RAKIM 2009: More Goat, Less G.O.A.T.


Rakim is the father to the styles of NaS, Jay, Black Thought, Ice Cube, Raekwon, Prodigy, B.I.G. and Big Pun. And subsequently any other latter and lesser emcee that considers themselves to be lyrically impressive. But the truth is that Rakim’s work over the last ten years doesn’t have the impact to the culture of Hip-Hop that his first ten years tattoed on rap music. Sadly, it’s actually not admissible.

Did Rakim fall off? No. The peloton caught up to him. The wake of the lane that Rakim created allowed rappers with more charisma(B.I.G., Big Pun) and greater stamina(NaS, Jay-Z) to draft this sentient artist back to the Earth. Their metaphors and similes increased our sensations and aided Hip-Hop in transforming the globe, but it was Rakim who gave them the spark of ghetto gangster poetry.

I’m not going to tell you to open up the new Rakim album ‘The 7th Seal’ because you might feel let down that there aren’t any new classics on the disk. Can we fault Rakim for setting the bar as high as he did? Nope. The legacy of music we have from him still rates the consideration for his GOAT status. Is it selfish and unfair to want artists to remain in that box that we first encountered them?

‘Holy Are You’ *(best of the new)

‘I Ain’t No Joke’

‘Follow The Leader’

‘Juice (Know The Ledge)’

‘Microphone Fiend’ *(possibly the greatest rap song of all time)

39 Responses to “RAKIM 2009: More Goat, Less G.O.A.T.”

  1. Ernie (The Truth) Paniccioli says:

    Dallas, I dare anyone to listen to “The Mystery” on “The 18th Letter” CD and not be moved and I dare any of these sagging pants, suspect (II) current rappers to even try match that song for flow, power, originality or content. Ernie

  2. DING!

    I’ve had a few arguments with younger heads who get all hyped for their “real hip-hop” versus _______, blank being whatever isn’t boom-bap street lyricism or Jay-Z, who regularly gets a pop pass and, hate it or love, I guess he deserves it.

    I do want to respectfully differ and suggest Rakim fell WAAAAAAAY the fuck off soon as Eric B. took his gold ropes and did whatever the fuck an Eric B. does. (I know, I know: rumor is he didn’t do shit but clearly he was essential.

    Also, nobody of Rakim’s stature in hip-hop has done so little of worth since their peak; this is as notable to me as, say, the decline of jazz piano genius Bud Powell (mental illness) or the stasis of Thelonious Monk (who nonetheless maintained a remarkable plateau of not-new-but-still-greatness).

    I don’t want to air a man’s burdens in public, especially since Rakim has chosen to remain an enigma but there’s a serious DISCONNECTEDNESS to the man that’s just puzzling. Rarely, if ever, have I heard of anyone ** impressed ** by Ra live either, as opposed to, ya’ll know, glad to see him. Compare this to what KRS-One or Chuck D still bring.

    I’m certainly not “upset” with Ra because what he gave was tremendous but I do wish he’d been able to keep on like pop/rock/r&b artists who, if they never can match that first flush of genius, do lots of OTHER things, and are wise enough to choose good collaborators, like Dylan, Neil Young, GEORGE CLINTON, Gil-Scott, even with his struggles, Nick Cave, hell etc. (This category is for dudes for whom words are primary; James Brown, Stevie, Prince who create entire musical worlds is different.)

    SO… tho’ this is longer than DP”s post, I wonder what happened? It’s like he lost that love of language and synthetic/syncretic thought–

    Actually, I know who Ra reminds me of now: Sly Stone, not implying what they have the same issues by post-Eric B. Rakim is like a slow motion play of post- “Fresh” Sly, without the GENIUS blasting through as it sometimes still did with Sly. (Any of ya’ll ever see Sly and Muhammad Ali on Mike Douglas show?)


    The other great Golden Age Fall Off is Kool G. Rap, who if he had gotten hit by a bus on Roosevelt Ave after “Live And Let Die”… It’s not too hard to guess what’s the matter there for a guy who seemed a complete mc to turn into a caricature of already wackass movie gangsters… Alas.

  3. 40 says:

    I’m gonna cop Ra’s album. I haven’t gotten Rakim or Whale’s album. I also think that now we have generations of hip-hop artists now, comparing these two album releases is like comparing Peabo Bryson & Chris Brown, the same genre but different in many other ways. Ra/Peabo do what they’ve been doing for the last three decades which doesn’t seem as exciting as the new kid Wale/CB, but none less virtuous…

  4. VEe! says:

    WWIB, you are dead on when it comes to Rakim live versus KRS-1, Kane or Chuck D live. Rakim is definitely dope but his career stands strong on the foundation of nostalgia more than anything else.
    Ditto on Kool G. Rap.

