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Rakim (pronounced rah-KIM) (Born William Michael Griffin Jr. on January 28, 1968 in Queens, New York)[1] is an American rapper and pioneer of the musical genre of hip hop. He is consistently cited as one of the most influential and skilled MCs of all time due to his exceptional flow and complex lyrical craftsmanship.

Early life

Griffin is the nephew of American R&B singer and actress Ruth Brown. He grew up in Wyandanch, New York, and became involved in the New York hip hop scene at a young age. Eric B brought him to Marley Marl’s house to record “Eric B. is President.” At the time Griffin was fresh out of high school and on his way to college, but he decided to forgo higher education and instead chose to record with Eric B.[1].

When Griffin turned 16, he joined The Nation of Gods and Earths (also known as the 5 Percent Nation) and changed his name to Rakim Allah.[5]

[edit]With Eric B.

Main article Eric B. & Rakim

In 1986, Rakim started to work with New York-based producer-DJ Eric B. The duo — known as Eric B & Rakim — is widely regarded as among the most influential and groundbreaking of hip-hop groups. The duo’s first single, “Eric B. Is President” (#48, 1986) b/w “My Melody,” was a success and got the duo a contract with the fledgling Island Records sub-label 4th & B’way. The duo’s next single, the smash “I Know You Got Soul,” sparked early debate on the legality of unauthorized, uncredited sampling when James Brown sued to prevent the duo’s use of a fragment of his music. Their first full length album, Paid in Full, was released in 1987, and has since been hailed as one of hip-hop’s seminal albums.[1] Their follow-up LP; Follow the Leader was released a year later, and was also well received by fans and critics. The duo recorded two more albums; Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em and Don’t Sweat The Technique before they parted ways in late 1992. Due to legal wrangling over royalties and his contracts with both his record label, and with Eric B., Rakim would not release a solo album until five years later.

Solo career

After splitting with Eric B., Rakim signed with his good friend at the time DeShamus “Q=BOB” Sallis of Q=BOB Records to commence his solo career, however, the label folded shortly afterward. He eventually returned in 1997 with The 18th Letter, which included collaborations with DJ Premier and Pete Rock; which was released in two versions, one of which included an Eric B. & Rakim greatest hits disc titled The Book of Life. The critical reception of the album was positive, and it was certified gold. In 1999, Rakim released The Master, which received very good reviews as well.[1]

Rakim was signed to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment record label in 2000,[6] for work on an album tentatively titled Oh, My God. The album underwent numerous changes in artistic direction and personnel and was delayed several times. While working on the album, Rakim made guest appearances on numerous Aftermath projects, including the hit single “Addictive” by Truth Hurts, the Dr. Dre-produced “The Watcher Part 2” by Jay-Z, and Eminem’s 8 Mile soundtrack. However, Rakim left the label in 2003 and Oh, My God was indefinitely shelved, a result of creative differences with Dre.[7] Rakim signed with DreamWorks Records shortly afterward, but the label closed its doors shortly after that.

Rakim performing in North Carolina

Rakim also made cameos in the Juelz Santana video “Mic Check,” the Timbaland & Magoo video “Cop that Disc,” and the Busta Rhymes video “New York Shit.” Eric B. and Rakim’s classic album Paid In Full was named the greatest hip-hop album of all time by MTV. Rakim was engaged in a lawsuit with reggaeton performer R.K.M (formerly Rakim) over the use of the name “Rakim”. Rakim won the rights to the name. Recently, Rakim was featured in an All-Pro Football 2K8 commercial.

The Seventh Seal, Rakim’s long-anticipaited album, was released November 17 2009. The first single off the album, Holy Are You, was released through his MySpace page on July 14, 2009 and was made available on iTunes July 28. A second track “Walk These Streets” ft. Maino was released in October. Rakim has been active during its recording with several national tours and special events. Rakim recently closed the Knitting Factory in NYC as the last Hip-Hop performer to walk off the historic club’s stage after 25 years of underground performances.


Allmusic says, “Rakim is near-universally acknowledged as one of the greatest MCs – perhaps the greatest – of all time within the hip-hop community”[1], and “his innovations were worshipfully absorbed and expanded upon by countless MCs who followed”[1].

