Ever Hear When Rakim Went Back To “The Ghetto” With Black Thought (Audio)
Nearly a decade ago, J. Period was commissioned by Sony Records to make a companion mixtape to The Roots & John Legend’s WAKE UP! album. That LP, which got The Roots two more Grammy Awards for the trophy case, involved some great MCs such as Common and C.L. Smooth to rework a few Soul classics. Meanwhile, J. Period, who’d worked with Black Thought, dropped WAKE UP! RADIO. It had some of the album’s flavor spill over into a high-quality, promotional mixtape. Music from Q-Tip, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, dead prez, Blu, and other Hip-Hop artists was paired with joints by Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and Nina Simone.
Included in J.’s companion tape was a spiritual remake of Eric B. & Rakim’s Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em single, “In The Ghetto,” featuring legendary rappers Rakim and The Roots’ very own Black Thought, as well as John Legend. This weekend, J. Period surprised fans with the song arriving on digital streaming services, as apart of the producer’s effort in making his old mixtape discography available for a new generation of listeners.
For this new version of “In the Ghetto,” J. Period reworks Eric B.’s original sample flip of 24-Carat Black’s “Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth,” and samples Rakim himself to remind us that in the ghetto, “nobody’s smiling.” Black Thought kicks things off with a fiery verse full of vivid street imagery: “Yo, if you’re coming here to keep you a gat close / Ain’t a lot of tolerance for people that lactose / You can get your back broke stumped out, choked / Or slashed throat or poked in a cloud of black smoke / Old heads tell you ’bout the trouble with Black folk / Coke heads tell you ’bout the difference in crack smoke / Chicken-heads doing the back stroke, lot of sleep ni**as that act woke, People cashed in on their last hope.”
Rakim follows up with a potent second verse, depicting a harsh realities of the city ghetto through fictional storytelling: “Yeah, welcome to the concrete city, everybody carry metal when / It’s impossible to settle in, you can hear the seven sins / Blowing through the ghetto wind, my eyes seen the evil, That’ll make the devil grin / Paying in misery’s heroin, it gets depressing when the bad news never end / Pops shot and killed, robbing the bodega, I was 11 and / Moms was a shot of booze away from shooting heroin / Too true, my element, my future’s irrelevant, it’s evident / Then I’ma either end up dead or in the pen.”
The song closes out with John Legend delivering a soulful finale.
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It’s hard to explain what these mixtapes have meant for me. For years we hustled CDs on Canal St to make our names, grew our names into brands, and our brands into businesses. When business went global, mixtapes became our passports. These little CDs took us around the world, turned icons into friends, and wrote us—US—into the story of Hip Hop. If you were wise, you paid respect to the artists and the culture that birthed us. If you were lucky, you dodged the snakes. And if you were dope, you never gave up on your dream. Half the battle was surviving. (Half the battle is always surviving.) The other half was making art that survives. These tapes are my time capsules. They hold a piece of history, including my own. The world has moved on from hustling CDs on Canal St, but the music on these tapes is timeless. Starting tomorrow, we retrofit these rockets for the future, to ensure their survival… Welcome to the world of streaming, Little Ones…. Patience… One at a time… Everyone will get their turn… ?
J. Period took to Instagram to shed more light on his effort to bring his older mixtapes to streaming services, calling the releases “time capsules” and revealing he’s working on breaking timeless mixtapes and singles from his own discography onto streaming platforms.
Last year, J. Period released The Live Mixtape, featuring Rakim, Black Thought, and Pharoahe Monch. Smif-N-Wessun and Dres also appear.
At AFH TV, there are interviews with Black Thought, J. Period, many others. We are currently offering free 7-day trial subscriptions.
New music by Black Thought is also presently available on the official Ambrosia For Heads Playlist.