In Part 2 of this lost and found interview with Hip-Hop legend Rakim, the Microphone Fiend delves deeper into his life and times. He courses through the 80s and 90s, cruising into present day. He explains his personal and public life, the streets relationship to rap and even offers his views on the dedication song Nas penned on his life. (For Part 1, of “Rakim: The Lost Interview,” click here)
AllHipHop.com: Back in the day, we used to argue for hours who was the best: you, G Rap or Kane. In the 90s, theyd say Jay-Z, Biggie and Nas and now its a new era. Overall, what are your thoughts on the state of Hip-Hop and who are you feeling?
Rakim: The overall state, I think its aiiiiight. We get a lot of flack for the lyrical content but I think its gonna change, because its been so much talk about the difference between the rap back then and the rap now. I think hearing them say thats a rapper and thats a lyricist, I think the young rappers want to be known as lyricists as well. If its their vocabulary for them saying something political. Right now, a lot of people are doing the negative rap and a lot of them are living it. A lot of them are not and thats unfortunate. The consciousness is needed.
Rakim: As for the second part, I like Papoose, I like Juelz [Santana], I like Lupe Fiasco. Im a fan as well. Thats why I like rap so much, so I like a lot of different artists for what they do. From the G-Unit artists to the Dipset artists a lot of rappers are beefing right now, but I like good music.
“I respect Nas for being an artist of his stature and showing another artist love. I always been a private cat and for somebody to speak on my private s**t before I do…you know…”
Hopefully, everybody keep doing what they doing and in the future we start taking over this rap s**t. And talking over this craft to the point where we in more control.
AllHipHop.com: What were your thoughts on Nas song about you, -Unauthorized Biography of Rakim.
Rakim: [Pauses] Uhm, I had mixed feelings about it, to be honest. But I respect Nas for being an artist of his stature and showing another artist love. I always been a private cat and for somebody to speak on my private s**t before I do…you know. Thats a small thing. There somethings said in there as well that I really did sit with, but overall, I thought it was alright.
AllHipHop.com: Ill be honest. I thought as a song, it was a little lazy and he could have done better with it.
Rakim: Yeah, a lot of people said that as far as the track. It is what it is. Take the ice cream out the cone sometimes and just eat the ice cream.
AllHipHop.com: You didnt know about it ahead of time, though did you?
Rakim: Not at all and right after it popped off, I didnt hear from him either. Thats another thing that added to it that made it kind of you know. I seen him and we kicked it, I dont hold no grudges. I love what he does. Hes another cat that the game needs. The more the kids see a conscious [MC], the more the kids see the choices that they can make.
AllHipHop.com: Speaking of your personal life, how did you feel about when your personal life spread into the media with the baby moms stuff?
Rakim: The whole s**t is it was bogus. Dont tell me I owe this when I owe nothing. It just goes to show ignorance. Like my moms said, This too shall pass. Everything was false. There was no warrant for me. Out of all the good things that happened for me, I cant get mad at it.
AllHipHop.com: I generally feel the next wave of great rappers will come from the previous greats. Do any of your children want to rhyme?
Rakim: Both of my sons like rhyming. I had my oldest son on stage at BB Kings [club in New York] and he spit 16. My kids want to do so much, I just let them be free. Its a thing where you dont want to put the same weight on them that you had on yourself. When it comes from the great ones, imagine the expectations for them when they come out.
AllHipHop.com: Do your kids understand what you meant to so many people? I dont mean music-wise, I mean life-wise.
Rakim: I think they are starting to see it now. They were too young at the time and I think [Hip-Hop] was just maturing. Thought the years, the love still grows. I made the sacrifice to not only do what I do, but to me in their life, seeing all them through school. It wasn’t me being a rapper, seeing them every now and then, hitting them with some paper or taking them to the park. I was here for them. Matter a fact, I coach my sons football team. They know its a good impact that I had on the world.
AllHipHop.com: Now, there have been a couple of instances where people were scratching their heads at some of the things you have done. One was when you did the video for Dont Sweat The Technique with all the scantily clad girls at the mansion. The other was the ad you did with Hennessy.
Rakim: This goes back to what we were speaking on a minute ago. See, Eric B had a different view on what we were doing. That was Eric B, you know, the mansion, the chicks, the casino table. We pushed and shoved so much it was like, Whatever man. If thats what you want to do just know I aint wearing no suit. That was our creative differences. I dont want to blame it on him, because I participated in it.
The Hennessy ad, you got to be a lil realistic with it. This is Hip-Hop. This is the entertainment world that they are presenting us to and people are gonna drink man. They come to the club. It was a thing where they reaching out on a campaign that said Never blend in and the thought was that was making a statement. It aint what you do, its how you do it. Im not gonna front, I sip Hennessy from time to time. Its a fine line and I know that people look at me for the conscious. I did a St. Ides commercial a few years ago too and the same thing happened. But, with this, I feel its an even better situation.
“They were rockin the fly Gucci s**t, nahmeen? [They] used to be rocking diamonds when we were just rocking gold. [They] would come through with the velour and the Fila suits.”
AllHipHop.com: It was classic photography too.
Rakim: For those that feel I let them down, pardon me for that.
AllHipHop.com: What kind of terms are you with Eric B now?
Rakim: Hes not one of the dudes I hollar at now, because I met him on Lets make a record. There was no real concrete deal in the beginning. Hes a good dude and I wish him the best.
AllHipHop.com: Whats the biggest misconception or misunderstanding about you? Theres a lot of mystery around you.
Rakim: Maybe that they think that Im some kind of hermit or something. Like I just said a minute ago. My kids realize how much I sacrifice. When I was on tour, I would fly home every week so I could be home for two days. I think people misjudged that as me not being in love with rap or just not wanting to be around people. I just try to be as normal as possible.
AllHipHop.com: And thats hard to be in the industry.
AllHipHop.com: I remember seeing all the flash and the swagger you dudes had back in the day. The 80s were poppin like no other era. There were dudes like Alpo that seemed to be involved on some level or another. What was it like back then?
Rakim: Well, I didnt really know Alpo, you know. Like the thing was, you would go uptown to the rooftop and Alpo would come through and show you love [and] buy you some champagne. Yo, Ra, you want to ride the bike? I didnt have his number or nothing like that. My peoples were from Brooklyn. The thing was, the players and the ballers back then, they were setting the standards. They were rockin the fly Gucci s**t, nahmeen? Thats what put me on my man from Fort Green. So, on the back of the cover, my man put me on to Dapper Dan (pioneering fashion designer from the 80s). He (friend from Fort Green) used to be rocking diamonds when we were just rocking gold. He would come through with the velour and the Fila suits. Thats who put me on. You didnt hear me talking about Dapper Dan s**t or Gucci s**t. We just did it. We wore it and it made a statement.
Thats one of the hard things now, kinda trying to do what I did hold my guns but its changed to the point where you cant be flamboyant with your jewelry or with the car you drive. Theyve done did it so much to the point where its monotonous now. I sit back and try to find new angles or new ways to touch on situations where it dont sound like its been done for 20 years straight. But Im gonna do what I do though.
Rakim’s now classic photo shoot for Hennessy.