Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Full Rakim Project (Repost)






Part 1


Ah yes, my #3 favorite MC of all time and still one of the most influential hip hop artists ever, Rakim remains a clear example of what an MC SHOULD be, and for this project, we'll start with my #10 favorite album of all time, the 1987 CLASSIC, "Paid In Full". 

Release date- July 7, 1987
All tracks were produced by Eric B. & Rakim except one.


1. I Ain't No Joke
One of the best album openers in history right here, an apply titled song if there ever was one. It's a classic in every sense of the word and saying it sets the tone for the rest of the album is a complete understatement. 5 out of 5 (And much props to Buckshot for his 1997 remake of this song.)

5 memorable quotes

*I ain't no joke, I use to let the mic smoke/Now I slam it when I'm done and make sure it's broke

*I'm just an addict, addicted to music/Maybe it's a habit, I gotta use it

*Write a rhyme in grafitti and, every show you see me/in Deep concentration, cause I'm no comedian

*When you start to stutter, that's when you had enough of/biting it'll make you choke, you can't provoke/You can't cope, you shoulda broke, because I ain't no joke

*This is what we all sit down to write/You can't make it so you take it home, break it and bite/Use pieces and bits of all the hip-hop hits/Get the style down pat, then it's time to switch

2. Eric B. Is On The Cut
Nice break beat here..


3. My Melody (Produced By: Marley Marl)
Another classic here, and we get Rakim's lyrical melody over one of Marley Marl's first memorable tracks. 5 out of 5

5 memorable quotes

*Turn up the bass, check out my melody, hand out a cigar/I'm lettin knowledge 
be born, and my name's the R
 
*I take 7 MC's put em in a line/And add 7 more brothas who think they can rhyme/Well, it'll take 7 more before I go for mine/And that's 21 MC's ate up at the same time

*You shouldn't have told me you said you control me/So now a contest is what you owe me/Pull out your money, pull out your cut/Pull up a chair, and I'ma tear s*** up

*I'm not a regular competitor, first rhyme editor/Melody arranger, poet, etcetera

*Right after tonight is when I prepare/To catch another sucka duck MC out there/Cause my strategy has to be tragedy, catastrophe/And after this you'll call me your majesty

4. I Know You Got Soul
Who can forget that classic Bobby Byrd sample on this one? Throw this one at a party today and the dancefloor will still get packed, I guarantee you. You KNEW Rakim had soul after this, say it with me, classic. 5 out of 5

I can't pick 5 memorable quotes out of the song, because it's simply too many, but the follow is perhaps one of the most memorable openings in history:

"It's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you/Without a strong rhyme to step to/Think of how many weak shows you slept through/Time's up, I'm sorry I kept you/Thinking of this, you keep repeating you missed/The rhymes from the microphone soloist/And you sit by the radio, hand on the dial Soon as you hear it, pump up the volume"
 
5. Move The Crowd
Man, I LOVE this joint right here. One of the main things an artist should do, 
and that's move the crowd, and that's one thing Rakim did SO well. 5 out of 5
 
5 memorable quotes 
*How could I move the crowd/First of all, ain't no mistakes allowed/Here's the
 instruction,s put it together/It's simple ain't it but quite clever
  
*Some of you been tryin to write rhymes for years/But weak ideas irritate my ears Is this the best that you can make/Cuz if not and you got more, I'll wait

*Wit knowledge of self, there's nothing I can't solve/At 360 degrees, I revolve

*I'm the intelligent wise on the mic I will rise/Right in front of your eyes cuz I am a surprise

*This is actual fact, it's not an act, it's been proven/Indeed and I proceed to make the crowd keep moving

6. Paid In Full
A straight CLASSIC and it definitely did NOT need a hook. NO artist could ever come close to remaking this song (some have tried), because it's simply THAT good. The ENTIRE song is one memorable quote altogether.  5 out of 5

7. As The Rhyme Goes On
This is probably the "lesser" known song on this album, but that doesn't mean it's not good, because it is. "The rhyme gets together as the rhyme goes on", yes indeed. 5 out of 5

