Rakim Explains Why He Refused To Do A Gangsta Rap Album With Dr. Dre (Video)
When word broke in the early 2000s that Rakim was signed to Aftermath Entertainment, the Hip-Hop world went crazy. The prospect of arguably Hip-Hop’s greatest MC working with a GOAT producer, was mind-blowing. At the time, Rakim was seen as an MC who was a celebrated member of a group but who had never fulfilled the full potential of his solo career. Dr. Dre, in the meantime, was in the middle of his second renaissance, having risen from the ashes of both Ruthless and Death Row Records, and thriving with his own label. After years of expectations and rumors, however, no music from the two materialized, save for the tantalizing “Addictive” by Truth Hurts, featuring Rakim. Sadly, an announcement was made that the two had parted ways, without much explanation, and a potentially historical chapter in the culture was abruptly closed.
Over the years, Rakim has talked about his time with Dre, and the ensuing split, but the explanation for the dissolution of their relationship has been chalked up to vague terms like “creative differences.” Recently, however, during an extended conversation with veteran journalist Touré, The R was in a talkative mood, and he went into detail about what really drove the two legends apart.
When asked why his album with Dr. Dre didn’t get finished and wasn’t released, Rakim responded “We had two different ideas of how the album was supposed to sound. Dre, at the time, his formula was Gangsta Rap. And, I guess listening to certain songs that I did–listening to stories–I guess he wanted me to do that…a Gangsta Rap album, I guess. And, you know, that’s his formula, but I thought at that point I should be doing something different. I was maturing at the time. I had grown up a little bit–2003–trying to elevate with [my] music, as well. I’m looking at it like ‘Yeah, get with Dre.’ I wanted to make a mega project that wasn’t…of course it’s Hip-Hop, but I wanted everybody to be able to listen to it, [to] get this opportunity. I wanted to make the best of it. But, like I said, Dre, we would sit in the studio, and Dre, he would put on a beat, and he would sit next to me and be like ‘Yo, I want you to talk that sh*t on this one.’ I’m like ‘Dre, that’s what you say on every track you play, bruh. When you gonna let me rhyme on something?? Why I gotta beef with everybody?'”
Rakim continues, “But, like I said, that was his formula and, to him, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But, I was looking to try and do a dope album and make sure that your daughter could listen to it, my grandmother can listen to it, and it was no [barriers] or anything, but again, we had a different view. We tried some things. Did a couple dope joints, but once we realized…after him trying to push me to talk crap on every song, and me being rebellious, I guess he realized yo, this ain’t gonna work. Actually, I’m the one that told Dre, ‘Yo, I appreciate the opportunity and everything, but I’m going back to New York, bruh.'” After, Rakim, who doesn’t fly, took a bus back to the East Coast and had a long ride home to do some soul searching. When he arrived, he built his own studio and began to take his destiny into his own hands.
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If the prospect of Rakim spewing Gangsta Rap seems jarring, it is with good reason. As fans of his first album know, there is nary a curse word on his debut album with Eric B. At a time when it would have been easy for him to fall in line with the current trends and capitalize on working with Hip-Hop’s biggest producer, it speaks volumes that Rakim chose brand and legacy over profits.