Keith Murray Pays Tribute To Rakim With His “I Ain’t No Joke” Freestyle (Audio)

Rappers often borrow productions popularized by other MCs, to put their own spin on the record. Sometimes they give credit. Sometimes they don’t. What Keith Murray has done with Rakim’s classic “I Ain’t No Joke,” however, is different.

Rather than simply jack the classic beat, Murray makes his “I Ain’t No Joke” freestyle a full-scale tribute to the God MC. It’s not an outright cover, like Snoop Dogg’s “Lodi Dodi” homage to Slick Rick. It’s also not a verse that’s completely divorced from Rakim’s original recording. Instead, Murray has created a hybrid that both integrates various bits of Ra’s rhymes and cadence, and sprinkles in a healthy dose of Keith’s own unique flavor. The result is closer, in concept, to Elzhi’s brilliant re-working of Nas’ Illmatic, with his ElMatic project, though not on the same scale.

Throughout the song, Murray begins and ends bars using Rakim’s classic, lines, and, in between, he flips his own unorthodox and humorous style. Lines like Rakim’s “I hold a conversation cause when I invent / I nominated my DJ the president” become “I’m in your conversation ’cause when I invent / I’ll make a tweet more crazy than the president.” In other instances, Murray references Rakim’s lines in ways that continue The R’s conversation in the original song. Where Ra said “Before you know it, you’re following and fiendin’ / Waiting for the punchline to get the meaning,” Keith picks up with “But it’s bugged how you followin’ and fiendin’ / You get the punchline but still won’t get the meaning.” The DJ Gumba production stays true to the original beat, but he’s fattened up the drums and made the music a bit more dynamic.

While Keith Murray released one of his best songs in years in early 2017, the Erick Sermon-produced “No Exceptions,” the year was relatively quiet for the “Most Beautifullest” MC. Perhaps 2018 will bring more music from the Def Squad member.