8. Chinese Arithmetic
Another good break beat, heading into the next CLASSIC.

9. Eric B. Is President
The following opening verse tells the story of this:

"I came in the door, i said it before/I never let the mic magnatize me no more/But it's biting me, fighting me, inviting me to rhyme/I can't hold it back, I'm looking for the line/Taking off my coat, clearing my throat/My rhyme will be kicking it until I hit my last note/ My mind will range to find all kinds of ideas/Self-esteem makes it seem like a thought took years to build/ But still say a rhyme after the next one/Prepared, never scared, I'll just bless one/And you know that I'm the soloist So Eric B, make 'em clap to this"

Like you need to ask what THIS song gets. 5 out of 5

10. Extended Beat
Not sure why this one was called "Extended Beat", as it's nothing more than the "Move The Crowd" instrumental.



What more can I say about this album that I haven't said already? Simply put, it's my #10 favorite album of all time, it's a 5 star classic, and it's one of the greatest albums in all the history of music.  



Part 2

After releasing the groundbreaking classic "Paid In Full" in 1987, Eric B. & Rakim returned one year later with ANOTHER classic in the form of "Follow The Leader".

Release date- July 25, 1988
All tracks were produced by Eric B. & Rakim

1. Follow The Leader
Words cannot describe this EXCELLENT song, another one of the greatest album openers in hip hop history. It's also my #1 favorite video of all time, which covers A LOT of ground. You can't do anything BUT follow the leader (Rakim) on this one. 5 out of 5

2. Microphone Fiend
We follow this up with ANOTHER classic, as Rakim smoothly and expertly professes his love (and need) for the microphone in his hand. Simply amazing. 5 out of 5

3. Lyrics of Fury
Look at the title of that song and say it to yourself. Then ask yourself, "wow, is that what I get on this song?" The answer is an astounding "yes indeed", and more. 5 out of 5

4. Eric B. Never Scared
The first of a few breakbeats on this album.

5. Just A Beat
It may be just a beat, but it's a DAMN good, old school one.

6. Put Your Hands Together
Rakim's lyrics and this beat makes you do just that, put your hands together. 5 out of 5

7. To The Listeners
Although it's to the listeners, it's not as effective as the previous songs. Still very good though. 4 out of 5

8. No Competition
I respect Rakim for what he was going for here, but there definitely WAS competition at that point in 88. There's NO competition nowadays, but that's another story. Dope song though. 4.5 out of 5

9. The R
About what you would expect from the "18th letter", forever. "You doin it wit the R!" 5 out of 5

.
10. Musical Massacre
I love the beat to this. It definitely is a musical massacre and Rakim does a good job by keeping up with the beat. 5 out of 5

11. Beats for the Listeners
We close this great album with an instrumental reprise, if you will, of "To The Listeners".



This is NO sophomore jinx, and while it's nowhere near better than "Paid In Full", it still features Rakim at his very best on the mic, and you can't ask for more than that. 

Rating- 5 stars 
 

Part 3

The entire hip hop landscape was changing as 1990 emerged. Did Eric B. & Rakim keep up with the times or did they get lost in the shuffle? Let's go back in time for their third album.

Release date- May 22, 1990
All songs were produced by Eric B. & Rakim

1. Let the Rhythm Hit Em
Rakim's streak of awesome, classic openers continue here. This is the first glimpse at a harder Rakim (on the opener no less) and it works. 5 out of 5

2. No Omega
This is one of my favorite tracks on the album (probably #4 or #5, respectively) with one of my favorite lines from Rakim: "you won't strike cause you ain't no match". Wow. 5 out of 5

3. In The Ghetto
Rakim's classic about the ghetto in Brooklyn, New York over a smooth yet rugged beat. 5 out of 5

4. Step Back
"See if you could step to this". Naw, you don't want to step to Rakim, especially after hearing this one. 4 out of 5

5. Eric B. Made My Day
A nice breakbeat with a memorable Run DMC sample included.

6. Run For Cover
Remember this classic was inexplicably played during Play's party on the movie "House Party"? So do I, and this is one song that was not made for playing at a party, lol, but it's all good. A more lyrically aggressive Rakim was on full display here. "The stage is stompin grounds, run for cover!" I agree. 5 out of 5

