Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer
When discussing the best rappers of all-time, most hip hop fans mention The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, and sometimes Jay-Z. In recent years, the fans of Lil Wayne have been pushing to add him to the discussion. For many reasons, many rappers could be considered one of the best, but Rakim is usually left out of the equation.
Rakim has been in the game since 1986, but most fans do not remember him until 2002. The rapper's most famous rhymes of the 21st century came on Truth Hurts' 2002 song, "Addictive." A number of fans of the song assumed he was a new rapper. But, for those who know their history, they know Rakim has been around for years.
In 1987, Rakim released his debut album with Eric B, as a part of the duo Eric B & Rakim. Eric B was the producer and Rakim was the lyricist. While LL Cool J was riding the top of the charts and winning the hearts of girls all over the world, Rakim was putting together some of the wittiest lyrics of all-time. His first album, Paid in Full, was a critical success, but it was not very popular with fans. Even with the strong lyrical content, the album did not sell like records from Run-DMC and the superstar, LL Cool J.
During the 1990s, gangsta rap took over the air-waves. Hip hop was more interested in hearing NWA and social rapper, Tupac Shakur, at this time. Rakim disappeared during the 1990s, as The Notorious B.I.G. emerged and brought New York hip hop back to its prominence. Also, Tupac Shakur signed with Death Row and emerged as the toughest gangsta rapper of them all. Not only was Tupac the most-popular rapper in the game, he was also critically-acclaimed. Each of his albums were met with positive reviews, despite his switch from social rap to gangsta rap.
Unlike Biggie, who often rapped Mafioso stories, Rakim was able to change his style up and still make people think if they actually took the time to listen. Rakim was not a gangsta rapper by any means, but he did rap what he felt at the time. There are not many rappers who are as versatile as Rakim. LL Cool J is credited for reinventing himself several times in order to still be appealing. Rakim has been able to switch his flow, but still be the same style of rapper. Despite most fans forgetting about Rakim, most rappers do credit him as their inspiration.
When 50 Cent signed to Interscope Records, in 2002, he was immediately compared to Tupac Shakur, but he denied the similarities. Even in some of his lyrics, he quoted the late legend, but when he was asked who his favorite rapper was, 50 Cent said Rakim was who really made him love rap music. Many other rappers, who are considered legends by today's standards have hailed Rakim as one of their favorite rappers. But, fans do not know much about him because he never had much mainstream success. In 2009, he was in the news after he finally released The Seventh Seal.