Fun Fun Fun Fest Preview: Rakim
Sun., 6:10pm, Blue stage
2012 Fun Fun Fun Fest performer Saul Williams once rapped, "Not until you've listened to Rakim on a rocky mountaintop have you heard hip-hop." Fifteen years ago, when I saw the NYC MC perform in Fribourg, Switzerland, at the foot of the Jura Mountains, it was a prophecy fulfilled.
"Our eyes have seen the glory, man, no doubt," testifies Rakim from home.
Rakim was old-school even then, having just released his first solo album, The 18th Letter, a comeback after splitting with longtime DJ partner Eric B. and five years out of the game. Now a quarter-century old, Paid In Full and 1988 sophomore LP Follow the Leader changed the rap game and made peers sound silly in comparison. The microphone fiend packs lyrics of fury, with poetic imagery and complex rhyme schemes, all delivered with a gruff tone and effortless flow.
"There was music all around me since I was coming up. Learning to understand jazz and listening to that all the time, I took some of the rhythms from that and from playing instruments at school and incorporated that with my rhyme flow. That brought on me expanding my vocabulary, trying to use words with more syllables so I could implicate the styles I was trying to make rhythm-wise.
"It just happened organically from me loving music and trying new things. I was trying to incorporate everything I knew, and everything I'd seen, and everything I'd heard in my rhyme flow."
Rakim, who prefers not to fly, will be driving to Texas in an R-Class Mercedes Benz he bought the day before our interview. Paid in Full still.