Born William Michael Griffin on January 28th 1968 in Wyandanch, Long Island, New York, Rakim is still classed as being the greatest rapper of all time by most. He has rightly earned legendary status in the world of Hip Hop, being an influence to many other rappers during his 25 plus year career so far & his voice & rap phrases have been sampled thousands of times.
He began perfecting his rap style while at Wyandanch High School under the name “Kid Wizard”. He changed his name to Rakim Allah after becoming a part of the Nation Of Gods & Earths in the mid ’80’s & decided on Rakim as his MC name. Rakim formed a rap duo with DJ Eric B. & the Marley Marl produced debut single Eric B. Is President/My Melody changed the game. Rakim’s unique voice & vocal flow was a change to the basic standard that was typical in Hip Hop at the time, once heard, his flow was copied by many others. Complex, introspective & smooth with a distinct New York twang, Rakim’s voice is distinctive & instantly recognisable.
As a duo Eric B. & Rakim released 4 popular albums. 1987’s “Paid In Full”, the single releases got them worldwide commercial success, 1988’s “Follow The Leader”, 1990’s “Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em” (when they signed a reported $1 million dollar deal with MCA Records) & 1992’s “Don’t Sweat the Technique”. Each album came with a totally different production style and Rakim even changed his rap style on the “Don’t Sweat The Technique” to show his versatility, lyrically the format remained uplifting, positive and at times fierce & competitive. In the early ’90’s after the release of “Don’t Sweat The Technique” the duo couldn’t agree with each other on a contract issue with MCA Records & they split.
After a music releasing hiatus which involved him recording demo tracks with other producers, Rakim’s debut solo album “The 18th Letter/The Book Of Life” was released in 1997, followed in 1999 by “The Master”. Both albums had mix of rugged & smooth tracks & even in an increasingly transforming Hip Hop scene musically, Rakim stayed true to his regular format.
Another lengthy hiatus followed in which time Rakim had signed to & left Dr. Dre’s Aftermath record label. Creative differences were cited as the reason for this & the album that they had worked on was never completed. It wasn’t until 2008 that Rakim released another album “The Archive: Live, Lost & Found”. This was a compilation predominantly of older tracks performed live along with 4 previously unreleased tracks.
Then after a 10 year wait, Rakim finally released another studio album “The Seventh Seal” on his own label Ra Records. The Lead single “Holy Are You” had built up much anticipation, but when released, the album was met with mediocre reviews.
Still touring on a regular basis & promising another album, Rakim still remains as respected as ever & this was rewarded with a BET “I Am Hip Hop Icon” award in 2012. The God MC’s legacy it seems will “Flow Forever”.
Let’s remind ourselves of Rakim’s solo albums:
1997: The 18th Letter/The Book Of Life (Universal Records)
1999: The Master (Universal Records)
2009: The Seventh Seal (Ra Records/TVM/SMC Records)