The Book of Ra. Rakim Confirms His Memoir Is Coming This Year. (Audio)
Many of Hip-Hop’s best-known and greatest MCs have released autobiographies and memoirs. JAY-Z published Decoded. LL Cool J (I Make My Own Rules), Ice-T (The Ice Opinion), Snoop Dogg (Tha Doggfather), Prodigy (My Infamous Life), Eminem (The Way That I Am), Common (One Day It’ll All Make Sense), 50 Cent (Pieces To Weight), and Scarface (Diary Of A Madman) have co-written some of the more well-known and critically-acclaimed books.
One of the culture’s more elusive figures, dating back more than 30 years, is next to tell his story. Rakim (born William Griffin, Jr.) has partnered with journalist, TV host, and author Touré for a late 2018 memoir. The two shared the stage at WeWork in Lower Manhattan late last month. That one-hour conversation for The Touré Show is now available to the public.
In the intro, the author of several novels (including Soul City) and non-fiction texts revealed the news. “For the last three years, Rakim and I have been working on a book about his life and his creative process. It will be out this fall. We’ve been sitting around the living-room of his Connecticut mansion talking about how he rhymes, and how he became the person that he is,” says Touré.
The Touré Show discussion begins with Rakim performing a slow and sinister a capella rendition of “Paid In Full” (4:00). The Long Island, New York legend praises Eric B.’s late brother Ant Live for being a supportive de facto A&R in the earliest days of Eric B. & Rakim. He retells the story of recording “Eric B. Is President” (and other songs) at Marley Marl’s Queensbridge home in the mid-1980s. The Juice Crew producer/DJ was initially perplexed (as was MC Shan) by Rakim’s laid-back delivery, and recording lyrics while seated.
Rakim delves into John Coltrane’s influence on his artistry (20:00), creativity, and style. By 32:00, he playfully acknowledges the upcoming memoir when Touré asks him about writing rhymes, in reverse.
“Some times, you write backwards,” leads Touré. “You wasn’t supposed to tell nobody that, man. See what I’m sayin’,” responds Rakim, in a light mood. “Sometimes you’re writing a book, you want to [save] the important [things]. But yeah, man. [Chuckles] I don’t believe in writer’s block. But it [does] exist, but I refuse to believe in it. One day I had to write a song in like two days; the deadline was coming up quick. I kind of waited to get on the song, so I’m lookin’ at like maybe a day and a half to finish the song. I usually like to take three days, maybe four days on a project. So I’m sitting there and it was like one of them days. You stare at the wall, stare at the ceiling for a while, start staring around at—ain’t nothin’ poppin’ off,” details Rakim. At that point, his longtime manager entered the room. Rakim asked for space. “The real reason I wanted him to walk out was so that he didn’t see that I was about to write a rhyme from the end of the song to the beginning of the song. That’s a little trick that I came up with whenever I get writer’s block. I guess knowing how I’m gonna finish a verse [helps].” He says that technically speaking it is a tool to “try to hide that the top of the paper is empty and the bottom [contains rhymes].” Rakim continues the story, noting that his manager later discovered the secret. “I used to feel that I was cheatin’, doin’ that. So I didn’t want nobody to see that sh*t. [Laughs] Then one day, I was watching TV, and I saw my man [Godfather director] Francis [Ford Copolla]. He said, if you want to write a good movie, start from the end. So after I heard that, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s why I was doin’ that. I knew what I was doin’!’ [Laughs]” Rakim says it is a tool he has used for some time since, but does not specify which songs.
At 37:00, Rakim acknowledges two of his strongest compositions as “Mystery (Who Is God)” and “Juice (Know The Ledge).” In revisiting his tenure with Dr. Dre and Aftermath Entertainment in 2000-2001, Rakim also reveals that he does not fly. After Dre and Rakim parted ways over creative differences, Rakim reveals he had a long, cross-country drive back to New York City. After spending months in L.A., Ra’ says that Dre influenced him to beef up his home studio. The MC went from a stripped-down turntables, sampler, and mic “B.S. studio” (as he calls it), to an investment in recording equipment.
Lastly, at 51:00, Rakim tells a story of slap-boxing with LL Cool J while on the “Dope Jam Tour.” After $1,000 bounty was offered to snatch LL Cool J’s Kangol hat, Rakim used a trick. He untied L’s shoes, then removed the cocky MC’s cap. Rakim, who was invited as a tour opener for one of Def Jam’s top acts, jokingly says that telling the story could cause potential problems today.
In an interview last month with Star, Eric B. stated that Eric B. & Rakim are currently planning a 2018 tour.
Rakim and Touré did not reveal the title of the upcoming memoir. In related news, U-God is also promoting a memoir, Raw, which tells the story of the Wu-Tang Clan and the Staten Island MC’s life and solo career. The text published today (March 5).
Photo by Touré.