venue and only confirmed the need for more Ra on the today’s scene. Scheduling an immediate follow up show, which also sold out, Rakim came back on the Thanksgiving weekend later this year with 2 more amazing shows. Kid Capri DJ’ing for him and Styles P. doing a full set right before made the experience that much more complete. Besides Immortal Technique, Cormega and Mobb Deep’s Prodigy getting on stage, the backstage was packed with similar. Ras Kass, Craig G., Big Zulu members and many more came through to acknowledge the big day.

Including the crowd in his show, Rakim brought forth everything from his classics to the songs from his upcoming album, Seventh Seal. Most importantly he brought forth the legend of his character and the skills of his mastery. Passionately jumping into the set, he showcased his ability to stay current in Hip Hop, while sharing a legacy. He showcased his love for “a pen and a paper, a stereo, a tape”.

At the end of the first day of his show, he sat back and shared his thoughts on today’s Hip Hop and Rakim’s place in it.