    Hip Hop is definitely a genre where it is difficult to remain creatively relevant, greatness or just longevity past your most popular years. LL Cool J was able to sustain that for a number of year amidst his personal woes and label difficulties. Chuck D (PE) still tours and rock big venues with new songs, although they’re not so fresh on the minds of American popular culture which isn’t really nothing . . . soon a revered artist like Lil Wayne maybe treated like Isaac Hayes was after the height of his popularity. Other artist like Jay-Z, Nas and Snoop find way to remain in the loop but Rakim’s overall career . . . I don’t know.

  5. Jazz One says:

    The Seventh Seal is the Phantom Menace. Nothing could ever meet the expectations. I checked it out. I haven’t had a chance to really explore it. In an age where flow trumps lyrics, Rakim is lyrics over flow. That is not to say Ra doesn’t have flow.
    To the guy that posted about Rakim’s live, I would disagree. I love me some hip hop but until recently I could only name a dozen acts who can pull it off live. Since live shows and licensing is the only ways to make money in this business now, some of the new cats have stepped up the live game. Bobby Ray is a beast live. One thing I have seen is an artist get in front of a crowd losing it’s collective mind and the artist feeding off that. Then what was a laid back flow in the studio becomes lyrics barked. Rakim keeps it cool on stage. I have seen him every time he comes through Austin.

  6. Lion XL says:

    Problem was at his peak the labels started grasping for new acts and artists like Rakim And G-Rap go pushed to the service road, while the cavalcade of new, harder rappers got the main lane.

    Five years had passed between “Dont Sweat the technique’ and ’18th Letter’, long enough for fans to have moved on. Funny thing is, between him and G-Rap, they were the hardest of the hard coming from NY, and they both lost to west coast ‘ GANGSTA’ rap.

  7. the_dallas says:

    If you think your comments are long you should see the HTML coding for this drop. I and others appreciate your comments. Let them be as long as you have time and will to make them.

    I’ve seen Rakim and KRS-1 perform now for over twenty years. Neither of their stage personas have changed. KRS is still hype to express himself and Rakim is still a smooth rhyme gangster. Performance is personal style and attracts people that can relate. Seeing Rakim at Latin Quarters in 1987 you can best believe that heads were in awe of the way he presented himself. Rappers that had any rhymes during that time had to jump and flail about. Rakim stood in one place and gripped that mic like he was choking that shit. Fools were getting knocked the fux out that night on the Deuce and in the Quarters. Best show evar for me. Easily top 5 DOA

  8. Phlip says:

    I can fully agree with this, a couple of days after listening to and reviewing Rakim’s album for my own blog to a big round fatass disappointment.
    I can concede to his place int he conversation of the greatest, but ONLY when we stop and look at his influence on those that came after him, as was mentioned in this drop.
    If I ATTEMPT to do it on the merit of his product, I am forced to look at his last 10 years of work and things go south FAST.
    I mentioned that he had created WAY to high a bar for himself simply on the merits of being who he is on my drop about the album, and it seems that some are in agreement with me.
    Good drop, DP.

  9. El Gringo Colombiano says:

    Ra’s 1997 & 1999 albums are good, don’t believe the hype/hate from above commenters. Some ill Primo tracks there. Ra is still rapping great there. I say this as a guy that deletes over 60% of albums I listen to after 1st listen. Ra is 6/6 for me in good, non-deletable albums. for me, that’s a very rare consitency record. Nas, for example, is like 3/9 (only Illmatic, Stillmatic, & HHID are worth keeping – the infamous Nas’ wack beat selection disease at work)

    Have not checked the new Ra yet.

  10. El Gringo Colombiano says:

    btw I recently realized Common is like the anti-Nas in beat selection. Common picked some great beats on his albums. Only the 1992 & 2008 albums are meh, the rest are good+

  11. spotrusherz says:

    i just wanted to chime in as always do when g rap gets mentioned in a non flattering way that

    1. he is the true GOAT everyone owes his flow to
    2. he never released a wack album
    3. i’m not a g rap stan, i don’t even listen to him all that much
    4. he’s the most consistent artist in rap. i don’t know why people – especially on the internet – always need to follow the flock or, as an alternative, be contrarian about things that are not worth being contrarian about. tell me what g rap albums exactly you think were wack and which songs on them sucked and put them up against any nas, jay-z or scarface album except their respective classics.
    5. did i mention g rap is the goat? where the fuck is robbie on this one?

