Rakim, BB King Blues Bar, New York (by Sam Frank, The Oceanboom)
Manhattan is a city always under construction. Throughout the past few decades buildings in New York City have either been torn down to make way for new ones or renovated from the inside out to give off a more modern appearance. This course of action takes place because people liken the idea of €œnew € to fresh, whereas, €œold € is considered obsolete. Rather than maintaining buildings for their cultural heritage people ignore the history in order to make way for the future.
That negative image of €œold € or €œoutdated € also exists in the world of hip hop which is why Shawn Carter (a.k.a. Jay-Z), 37, claims €œ30 is the new 20, € on his new album Kingdom Come. Jay-Z is doing everything in his power to stay on top despite the fact that he has aged since his classic album Reasonable Doubt dropped a decade ago. Normally, when hip hop artists reach a certain age, usually around their mid 30s, fans start to label them as €œold school, € a term often implying that hip hop has evolved while these artists have not. But on Thanksgiving weekend at B.B.King Blues Bar in New York, Rakim, rap pioneer and one half of the dynamic duo Eric B. & Rakim, educated all the non-believers in attendance as the microphone fiend sprayed the wall to wall crowd with his lyrics of fury.
Rakim, born William Michael Griffin, first found success at the age of 18 with Eric Barrier (Eric B.) on the hit record €œEric B. Is President, € off their full length debut, Paid In Full. After three huge innovative albums with Eric B., Rakim began a solo career and released two albums in the late 90s, The 18th Letter (1997) and The Master (1999). Although The 18th Letter received acclaim from critics The Master was considered a step backwards for the lyrical prophet. With success in the mid 80s and no new albums this century it appeared that Rakim had faded with the times; thus, falling into the €œold school € category like so many before him. All that labeling became irrelevant, though, as Rakim got the party started when he took the stage and opened the show with €œIt €™s Been A Long Time € off The 18th Letter. With his name spelled out in graffiti behind him Rakim proceeded to kick knowledge with well-known tracks like €œDon €™t Sweat The Technique € and €œYou Know I Got Soul € as he ran from one side of the stage to the other, feeding off the crowd €™s energy.
As Rakim continued his lip service the multi-generational audience attempted to sing along with his free-flowing lyrical tirade. Some people were able to keep up with the €œR, € but most got tongue tied as the word velocity increased. With DJ Technic on the cuts to replace Kid Capri, Rakim €™s lyrical prowess was put to the test as he continuously jumped from song to song, sounding as if his live vocals were being scratched on the wheels of steel. Things did slow down towards the middle of the show when a crew member from backstage brought out a chair and a new pair of sneakers for Rakim to change into.
With the chair on stage and the mic in hand words of wisdom began flowing from B.B. King €™s enormous speakers. During the next few songs Rakim opened up to the audience as he discussed the passing of his mother last year, and his aunt, the week prior to the show, whom he described as the two most important females in his life. €œIt €™s not where you €™re from, but where you at, € Rakim preached before bringing back that old New York rap with €œIn The Ghetto € off 1990 €™s Let The Rhythm Hit €™em.
Rakim finished the show up with €œMahogony € for the ladies, €œJuice (Know The Ledge) € for the fellas, and €œEric B. Is President € for everyone in between. After witnessing Rakim mesmerize the crowd for more than an hour it became apparent that he is on the path less traveled by most rappers of his time; a path where compromising one €™s skill in order to compete with higher selling, yet less talented artists is out of the question. Rather than ignore hip hop €™s history, today €™s youth should take the time to appreciate these living legends because they paved the way for artists like Jay-Z to achieve stardom. Some people thought that hip hop was just a trend and wouldn €™t last more than five years, but now hip hop is at a point where a father can teach his son about it. This is why people should preserve history instead of just focusing on the future. Just think about how disappointing it would be if New York City decided to tear down Grand Central station because it looked too €œold school € for the modern age.