Rakim Reveals The Verse That Most Defines Him (Video)

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This November marks 10 years since Rakim released an album. The Seventh Seal involved Jadakiss, Busta Rhymes, and Styles P, alongside production from Nottz, Jake One, and Ty Fyffe. At the time, that SMC Recordings LP followed a 10-year-break since The Master.

Unlike his first dozen or so years on wax, Rakim is reserved when it comes to releasing music post-Y2K. During the last decade, the Long Island legend appeared on a Top 3-charting Linkin Park album (The Hunting Party), he collaborated with DMX (“Don’t Call Me”), and most recently, he released an all-new song (“Kings Paradise”) on the Luke Cage soundtrack.

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Rakim recently appeared on ESPN’s SportsCenter where host Scott Van Pelt described his deep admiration for the MC’s talent. Van Pelt asked Rakim how he manages to stay sharp in a genre and culture that often seems focused on youth. “You remember what you did, or you remember what you do that attracted people to you. I think if you do what you do best and continue to do that, I think later on even the younger artists will look up and respect that,” he responds.

Van Pelt then asks Rakim what the appeal is of new music. “I definitely don’t want to get complacent. I’m kind of eager to put some new music out, man. I feel [there is] a lot I gotta say, and [there is] a lot going on, so it’s a good time right now to just bring a little bit more of that Rakim back; I think so.”

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Scott then asks Rakim what line or lyric exemplifies who he is. The MC points to the opening eight bars of 1997’s “18th Letter” (embedded below). “Really, that whole song kinda personifies what I do. I kinda wrote that after being gone for a while. I kinda wanted everybody to remember what I love doing, what I do, and who I am.”

Those lyrics are: “Just when things seemed the same, and the whole scene is lame / I come and reign with the unexplained for the brains ’til things change / They strain to sling slang, I’m trained to bring game / History that I arranged been regained by King James / Go to practice, with tactics, when the track hits, theatrics / Women that look like actress the status of Cleopatra’s / Stacks of mathematics to feed yo’ Asiatics / As I find out, what the facts is, for geographic.

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The guest adds that Eric B. & Rakim are on tour this summer, including a New York City homecoming in Coney Island, Brooklyn planned for August. The duo reunited in 2017, but has yet to release new Eric B. & Rakim music.

#BonusBeat: Rakim’s “The 18th Letter”: