Rakim Raps His Unreleased Lyrics That Were Dissing Big Daddy Kane (Video)
Earlier this week, Rakim published his memoir, Sweat The Technique: Revelations On Creativity From The Lyrical Genius. The God MC’s first text tells his life story as well as offers insight into songwriting and rhyming. In promotion of the book (which he wrote with author, activist, and former Source editor Bakari Kitwana), Rakim made his first appearance on The Breakfast Club. For more than an hour, the Eric B. & Rakim co-founder spoke about moments in his career as well as the state of Hip-Hop music and culture.
While Rakim has publicly spoken on his rivalry with Big Daddy Kane in the past, he provided some new information. Notably, Ra’ spit some of the eventually-omitted bars from 1990’s “Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em,” that confronted his Brooklyn, New York peer. Apart from a few affiliates, and Kane himself, the public never got to hear this version.
At 39:00, Charlamagne Tha God asks Rakim if there was a rival he “wanted smoke with,” in retrospect. Smiling to reveal his gold fronts, the Long Islander says, “People used to always gas me and Kane.” Rakim says that the streets and the people around him were suggesting that the Juice Crew MC was subliminally dissing him in songs. Notably, both Eric B. & Rakim as well as B.D.K. made music with Marley Marl early in their careers. Eric B.’s brother, Ant Live, was also part of Kane’s management.
After 1988’s Follow The Leader album and its title single, Rakim believed that Kane took umbrage with the statement. “It got to the point where Kane said something: ‘I see leaders, and I laugh.’ It was like, aight; I went to the studio and did ‘Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em.’ The whole song was for Kane. But there were like four bars in there where I said something directly to him.” However, before the public could hear the song, Rakim alleges that Ant Live (who died in 2016) showed Kane the diss record without its creator’s knowledge or consent.
That leak promptly led to a phone call. “I’m sitting at the house in Long Island; the phone rings. ‘Ant, what up, man?’ ‘What’s good, Ra?’ ‘Kane wanna talk to you.’ When he said, ‘Kane,’ I [was upset]. I know he ain’t just go to Kane’s house [play him the song], and put him on the phone.” Rakim suggests that even more than the song, he was upset that he was ambushed with a call to speak to his perceived rival. “‘Yo, what up, Kane?’ ‘Yo, Ra,’ yo, man. I just heard the track.'” Rakim was stunned that a song he’d recorded the day before was played for its target.
However, Rakim says that Kane clarified their relationship and his own questionable rhymes. “[He said], ‘I don’t got no beef with you. I don’t be writing rhymes about you,’ this and that. ‘People be gassin’ [this rivalry]. I’m not speaking to you [in my lyrics].'” After the phone conversation, Rakim says, “I had to respect that. He called me and spoke to me like a man…so I went back [to the studio] and took it out.” Charlamagne asks if Rakim addressed Kane by name in the original version. “I said, ‘Rippin’ your wrath in half / Who gets the last laugh? / Followers become leaders, but without a path / Your mentally paralyzed, crippled your third eye / Rhymes are blurred, then it occurred / That ya heard I / Reduced..’ Nahmean?” Rakim stops short of a few other lines. Those unreleased lyrics responded to “Wrath Of Kane” and addressed the lines Rakim felt were challenging “Follow The Leader.”
Charlamagne mentions Kane’s 2014 confirmation that he would still battle Rakim for $500,000. “That’s some good money. I think we can get a lil’ more than that though, Kane,” Ra’ responds. C.T.G. asks if Rakim feels he can still “get at Kane.” “Put it this way, man: Kane is dope. But like, I can’t let nobody…I’ll do whatever I have to do to [win]. I love you, Kane! But I’ll do whatever I gotta do. I think at this point, me and Kane’s styles are so different. I think back then it was a little more similar…I think I got into a lil’ more conscious Rap, and Kane is still Kane. But at this point, I’m still cocky; I don’t think nobody is better than me. That’s just my mindset. When I start thinkin’ different, I should quit rappin’.” Notably, both men are among the headliners at next month’s A3C Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. Previously, EPMD claimed that “Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em” was a diss in their direction.
Rakim goes on to describe a “tug of war” with KRS-One in the 1980s. “I never thought there was a problem, but there were little things that I started paying attention to. Like, at that time when he did ‘Self Destruction,’ he ain’t holla at me.” Rakim says that he “felt a way” about that, especially given his propensity for conscious Hip-Hop. He adds that he used to screw-face the artists who were included on the Stop The Violence Movement song for some time. “Time heals all wounds,” he reflects. Although he does not confirm which lyrics, Rakim says he addressed his frustrations in verses.
Elsewhere in the interview, Rakim describes some writing he did for Dr. Dre. Notably, he adamantly denies writing “Summertime” for Will Smith, but tells his former tour-mate that money is owed for style-jacking (26:00). Rakim also confirms a previous report from Eric B. that “Summertime” was strikingly similar to a track the duo was working on with the same Kool & The Gang sample. The God MC also reveals that he turned down a role in Juice, and others, because of stereotypical casting (59:00). Eric B. & Rakim would eventually make the title track for Ernest R. Dickerson’s 1992 film. He speaks about his deep respect for Paul C., the late producer/engineer who Rakim calls responsible for “In The Ghetto” and other tracks.
Sweat The Technique: Revelations On Creativity From The Lyrical Genius is available now.