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This episode, we talk to one of hip hop’s most honored rappers — Rakim Allah, the God MC. Rakim was only a teenager when he broke into the New York rap scene as part of famed Golden Era duo Eric B & Rakim, with Eric B sampling and mixing, Rakim as the MC. From the MC’s beginning, he was influential — credited with creating the technique of internal rhyming in rap music. While his Long Island neighbors in Public Enemy were setting the stage with black nationalism in rap, Rakim, a member of the Five Percent Nation of Islam, explored a mindful spirituality of his own.

Eric B & Rakim released 4 albums together, including Paid in Full, Follow the Leader, Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em, and finally Don’t Sweat the Technique. Their perhaps most famous album, Paid in Full, is credited with revolutionizing what old school rappers had done before them. Rakim led what one NY Times writer called “a quiet musical revolution, introducing a soft-spoken rapping style”. In 1993, he and Eric B. split up, Rakim changed record companies, and after four years of silence, he embarked upon a solo career, releasing 4 albums. His most recent album, released in 2009, The Seventh Seal grapples with many emotions: optimism about President Obama’s election, mixed with the struggles of people losing jobs and homes.

We talked to the legendary MC about some of his most famous lines, his experience growing up in a musical home, breaking into the NY rap scene from Long Island, triple stage darkness, writing rhymes in graffiti, and much more.

Show notes:

  1. Rakim tearing it down at SOB’s, featured in VIBE
  2. Rakim and ‘Seventh Seal’ on NPR
  3. ‘A Rap Pioneer Defies the Odds’ in the NY Times
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