I'm back for part two of the G.O.A.T. series and this one will feature the legendary, talented, amazing, trailblazing, super, God MC known as Rakim. Btw if you missed part one featuring Jay-Z, check that one here. Odds are pretty high that if your favorite rapper emerged in the 90's, there was a great chance his (or her) favorite rapper was Rakim. He influenced any rapper that has some skill on the mic. The man was revolutionary. I wasn't even alive during his reign as the best MC but that goes to show how much he meant to the game when I'm speaking of Rakim in this vain. However, because I wasn't around during Rakim's vice grip on the rap game in the late 80's and early 90's it is impossible for me to have perspective on just how much he meant to the art of rapping. I can only see what others have said about him and look at his work from my perspective. It's like when people say Jim Brown is the greatest running back of all time. You can see highlights and take other people's words for it because you weren't there, but at the same time recognize that people like Jim Brown and Rakim were also ahead of their times. So let's get down to trying to make sense of the God MC's greatness and impact on hip-hop. Btw I'm going to focus on Rakim solely during the Eric B. and Rakim days. Why? Because it's like taking a look at Michael Jordan during his Wizard days. I mean you could do that, but why would you. He was still better than 80% of everyone else but no one is going to remember that part of his career.
From what others have said about Rakim, he was the first to add complexity into his rhyming. For this alone he would be on the Mount Rushmore of rappers. People like Melle Mel was telling stories and had some weight behind what he was saying but he wasn't bending the language like how Rakim could. The Beastie Boys, Run DMC and LL Cool J mainly spoke about how fresh they were but weren't doing so in a complicated manner. What made Rakim special was that he could put messages behind his music, talk about how fresh he was, and just rap for days. If he was around today, he would be one of those guys who can lay down BARS. Also, Rakim knew how to ride a beat. For some weird reason (although probably not a coincidence) all of Eric B's instrumentals sounded like some 4th grader just starting out until Rakim jumped on the beat then they sound like the greatest thing to ever touch your ears. There is no Rakim as the God MC without Eric B and for that the DJ must get some love. That is why together they made four classic albums and once they went their separate ways, you could argue Rakim hasn't made anything on par with those first four albums...but I digress.
So what are some of the tracks that make Rakim one of the all time greats? One of my favorite hip-hop tracks of all time and one track that every rapper and rap fan no matter if you are/like a Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, or even Tyga needs to hear is I Aint No Joke. I could base my whole argument for Rakim as one of the G.O.A.T.'s based on this track alone. He made sure that every single line hit. In that 3 minutes and 55 seconds there was not one wasted breath or throwaway line. I'll just go down the list of classic lines that Rakim put out in that song:
"I hold the microphone like a grudge
B will hold the record so the needle don't budge"
"Before you know it, you're following and fiending
waiting for the punchline to get the meaning"
"I wake and as I stare in your face you seem stunned"
"I ain't no joke, I used to let the mic smoke
now I slam when I'm done and make sure it's broke"
"When you come up to speak, don't even lie to me
you like to exaggerate, dream and imaginate
then change the rhyme around that can aggravate me
so when you see me, come up, freeze
or you'll be one of those 7 emcees"--> which is a reference to one of his other great lines in My Melody when he said...
"i take 7 emcees, put em in a line
and add 7 more brothers who think they could rhyme
it will take 7 more before i go for mine
now that's 21 emcees ate up at the same time"
Rakim had more quotables in one song then a lot of "lyrical" rappers have in their entire careers. Can anyone name me a Joe Budden line? *crickets* You know what, since I can't really say how great Rakim was because i don't feel like I would be doing him justice since I can't speak to the impact he had at the time, I'm just going to post links to my favorite tracks of his then you guys could make your own conclusions to his place in the pantheon. I have much respect for Rakim but I won't call him my favorite rapper just because I didn't grow up listening to him. That's why a lot of kids now a days don't have Michael Jordan as their favorite basketball player. We all recognize him as one of the greats no doubt, but he was a little before the kids' time which is why they love Kobe and LeBron. Nothing wrong with that, just as long as they recognize MJ and Rakim as one of the greats, I'm good and so should all the OG's. If I had to rank the two rappers I have looked at so far it would be...
Part 3 coming soon with the Notorious BIG.
Here are the links of classic Rakim songs where you can make your own judgements to his greatness.
I Know You Got Soul
Paid In Full
Casualties Of War
Know The Ledge
Don't Sweat The Technique
Follow The Leader
Lyrics Of Fury
Let The Rhythm Hit Em
In The Ghetto
Murs- You & I
Pink- Just Give Me A Reason