In his book, There’s A God On The Mic, Kool Moe Dee describes Rakim as “the greatest rapper of all time”[8] and places him at #2 on his list (behind Melle Mel, who he considers to be the best ‘emcee’ rather than ‘rapper’). He adds that, “Rakim is the most studied rapper ever”[8] and that Rakim changed the way rappers ‘flowed’ on a track – “any emcee that came after 1986 had to study Rakim just to know what to be able to do”[8].

MTV placed him at #4 on their list of ‘The Greatest MCs Of All Time’[3]. They say he helped, “to usher in the wave of lethal MCs like Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap, who would go on to become icons… his wordplay remains a hip-hop measuring stick”[3] and 50 Cent says, “to me, him and KRS-One were the best rappers”[3].

In the book How to Rap, several MCs explain how Rakim created “the big shift toward more complex rhyme schemes and flows”[9]: Planet Asia says, “[with] Rakim, you’re talking about the next level… the literal shift… no more simple rap”[10], and Masta Ace says, “I remember when Rakim came out—that was like a big moment. . . . Only guys that’s really around my age that was rapping would remember how important that was”[11].

Many hip-hop artists (both underground and mainstream) acknowledge a huge debt to Rakim’s innovative style – artists who have cited him as an influence include Nas, Eminem[12], Havoc of Mobb Deep[13], Rock of Heltah Skeltah[14], MC Serch[15], Brother Ali[16], One Be Lo[17], Rah Digga[18], and Tajai of Souls of Mischief[19].

[edit]Rhyme technique

Rakim is credited for the jazzy, heavily stylistic delivery of his lyrics[1]. In an interview on, Rakim noted his musical background, being skilled in alto to baritone saxophone, as giving him an advantage in flow and syncopation over his contemporaries.[20]

Rakim is also noted as being the MC who introduced a lot of internal rhymes to rapping, as well as complex literary devices[1]. Masta Ace, in the book How to Rap notes: “Up until Rakim, everybody who you heard rhyme, the last word in the sentence was the rhyming [word], the connection word. Then Rakim showed us that you could put rhymes within a rhyme”[21]. Myka 9 of Freestyle Fellowship explains that Rakim used braggadocio content in a “very, very technical”[22] way, “talking about physics and metaphysics”[23]. Tajai of Souls of Mischief also says with Rakim, “you can’t listen to [his] rap once and figure out what [he’s] saying”[24]. Rakim was “among the first to demonstrate the possibilities of sitting down and writing intricately crafted lyrics packed with clever word choices and metaphors”[1].

[edit]Musical tributes

Lists of miscellaneous information should be avoided. Please relocate any relevant information into appropriate sections or articles. (June 2009)

Tupac Shakur pays homage to Rakim in the song “Old School” off the album “Me Against the World”

Raekwon of Wu-Tang Clan dedicated a tribute to Rakim titled “Rakim Tribute,” which was released on DaVinci Code: The Vatican Mixtape Vol. II in 2006.

50 Cent makes a reference to Rakim on his hugely successful collaborative effort “Hate It or Love It” with The Game. “Daddy ain’t around, probably out committing felonies/my favorite rapper used to sing Ch-Check out my melody,” referencing Eric B & Rakim’s hit “My Melody”.

Shock-G paid homage to Rakim by playfully reciting lines from the Eric-B & Rakim song “I Know You Got Soul” in the Digital Underground song Doowutchyalike: “since ya came here ya gotta show & prove, and do that dance until it don’t move..”

Saul Williams mentions Rakim in the song “Twice The First Time”, stating: “not until you’ve listened to Rakim on a rocky mountain top have you heard hip hop” and also in the song “Penny For A Thought” where he says “Someone like Rakim said – ‘I could quote any MC, but why should I? how would it benefit me?'”

Kurupt references Rakim on Snoop Dogg’s debut album, Doggystyle. On “For All My Niggaz and Bitches,” Kurupt says, “Who’s jokin’? Rakim never joked, so why should I, loc? now that’s my idol….”

Ghostface Killah references Rakim in the end of “Paisely Darts,” by saying that he is better than every artist except for Rakim, referring to him as “the older god”. On his album More Fish, the first track, “Ghost is Back”, makes use of the beat from “Juice (Know the Ledge)”. He also raps some lines from “Move the Crowd” in “Ghost Deini.”

