Rakim Speaks About Why Artists & Athletes Should Fight For Justice (Audio)

More than 30 years ago, Rakim raised the bar of rapping. The Long Island, New Yorker is regularly associated with his consciousness. Although Ra’ may not be remembered for his politics to the degree of peers such as Chuck D or KRS-One, he has been a steadfast symbol of self-empowerment. Over the years, Rakim released songs such as the Easy Mo Bee-produced “Shades Of Black” on The Black Panthers’ Pump Ya Fist project.

Far more recently, he joined the Marvel family by penning a new, original track for the Netflix series Luke Cage. Unsurprisingly, he used the opportunity to namedrop individuals who’ve played an integral role in manifesting Black excellence such as Maya Angelou, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Marcus Garvey, Lena Horne, Joe Louis and others. Additionally, Ra’s faith drives much of is ideological approach to life. As a member of The Nation of Gods and Earth, Rakim preaches self-awareness, pursuit of knowledge, cultivation of equality and more.

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Rakim sat down with prolific Hip-Hop radio personalities Stretch & Bobbito for the latest installment of the duo’s “What’s Good” program on NPR. Much of the interview, of course, has to do with Rakim’s musical legacy but due to the rapper’s proclivity for cultural and political content, he was asked to touch on some current topics.

At the 19:11 mark, the God MC is asked about his passion for football, something he’d explained could have very well distracted him from a career in music. When asked what he would have done had be become a professional football player and was faced with the socio-political obstacles present in today’s NFL, he had some poignant insight to share. “Deep down, I am who I am. If it’s rappin’, bein’ a father, I still have the same ideologies on life, so I would have been not only kneeling down, I would have been encouraging my team to make a stand, as well. Once I would have seen all the turmoil, then, of course, I would have tried to implement some smart ways of bringing consciousness to the situation. With all the craziness going on, nobody wanna stir the pot. But we gotta make sure everybody has they justice. Athletes, musicians, actors, we have a lot of power. If we can influence the kids in the neighborhood to stand up, we should be able to do that no matter what platform it is.”

NPR also covered Rakim’s could-have-been football career in 2009, while the MC was promoting The Seventh Seal. At the time, he said he was playing football with an intent to play it in college when he played a fateful demo tape for Eric B. “But I played that for Eric B, and he was interested, told me, ‘We can make a record.’ And things turned out where I couldn’t go to college. I had to focus on my Rap career; things kind of took off fast. Man, I had no idea it was going to be that big. And I stopped growing — I’m only about 5’9″ — so that’s another reason why maybe football wouldn’t have been a good thing, you know what I mean? It’s a good thing, and I appreciate everything that came from it.”

Elsewhere in the Stretch & Bobbito interview, the hosts reveal that Rakim was not the first MC to rap on Marley Marl’s production for “My Melody.” That distinction belongs to Run-D.M.C.’s Rev Run, who bodied the beat during a 1985 WBLS radio spot for DJ Mr. Magic and Marley’s Rap Attackshow. Stretch and Bob play that relic at the top of the What’s Good episode, along with some pre-Paid In Full rapping from Rakim (tka Kid Wizard). Towards the end of the interview, Rakim explains how the words of The Last Poets greatly influenced him (and he recites a passage of bars) after the hosts play 1970’s “New York, New York.”

Additional reporting by Jake Paine.