  12. quimby says:

    I didn’t like the 99 album with the exception of the Primo joints & another track or two.

    I recently saw Rakim perform for Funkmaster Flex’s birthday party. Did all his classics. He was done with his set but Flex told him you know what song you got to do, right? Finished with this joint, peep the flow & lyrics on the right side:

  13. Phlip says:

    I will agree that Ra’s 1997 album was good.
    Just good though, not great.

    1999’s The Master, on the other hand was not. Rakim is better than that, and the simple presence of Premier on the album will not save a bad, or mediocre-at-best album. Rakim should be better than that, based upon the standard we hold him to.

  14. VEe! says:

    I deleted the Master, that was an abortion.
    I usually try to give a project a solid 3 listens.

    His extended verse (flow and lyrics) on Truth Hurts-Addicted (remix) was 10x better than the entire Master.

  15. dmitry aka brooklyn jew says:

    dis goes to da comments posted by El Gringo Colombiano
    WTF? u would give nas 3/9 r u kidding me. i dont know, how bout it was written, god son, and his last one untitled u have to really listen to, but nas i believe is da best artist he keeps redefining himself every album hes not afraid to try something new. Rakim i love, but his new album wasnt good. Dat was due to shortage of budget so he couldnt get all da good producers on the seventh seal and plus he had some corny featuring artists except his daughter Destiny who did one of da chorus’ . Oh and not all of kool g raps shit is good either mostly his solo shit isnt good, but all his shit wit dj polo is tough. So i think it goes Nas>Jay-z>rakim>kool g. Rap>krs-one

  16. dmitry aka brooklyn jew says:

    P.S. I am…. was sick wit it too, streets disciple had more fillers den good quality music ,nastradamus wasnt good. and lost tapes was awesome and i do consider dat an album, so dats 8/10. Nas has da best discography by any Master of Ceremonies. YEA I SAID IT!!!

  17. dmitry aka brooklyn jew says:

    well in my opinion any way. LOL

  18. Tony Grands says:

    I’m going to have to check Ra for myself, but I’m a realist. Anticipation is usually the precursor for disappointment.

    I will say that the temperment of hip hop lyricism has increased over the last years, unless we’re talking about the usual suspects that lack any credible skills. I agree, if Ra had’ve parished after ‘DSTT’, he would be the greatest rapper ever. He had the luxury of time, & eventually things change because nothing stays the same.

    But, I’ll give it an honest once over, I’m just not expecting anything fanciful or amazing. For what it’s worth, he’ll always be Rakim, no matter what. Jordan is still Jordan, feel me?

  19. wax says:

    I would put forth my own personal theory that its beat selection that holds back Rakim more than anything else.

    the person who mentions addicted is on point – its fire – but because the beat is fire, so Rakim was inspired to flow. lackluster beats make for lackluster performance

  20. Mark Dub says:

    I’m with Tony Grands; I WILL BE checking The Seventh Seal b/c it is Ra. I LOVE the Holy Are You joint, and I am certain that I’ve purchased much worse music than ANYTHING that Ra could have produced. I’ll prolly review it on my page when I do.

  21. I just got back from J&R where I copped “BISD” for… $5.50 (chea!) but they had the Rakim on so I heard almost all of it.

    With due respect to all, fuck beat selection, pro or con (tho’ this was solidly meh, neither enjoyable nor hideous) BUT…

    I’m talking word choice, rhythm, subject matter, the sound of surprise: it’s just not there and a “god” legend ought not REMIND anyone of that, it should be recognized, or not. I know humility is anti-hip-hop in a way but self-criticism should not be and IN NO WAY has Rakim matured or expanded his art since Eric B.: ZERO.

    Compare that to our favorite writers, artists, musicians, philosophers, architects, etc.

    Not saying ya’ll shouldn’t support the dude for what he did– and DP, I can def. appreciate early Rakim as essence of cool, almost Miles-like maybe and holding back when people expected MCs to BLAOW– but the way I heard it, there’s very little happening here, on any level, making it not even half as interesting as, say, the last U-God album which is great, weird and ridiculous– sometimes all at once!

  22. jredmond says:

    i know this is a rakim post but that Nas 3/9 comment was like WTF?!!? I disagree in that HHID was trash, but come on, 3 out of 9? Gods Son was dope. Street disciple had a album worth of bangers on a double disc, and if you listen to Nastradamus today, it really wouldnt sound as bad as history appears to make it and that Nigger shit is dope as fuck too, it’s just really hard to wrap your head around the concepts covered for a whole album.

    Nas’s best album in my view is It Was Written. Illmatic was perfectly executed, but my heart is with this album.

  23. the_dallas says:

    I love blogs because people will use that shit to talk about whatever they want. Shouts to Nah’Rizko.

    I’m not using this drop to discuss NaS discography legitinmacy. EGC is my homey but he don’t know shit about a NaS.

    This drop is about Rakim’s legacy and how his catalog sans Eric B’s stewardship has been less than stellar. He still has songs and I apologize for not divSharing that Truth Hurts ‘Addiction’ because that is one of Dre’s best post-Chronic grooves.

    Do I need to spin the ‘7th Seal’ again? Maybe. Will I? Fux a will I am.

  24. Tiffany says:

    I’m gonna get Rakim’s album. He’s the greatest in my opinion. I’ll buy it on sheer love of this man’s work over the years and an attempt to put out something with some lyrical substance. The culture of hip hop within the last 10-15 years has been a total caseload of BS for me. With the exception of Nas, BT, and Common, I hadn’t found much of a mental stimulus in it which saddened me (maybe, I’m just getting older).

    I agree with Tony, Rakim will always be Rakim and this is the way I feel about BOTH MJ’s :-). When the older hits come on the radio or at a party from time to time, I still see peole going crazy. I’m a fan. In case this is his last project, I want it in my collection.

  25. dmitry aka brokklyn jew says:

    Dallas i feel u man. Im just a die hard Nas fan. I know people got der opinions but I just dont like people dissin on Nas and i like to argue wit dem about da topic. But for real RA’s album did disappoint me. But wat can i say everybody has der great moments and der bad moments, I still consider him a God MC no doubt and give him alot of respect.

  26. DANJ! says:

    Gotta agree that Rakim didn’t really fall off moreso than others catching up with him. It’s exactly how I felt when he dropped that album in ’97. He had some shining moments on there for sure, but it just seemed like it wasn’t the game-changing Rakim that was shuttin’ shit down in his prime. And it wasn’t so much that he wasn’t good anymore, he just hadn’t made any significant strides in those five years since he’d been away. Meanwhile, a whole new era had happened in his absence. I won’t even talk about the ’99 album, which was just plain bad.

    Now with this new one, again, it’s the reliable Rakim that probably woulda been incredible 20 years ago. But nothing about the new shit says “this is one of, if not the greatest of all time”. It says “he used to be the shit”. Just like all of KRS’ post-’95 albums, just like Kool G’s post ’95 albums, just like LL’s post-’95 albums. Not a knock on Ra at all, just a fact that the game passed him by a minute ago. Sure, he’s still better than some of these window-licking rappers we have out here today, but that’s like grading on a curve. C-minus (at best) material isn’t good just because it’s better than the F material.


  27. mercilesz says:

    dj quik made addicted

  28. Ya’ll: those who buy “Seventh Seal” and listen to it, please report back and tell us what lyrical substance there is. Maybe I missed some poetry, some sublimals etc while listening in the store but what I HEARD was not impressive.

    Ra’s superficial references to the “recession” do not impress me.

    I’m NOT a huge Dylan fan in 2009 but there were times in the past he meant a lot and I recall seeing an 60 Minutes interview a 4 or 5 years ago, I think Ed Bradley (RIP) was asking the questions.

    Now, for those who don’t know, THEE pop-rock antecedent of Rakim lyrically has to be peak-period Dylan (via Melle Mel, via Gil-Scott Heron and Last Poets). So Ed asks Dylan something like “How did you do that?” in regard to writing those mind blowing songs. Speed + Genius + Hot Young Folk Pussy + LOVE of music was the real answer, I forgot what Bob said specifically but the question ended was answered sagely along the lines of

    “Well, I did that then– I can do other things now.”

    Q: What can Rakim do now BETTER than he did before? We’re not talking a 80 year old man here either. I hear no topical or philosophical growth ** at all **, unless bitterness towards the record biz counts, which is doesn’t.

    I’m not taking shots at Ra fans here since it seems folks are realistic but I’m still puzzled why 1) Rakim is holding back? or 2) what stunted his growth?