Eminem has also paid tribute to Rakim’s style as an inspiration and references lines from “My Melody”” in his song “I’m Back”. The hook in Eminem’s song “The Way I Am” is a homage to the line “I’m the R, the A, to the KIM. If I wasn’t then why would I say I am?” from Eric B and Rakim’s “As the Rhyme Goes On”. Nas made a similar reference in Got Ur Self A…: “I’m the N the A to the S-I-R / and If I wasn’t I must’ve been Escobar”. I-Kompleate has also does the same in his song “Rhymes” on the hook: “I’m not I-K-O to the N-I-C, cos if I was I wouldn’t be I-Kompleate”.[25] Masta Ace uses this in the song by Bekay “Brooklyn Bridge”: “I’m from the B-R double O-K L-Y-N, if I wasn’t then why would I yell I am”[26]

I-Kompleate pays tribute and references Rakim in many of his songs including “Rhymes”, “Dominate (The Microphone)”, “I’m Ready” and “Represent”. “My favourite emcee keeps it real like its mean’t to be, he and Eric B did Check Out My Melody”

Jay-Z paid tribute to Rakim in his 2007 hit “Blue Magic,” where he states: “Eighty-seven state of mind that I’m in/I’m in my prime so for that time I’m Rakim.” Jay also recalls Rakim’s line “So easily will I E-M-C-E-E” with “So easily do I W-H-I-P.”

Killah Priest references Rakim in many of his songs. He states: “I remind you of Rakim but I’m not him.”

British rapper Scroobius Pip mentions Rakim in his song “Fixed” from the album Angles, as an example of hip hop as art, in the lines “Take it back to the start/Like KRS and Rakim use passion and heart”.

Nas’ Street’s Disciple album has a track titled “U.B.R. (Unauthorized Biography of Rakim)” where he tells a short version of Rakim’s musical career and life.

The Game directly refers to Rakim in the first line of the third verse of “Da Shit” by saying, “I’m the West Coast Rakim, got niggaz blocked in.” He also mentions Rakim in his song “Angel” on LAX: “So I start hip-hop and I understand why Common used to love her. She got me open so I even had to fuck her. But I used the rubber, cause she was married to Rakim”.

Apathy pays homage to Rakim in his song “Hip Hop is Dead” on Baptism by Fire. Apathy raps, “Remember that video ‘I Ain’t No Joke’, Rakim had a chain that’ll break your neck, I’m trying to get paid in full and get that check.”

Rapper R.A. The Rugged Man references Rakim in his song “On The Block” referring to the golden age, “that’s when Rakim ran shit.”

Rage Against the Machine covered the song “Microphone Fiend” as the opening song on their final album, Renegades, in 2000.

Canibus pays homage to Rakim on his 1000-bar song “Poet Laureate Infinity”, most notably with the bars “I been toe to toe with the best, I ‘Know the Ledge’” and “As odd as it may seem, the Microphone Fiend, Is God of the Hip Hop regime”

Songs like Lloyd’s “Girls Around the World” and Snoop Dogg’s “Paper’d Up” sample the beat of Eric B. and Rakim’s “Paid in Full” with both Lil Wayne and Snoop Dogg putting their own twist on the Rakim’s verse.

Brother Ali calls Rakim his hero in his song “As Real As Can Be”. He also references the line “I came in the door/said it before” from “Eric B is President” in his song “Whatcha Got” where he raps “I came in the door/1984”.

Drunken Tiger (South Korean hip-hop artist) features Rakim on the track “Monster” off of his 2009 album, “Feel gHood Muzik: The 8th Wonder”.

Jay-Z references Rakim in his song “Run This Town” rapping, “Please follow the leader/So Eric B. we are/Microphone fiend/It’s the return of the god/Peace god…”

Jin references Rakim in his song “It’s All Over” from “The Emcee’s Properganda” album with the line “ya’ll needa follow the leader like Rakim gave the orders”

Nas paid tribute in his song The World Is Yours by saying “The fiend of hip-hop has got me stuck like a crack pipe”

Scott Van Pelt recently said on his radio show that ‘…because I’m Paid in Full like Rakim’

Saigon mentions Rakim in his song ‘Hip-Hop’ stating “We crown Rakim the king, cos he was calling the gods of earth that came with bling bling”

Jedi Mind Tricks paid tribute to Rakim by sampling two of his lines from Heat It Up in their song Saviorself, “Elements burst and gave birth to the first/Get the pen from the nurse and hook the mic up first”