7. Untouchables
Lyrically, Rakim was untouchable and that's displayed on this track. 4 out of 5

8. Mahogany
Oh yes, another classic, this one a tribute of sorts to women, specifically the "brown skinned women" (which is an automatic thumbs up from me). It also included the line that was sampled in both parts of "NY State of Mind" by my boy Nas, and you know which line I'm referring to! 5 out of 5

9. Keep Em Eager to Listen
Well Ra, you certainly knew how to keep the people eager to listen, and you did a fine job at it, no question. Dope song. 4 out of 5

10. Set Em Straight
Good song here, nothing more. 3.5 of out 5

11. Let the Rhythm Hit Em (12'' vocal version remix)

The lyrics are still the same as the original, but the beat is different, up-tempo, and party ready. Still great. 4.5 out of 5


Not only was this album the darkest (and hardest) thing that Rakim ever made, but it's also the most underrated album of the four albums with Eric B. In my view, it's on par with, but not better, the first two albums. They clearly kept up with the times and this album was definitely not passe in 1990. 

Rating- 5 stars


Part 4

1992 arrived and this would be the last album with Eric B. & Rakim together, although it wasn't advertised as such. Back in time we go!

Release date- June 23, 1992
All songs were produced by Eric B. & Rakim

1. What's On Your Mind
Midnight Star's classic "Curious" provided the memorable sample for this opening song, which makes four classic openers for Eric B. & Rakim's albums. Rakim could also make tracks that the females would love, and this is one of them. 5 out of 5

2. Teach The Children
Another apply titled (I should trademark that term, lol) song here, and when is the last time you saw any song in hip hop with a title similar to this? 5 out of 5

3. Pass the Hand Grenade
Not sure what Rakim had in mind for this song, however, it's decent. A war minded Rakim, say it ain't so. This theme would continue into the next track. 3 out of 5

4. Casualties of War
Rakim touches on the subject of war in this tight song. 4.5 out of 5

5. Rest Assured
Another decent song, but nothing special. 3 out of 5

6. The Punisher
No correlation to the movie/comic book character of the same, as Rakim punishes his foes on the mic, with the greatest of ease. 3.5 out of 5

7. Relax With Pep
This song does make you want to relax, oddly enough, and it's mostly due to the beat. 3 out of 5

8. Keep The Beat
Again, nothing more to add to this one other than it's another decent, but not special, song. 3 out of 5

9. What's Going On?
Look at what I said about the previous song, lol.

10. Know The Ledge
One of the lead singles for the classic 1992 film "Juice", this is as awesome as they come, as Rakim spits three of his most hardcore verses ever over a head nodding beat. When you talk about the movie "Juice", this is one of the first songs that come to mind. 5 out of 5

11. Don't Sweat The Technique
The "technique" was wearing down at this point, but you can't deny the impact of this song. I consider this a classic too, and when you hear something like this on a commercial (which we have), you know that's an impact. 5 out of 5

12. Kick Along
Not the best ending to what would be their final album together, but it's nothing bad. 3 out of 5


Well, what can you say about this album? It's definitely NOT on the level of the previous three albums, but it's still good in it's own right. "Know The Ledge", "What's On Your Mind", "Teach The Children", "Don't Sweat The Technique", and "Casualties of War" justify the 4 star rating alone. You can tell that their magic was starting to wane at this point in 1992, but overall, they had a hell of a run dating back to 1987, and they'll always have that. 

Part 5

Rakim made his long awaited return to hip hop with his first album (solo and otherwise) since 1992's "Don't Sweat The Technique". 1997 was definitely a good year as far as hip hop comebacks go, and Rakim's is one of them.

Release date- November 4, 1997 (released the same day as Jay-Z's In My Lifetime Vol. 1)

1. Intro
We begin things with a BRIEF clip of an interview, where Rakim states he's giving back what the people have been asking for: skills.


2. The 18th Letter (Always & Forever) Produced By: Father Shaheed
Although his real name is William Michael Griffin Jr., he'll always be best known as Rakim, always and forever indeed, and this was a damn good way to start the album. 5 out of 5

3. Skit
After being away for a few years, Rakim is glad to be back on the scene and appreciates the love he receives from the fans. I'll always respect something like that.


