"It's been a long time/ I shouldn't have left you/
Without a strong rhyme to step to/
Think of how many weak shows/ You slept through
Time's up/ I'm sorry I kept you..."
- Rakim - "I Know You Got Soul" (Eric B & Rakim's Paid In Full, 1987)
There are MCs. And then there is The R. The 18th Letter. The god MC. Rakim.
It has been a long time, and yes, we are sorry you kept us, Rakim, but you're back. And it's mighty good to see you.
At this past weekend's Roots Picnic in Philadelphia, those brave enough to wait out the passing of a mid-evening thunderstorm on Sunday didn't wait in vain. In fact, it may have been worth the risk of being struck by lightning to catch a set featuring The Roots' Black Thought onstage rhyming verse for verse, bar for bar, with Rakim.
The elusive rapper from New York ran through a long medley of his classics - "Paid In Full" (that song/album is 25 years old!), "I Ain't No Joke", "Microphone Fiend", "Know The Ledge", and on and on, in front of a crowd where many a Hip-Hop head was reciting the lyrics word for word. Rakim even kept his cool through an uncooperative sound system that gave out a few times after the rain downpour from a while before.
The R has always symbolized lyricism, professionalism, and humility - everywhere except on the mic, that is. And in this era of making comebacks for the legends of Hip-Hop, Rakim's timeless sound and verbal dexterity could teach these youngins a thing or two soon enough. He's set to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Paid In Full album later this year, and daggone if he doesn't look a year older than his Golden Era days.
AllHipHop.com was ecstatic to see Rakim perform over the dope liveness of The Roots, and then we were even more ecstatic to catch up with him backstage right after his set and find out what he's up to these days. Check the video below:
There's more to come from The Roots Picnic Recap. Check back tomorrow for our chat backstage with a zany, young riser from Detroit whose name is NOT Big Sean!