Rakim Told Me (Book)

Artist: Brian ColemanTitle: Rakim Told Me (Book)Rating: 4 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Paine

When an artist today reflects on one of their songs with, “it is what it is,” it leads to something bitter-tasting in the mouth of every purebred Hip-Hop listener. After all, many of us would kill for the chance to ask Biz Markie about the inspiration for “The Vapors.” Veteran Hip-Hop journalist Brian Coleman has begun a series that allows artists to reflect individually on their albums in-depth, providing fans with cumulative liner notes some classic Hip-Hop albums. Rakim Told Me (Wax Facts) tackles a dozen or so Golden Age nuggets in and around 1988. The reading is as intriguing as it is necessary to Hip-Hop preservation.

Brian Coleman’s best attribute is his silence. Though he writes outstanding prose, such as signifying the psychedelic cleverness of Ultramagnetic MC’s Critical Beatdown, he spends most of the book letting artists do the talking. Some are short on details, much to the chagrin of the reader. DMC and Slick Rick don’t go nearly into as much depth as KRS-One or Ice-T. Still, it’s interesting to see what anybody has to say. Little known facts such as Schooly D’s DJ having stage-fright or Dana Dane penning chunks of “Nightmares” in 1980, these are the jewels of the read. Before each session, Coleman captures the significance of each artist, each album, and sometimes each song.

Rakim Told Me looks back and does its research. While every reader may have opinions on what should have been included [In Full Gear and The Geto Boys], Coleman does include easily overlooked West classics like Life Is… Too Short and Nobody Does it Better (DOC), as well as the genre-forgotten, Mantronix’ The Album. For groups, there is great chemistry. Erick Sermon and PMD play off of each other as they have in music in looking back at Strictly Business. Dave and Pos are joined by Tom “Tommy Boy” Silverman in revisiting Three Feet High & Rising for a discussion on the music and the business involved. Absences like Prince Paul, Eric B., and Run are tolerable, but hurt the read, in simple curiosity. Nobody slings mud – too much, anyway. Some artists, such as KRS’ description of Scott La Rock, are so powerful, that they seem there. Rakim shows Eric B. nuff respect too. Like TV’s The Wonder Years, everything is peace in retrospect.

For those who love Hip-Hop music history, this book will sit comfortably next to Ego Trip’s Book of Rap Lists on your coffee tables – that essential. It’s a fun, easy read, that’s worth coming back to. Brian Coleman is innovative in concept, and quiet with the pen. His love and passion still manage to seep out of every page, every album. This is the Hip-Hop book of 2005, and a staple in this writer’s holiday shopping bag.