4. It's Been A Long Time (Produced By: DJ Premier)
Rakim's first time on a track by the legendary DJ Premier, and it's awesome. It definitely had been a LONG time (in hip hop years) since Rakim had blessed us with some new material, and this apply titled song is very fitting. 5 out of 5

5. Remember That (Produced By: Clark Kent)
I really enjoy songs when the artist reminisces on how things were back in the day, and that's exactly what we get on this nice track. 5 out of 5

6. The Saga Begins (Produced By: Pete Rock)
This is arguably the best song on the album, as Rakim drops lyrical science over a BANGIN Pete Rock production. At first, it kinda slipped me as to why Rakim titled this "The Saga Begins", but it hit me towards the end that all he was saying was after being gone for so long, this was only the beginning. 5 out of 5

7. Skit
Rakim says he was glad he hadn't released any material, circa 93-96, and it was all about the timing. I agree, simply because with hindsight being 20/20, hip hop was still going through LOTS of changes during those aforementioned years, and even though Rakim's legacy was already set at this point, his first ever solo album would've likely got lost in the shuffle during any of those years.


8. Guess Who's Back (Produced By: Clark Kent)
I remember going crazy when I first saw the video to this one. The running theme of this album (Rakim's back) continues here over a very good track by Clark Kent. 5 out of 5

9. Stay A While (Produced By: Clark Kent)
Things slow down just a little bit, as we get a nice mellow track for the ladies, and they should love this one. 4 out of 5

10. New York (Ya Out There) Produced By: DJ Premier
We get another great Premo track, this one in the form of a dedication to New York, which is where Rakim is from of course, Long Island to be exact. 5 out of 5

11. Show Me Love (Produced By: Nic Wiz)
Another mellow track for the ladies. As mentioned before, this was something Rakim knew how to do well and I don't think it was ever talked about either. 4 out of 5

12. Skit
Rakim appreciates being compared to other artists, even new ones, and it keeps his love for hip hop intact.

13. The Mystery (Who Is God) Produced By: Naughty Shorts and Kid Nyce, Co-Produced By: Bill Blass
This deep, clever songs begins with Rakim essentially talking about God, but as you listen deeply (and later confirmed towards the end), Rakim is directly comparing himself to God, as the God MC. It's not blasphemous at all and lyrically it's probably the deepest song Rakim has ever made. 5 out of 5

14. When I'm Flowin (Produced By: Pete Rock)
The rhymes continues to go on indeed. 5 out of 5

15. It's Been A Long Time (Suave House Mix) Produced By: Mo-Suave-A
Decent remix, but nowhere near better than the original. 4 out of 5

16. Guess Who's Back (Alternative Mix) Produced By: Clark Kent
Another decent remix, and again, not better than the original. 4 out of 5

17. Outro
We close this album with Rakim stating he wants to be remembered by his words, later saying if the people remember his words, he'll be remembered forever. I agree.


Initially, I was going to give this a solid 4.5 star rating, but after listening to it again, I honestly can't find anything wrong with this album. I mean, I know the two remixes towards the end certainly neither helped nor helped the album, it doesn't affect the overall quality one bit. Rakim sounded refreshed and better than ever on this release, lyrically he was still in top form with very good production to match. Also, the theme of him being so glad to be back on this album is the icing on the cake, so all of this makes it a 5 star album in my view.


 With all due respect to Rakim, this project will end here. I'm not going to dissect 1999's "The Master", which was forgettable overall and for all intents and purposes, "When I Be On The Mic" is the SOLE highlight of that album, and it would've worked better on the 18th Letter album. As far "The Seventh Seal" goes, well, that will not receive a dissection either, as (sadly), that's the first (and only) album to date that literally put me to sleep.



FINAL TALLY
1. Paid In Full (5 stars)
2. Follow The Leader (5 stars)
3. Let The Rhythm Hit Em (5 stars)
4. The 18th Letter (5 stars)
5. Don't Sweat The Technique (3.5 stars)
*6. The Master
*7. The Seventh Seal

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