You were honored in the VH1 Hip Hop Honors for your accomplishments in Hip Hop. How do you feel about bringing the old school Hip Hop onto today’s music scene?
It’s important, man, ‘cause I always been the type of artist that respects the era of Hip Hop that I come from, but the understanding that I have for Hip Hop, I know that old school is not a rapper or its not a pinpoint, a landmark. Old school, what it is, is a style of rhyme to me, a style of music. If an artist that came out with an album in 1986 but he’s still relevant today and his sounds is still relevant, he sounds new, to me this ain’t old school. I’m not old school. When it comes to me, what I’m trying to show, regardless of how long you’ve been in the game, the people wanna hear from you and you still gonna have that vibe and do those rhymes.
You started your own label but it seems that it was more due to disagreements with Dre. Was there more to it or was it simply to find the freedom to put out your music the way you see fit?
Being in that situation was good for me, you know what I mean. Being out there in Cali I got a chance to observe how California people live and got a wider spectrum of Hip Hop. But at the same time it also let me know once I made my move from Aftermath it was time for me to make my own home. It was time for me to feel free with the way I want to express Hip Hop, my views, my ideas. It was time for me to go my own road, man. I could have handled it 4 ways and I’m glad it went this way now.
Are you still considering distribution through Blacksmith [Records]?
Yeah, we got a lot of different options on the table. We are trying to figure out the smartest and the best situation to get ourselves into. And some of the times that we got people and the names, Blacksmith got some real good people that been showing us love and they really understand what kind of Hip Hop Rakim is about. And that’s important. We gotta make sure we put ourselves in the right place to get right.
How do you feel about today’s Hip Hop in general?
I think right now Hip Hop is… It’s always changing. What’s good about it its growing and its becoming a trend. From 2 years old in ’88, knaw what I mean man? It exists in the Hip Hop world, it exists in the corporate world, it exists in the commercial world. So I’m glad where Hip Hop is at right now. Hip Hop as a whole can do a little shaking, a little fine tuning. I think mostly with New York. I think dirty South is doing a good job right now with what they going through, with what they experiencing. I think New York needs to kinda get back on its grass roots and get back on that real Hip Hop and everything will work out. Everyone don’t need to sound the same and everybody don’t have to do what everybody else is doing to be successful man. And the perfect example is the dirty South. I think that if everybody just do what they supposed to do, know their position in the game, I think Hip Hop in the next year will be alright.
Do you feel that today’s commercial trends in Hip Hop help spread it or hurt its image?
It does 2 things. It helps but too much of anything is bad, you know what I mean? Because what’s going on right now, its like I said, you got Hip Hop opening up to the masses from today to ’88 and you can put some of that on with what’s the dirty South is doing, you can put some of that on with what’s the West Coast did and everybody is contributing to make Hip Hop bigger and more universal. But at the same time we gotta understand it’s a scale and we can’t let radio friendly Hip Hop woo Hip Hop itself. Hip Hop is not radio friendly. Hip Hop is really a street underground music and it sounds a little different when you’re doing it for the people that understand what you saying and then you try to commercialize it for people who don’t understand what you saying. So everybody stick to their guns and do what they are suppose to do and have chemistry on the album and not doing 14 records and all talking all the same thing, I think Hip Hop will balance itself out and people will be able to get what they want.
Are there any new acts excite you today?
Oh, yes, I’m impressed with Hip Hop as a whole man. It keep me on my toes. Every time it change I gotta be right there with my ear on the street, know what I mean. So keeping on my toes is too much for me to put my finger on as far as what I love about Hip Hop right now, ‘cause it’s just so diverse, so wide open. Like 15 years ago you could ask somebody with what’s your favorite this and your favorite that and they tell you 2 or 3 words. Now if you someone what they love about Hip Hop it ain’t just that no more. So I kinda watching what people do, taking the good, leaving the bad.
There are a lot of poorly done commercialized lyrics out now. In your opinion what is next for Hip Hop lyricism?
Well, you know, it is what it is man. Rappers just out there, they do what they do. They earning the recognition that they get. Can’t take that from nobody. If somebody comes out and they get the world, the masses like what they saw, it is what it is. But you know the commercial rap, it’s just up to the listeners and up to the artists to make sure they got a little chemistry in their work that’s about the rapping. I love talking about clubs and it’s good. But if I do 14 records talking about clubs it get a little monotonous, so everybody get back into the art of music and the art of Hip Hop, it kinda take care of itself. You won’t have the commercial music doing everything, everyone will chose their pick and everything won’t be accepted.
Who currently compares to your lyrical strides as MC?
Nobody! Nobody never will. Can you think of somebody (asking around the room)? Nah. But this is what it is. That’s my strong point. When it come to me being me that’s what I got on everybody else. Can’t nobody be me but me. Can’t nobody be Jay Z but Jay Z. Can’t nobody be Ludacriss but Ludacriss. People realize what make them special they stick to that, that’s what make them good. It is what it is man. I’m just trying to stick to my guns, stay focused with what I do. I try to get a world out of me.
Is there something your fans should be prepared for as far as what you’re doing next?
Just be a little more consciousness with what’s going on, like I said, as far as ‘Seventh Seal’ on the stands. And if you like Rakim music, understand Rakim is doing what Rakim is all about. If I get that across, whether its 500,000 or 5,000,000, if I get my point across I think I’ll be happy.