Rakim (pronounced Rah-Kem) (full name Rakim Allah, born William Michael Griffin Jr. on January 28 1968 in Wyandanch, Long Island, New York) is a legendary rapper and pioneer of the musical genre of hip hop. Many rappers in the community cite Rakim as one of the greatest rappers ever, and is mostly known for using intricate, seemingly effortless rhyming schemes.
Rakim was born William Michael Griffin Jr. and grew up in Long Island, New York where he developed much of his rap talent. The nephew of R&B star Ruth Brown, Rakim became involved in the New York hip hop scene at a young age. He became a member of The Nation of Gods and Earths, taking on the name Rakim, in 1984.
With Eric B.
In 1986, Rakim started to work with New York-based producer/DJ Eric B. The duo - known as Eric B & Rakim - are widely regarded as among the most influential and groundbreaking of hip-hop groups, due in no small part to Rakim's impressive technical abilities. Hip-hop trailblazers Eric B and Rakim's first single, "Eric B for President" (#48, 1986), sparked early debate on the legality of unauthorized, uncredited sampling when James Brown sued to prevent the duo's use of a fragment of his music. It also established Brown's back catalog as a hip musical mining ground for a new generation of hip-hop programmers. Their first full album Paid In Full was released in 1987 causing a stir in the rap music world due to its novel sound, approach and subject matter. Within the realm of rap music lyricism, Rakim was without a doubt one of the most influential rap artists.
Eric B. & Rakim broke up in 1992 after releasing four albums. Due to legal wrangling over royalties and his contracts with both his record label and with Eric B, Rakim did not release a solo album for another five years.He signed with his good friend at the time DeShamus"Q=BOB" Sallis of Q=BOB Records but the label folded shortly after. He then returned in 1997 with The 18th Letter, which included collaborations with DJ Premier and Pete Rock; released in two versions, one of which included an Eric B. & Rakim greatest hits disc titled The Book of Life, the album was fairly well-received critically and was certified gold. In 1999, Rakim released The Master, which was considerably less successful than its predecessor, failing to crack the Top 50 on Billboard's album chart and receiving mixed reviews, and as of today, The Master has only sold 200,000 copies.
Rakim was signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment record label in the 2000, for work on an album tentatively titled Oh, My God. The album underwent numerous changes in artistic direction and personnel and was delayed several times. While working on the album, Rakim made guest appearances on numerous Aftermath projects, including the hit single "Addictive" by Truth Hurts, the Dr. Dre-produced "The Watcher Part 2" by Jay-Z, and Eminem's 8 Mile soundtrack. However, Rakim left the label in 2003 and Oh, My God was indefinitely shelved, a result of creative differences with Dre. Rakim signed with DreamWorks Records shortly afterward, but the label closed its doors shortly after that.
On April 27, 2004, Rakim was arrested regarding an outstanding paternity matter from 2001. The emcee said he was unaware of the warrant, but he agreed to pay $2,000 in child support for his 14-year-old son. He was released the next day but because of the warrant, that night's Wu-Tang Clan performance (opening for Ghostface) at the Roseland Ballroom was canceled.
Rakim claimed to be working on a new album in 2004 but as of 2007, it has not been released. Recent rumors have claimed that he is planning to sign to Talib Kweli's label, fueled by their collaboration on the track "Getting Up Anthem Part 1". While nothing came of the rumors, Rakim has stated he is still considering the label as distribution.
Rakim is currently working on a new album, scheduled to be released this year, titled The Seventh Seal based on the passage in the Book of Revelation. According to Rakim, he is taking the seventh seal and "making it relevant to hip hop and life itself". As of now, no official news on what label is handling the distribution for the album.
Rakim also made cameos in the Juelz Santana video "Mic Check", the Timbaland & Magoo video "Cop That Disc" and the Busta Rhymes video "New York Shit". Eric B. and Rakim's classic album Paid In Full was named the greatest hip hop album of all time by MTV. Rakim was engaged in a lawsuit with reggaeton performer R.K.M (formerly Rakim) over the use of the name "Rakim". Rakim won the rights to the name. Recently, Rakim was featured in an All-Pro Football 2K8 commercial.
Many hip hop/rap artists (both underground and mainstream) acknowledge a huge debt to Rakim's innovative style. He is given credit for popularizing the heavy use of internal rhymes in hip-hop - rhymes that are not necessary to the overall rhyme scheme of the verse, but occur between the endpoints of lines and stanzas, serving to increase the alliteration, assonance, and emphasis of the poetry. He is also credited for the jazzy, heavily stylistic, seemingly effortless delivery of his lyrical content.
One of his more prominent fans is Nas, who dedicated a song to Rakim, "U.B.R. (Unauthorized Biography of Rakim)", on his album, Street's Disciple. Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan also dedicated a tribute to Rakim entitled "Rakim Tribute" which was released on the DaVinci Code: The Vatican Mixtape Vol. II in 2006. 50 Cent also makes reference to Rakim on his hugely successful collaborative effort "Hate It Or Love It" with The Game. 50 rhymes "Daddy ain't around, probably out committing felonies / my favorite rapper used to sing Ch-Check out my melody", referencing Eric B. & Rakim's classic hit "My Melody". Kurupt references Rakim on Snoop Dogg's debut album, Doggystyle. On "For All My Niggaz And Bitches", Kurupt says "Who's jokin? Rakim never joked, so why should I loc? now that's my idol..." Tupac Shakur also pays tribute to Rakim in a song called "Old School". Jay-z paid tribute to Rakim in his 2007 hit Blue Magic where he states: "87 state of mind that I'm in/I'm in my prime so for that time I'm Rakim." Eminem has also paid tribute to Rakim's style as an inspiration. Ghostface Killah gave props to Rakim in the end of "Paisely Darts", by saying he is better than every artist except for Rakim, Rakim's the only god"
Prior to Rakim, rap music lyricism was usually rather simple from a structural standpoint and the ideas it expressed were easy and direct. Lines for example always and only rhymed right at the end of bars as in this classic rhyme from a 1985 song by the rap group The Fat Boys.
|“||A girl in the passenger seat, me I'm steering/To make a long story short I was geering/Patent leather silk, credit cards/A Pocket full of money, the whole nine yards||”|
Rakim pioneered a practice called "internal rhyming" where rhymes could be found through out the bar of a lyric which added to the rhythmic complexity of the song:
|“||I Keep the mic at Farenheit, freeze m.c s, make em colder/The listeners system is kicking like solar/As I memorize, advertize like a poet/Keep it goin', when I'm flowin' smooth enough, you know it is rough.||”|
Instead of two rhyming syllables within two lines, at the end of the lines, as we would find in the older rap style displayed above, we have 18 rhyming syllables in just four lines. Rakim also introduced a lyrical technique known as "cliffhanging" and popularized the use of metaphors with multiple meanings. His songs were the first to really impart rap music lyrics with a serious poetic sensibility. Eric B & Rakim went on to produce three more successful albums, all now considered hip hop standards.
- 1997: The 18th Letter/The Book of Life
- 1999: The Master
- 2008: The Archive: Live, Lost & Found
- TBA: The Seventh Seal
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