  29. one thing for sure. no matter what side of the aisle you stand on, you all are compelled to speak on this man. that alone is testament to his impact.

    no doubt that the lack of self critique in this game has and will continue to degrade the material. i’ve argued this point on my site, as well as the need for responsible editorial. thats why i’m glad my man Dallas has enough integrity to even ask a tuff question about an artist that has almost unanimously won the GOAT title without ever even making a bid for it. the PEOPLE have crowned him. everyone else that everyone else has mentioned auditioned for the position.

    nothing can escape entropy and erosion. even the face of a diamond is subject to a buck fifty from another one. the diamonds at odds are usually the artist and his former self. and its type of erosion that follows the order of things. we all still want to see both MJs (word to Tiffany) make the moves that made em famous. but part of it’s selfishness. WE want to see it just to say we did, or to relive a pivotal moment in our own development that the artist’s music was the soundtrack for. nostalgia will want us to have things to last forever. reality will mandate that it will not.

    comparable to Jay Z, Rakim is still waaaay more important. Rakim’s ascension marks a moment when the culture was impacted. he has significantly added to the art itself. Jay has had more impact on the rap industry. he has added nothing to the art form. he’s had what you’d call a ‘storied career’. but so did Barry Mannilo.

    now air out…

  30. El Gringo Colombiano says:

    NaStans are going postal on me. TO BE CLEAR: I said Nas usually picks meh-to-wack beats for his albums, with 3 exceptions: Illmatic, Stillmatic, HHID. As far as rapping tho, Nas is 1 a GOAT candidate, a superb rapper. Which it makes even more tragic how he wastes his ill rap verses on meh beats.

    I have enough albums (100s) with dope beats & raps, to keep any albums with only the latter.

  31. $ykotic/Don McCaine says:

    The Seventh Seal-Rakim

    Real talk. All of y’all pretty much summed it up. Eric B took the wheels to that vehicle(nice analogy!) and Ra’s been cabbing it for a minute.

    This is a testament to the fact that the legacy of Ra has long surpassed his anthology. But he got my dime though. A little light on the jewels too.

    Oh yeah, The 18th Letter was ’97. The Master was ’99. The Master was armpit sweat. The last hot thing Ra did was that “Classic” joint for Nike. And that Dre produced single was skid-mark status.

    But that Follow The Leader show @ Nassau Coliseum was bananas. And that show in BK my homie did with him was crazy too. But honestly, after a couple of spins, this CD will begin it’s new life as a weed plate.

  32. dmitry aka brooklyn jew says:

    I agree wit wat bboycult.com said. RA influenced da art of music alot. And jay did influence da industry more wit da money making aspect. And dat “storied career” reference

  33. dmitry aka brooklyn jew says:

    ^ROFL. Yea but i consider RA as one of the top MC’s of all time. He and Kool G Rap influenced everyone in the early 90’s and so forth. Dis album was a disappointment but hes still a candidate for the GOAT crown.

  34. All you MF’s wanna lose your minds?

    Listen to Rakim on Art of Noise “The Seduction of Claude Debussy”

    It’s called “In The Evening Air” then shut the f*** up and kiss the ring.

    PS Wonder why no one mentioned his “The Mystery”?

  35. chris says:

    I’d have to disagree about him not falling off. The dude’s in the same age range as Jay and GZA yet he can’t put together a compelling bar anymore.

  36. El Gringo Colombiano says:

    this new Ra album has meh beats. Only the 1st track is good.

    Ra can still rap tho. Ra may not be at Black Thought level, but better than lazy half-assed Camel on BP3.

  37. KoolMick_Lovin says:

    In my opinion since Rakim opened the lane for all these so-called GOATs (Jay Z, Nas, Big Pun, and whoever else) he’ll always be one of the greatest regardless of his sporadic output and some let downs. Jay Z and Nas hasn’t always been the most consistent as far as quality music is concerned. But that 7th Seal album is DOPE to me. I’ve been listening to it every day for the last week. lol

  38. ARONTE1 says:

    I am sorry I am a fan of Rakim but the greatest of all time…naw I don’t think so. I find it funny how some of you have put slews of other rappers that came after him and try to say that their styles are a spin off of what he did……Seriously get off those nuts!!! I give him his props but some of you are pulling names out of your ass and trying to associate them with Rakim….not even close people. He was good for his time but a new era is conceived and rappin in riddles and islamic code is not what people want to hear……sorry! Rap music is bigger than that and he held his own. We have to come to terms that just like Rock/Punk/Heavy Metal….all genres of Rock actually…..Rap has blossomed into it’s own genre’s, you have so many versions of rap now that you can’t compare one to the other. Would you compare the Beatles to Guns & Roses??? Nope you wouldn’t ….even though they are still Rock groups but the time frame between the two has severely passed. Now back to Ra….he might be appreciated by the older crowd because I don’t see him dropping his lyrical virtues to appease the younger generation. Just like some of us have parents who go out and enjoy those old school groups in concert….and we go elsewhere….We are going to have to accept the fact that rap is in that same category…..TRUTH HURTS!!! I would enjoy an Old School concert though…everything has it’s place in life….there is an Alpha and a Omega…a Beginning and a End……Think about it!!!!!!!!!

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