Considered as the godfather of modern-day lyricism, Rakim Allah is a looming figure in the history of the genre, while also remaining an enigma to many. When he entered the scene with DJ Eric B., he was a model of consistency, dropping an innumerable amount of classics while becoming an integral part of the emergence of the Five Percent Nation in the Hip-Hop community.
A true Hip-Hop scholar, The R was also considered one of the most knowledgeable MC's in history, wowing a generation of rap fans with his dense lyricism and had a penchant for making you grab a Webster's Dictionary to grasp it all. While he seems to record less these days, his legacy lives on, as there's a good chance he fathered yourfavorite rappers style. Here are a few of his most notable classic's to get you up to speed if you aren't yet.
1. "Eric B. For President"
Rakim and Eric B. came in the door in a big way with this debut single released on 4th & Broadway Records in 1986. Over a bass-line that could've moonlighted as a sound effect on a Nintendo game, Rakim put the rap game on notice via this campaign song aimed at getting support so that DJ Eric B. could get his Obama on.
2. "I Ain't No Joke"
The R showed and proved he was far from a joke on this Paid In Full standout. Full of nimble drums and triumphant horns to go along with scratches provided by Eric B., he gives fair warning to sucker MCs worldwide who dare to test the god. With the heart of a champion and the eye of the tiger, Ra came out swinging and landed a knockout with this fan favorite.
3. "I Know You Got Soul"
"It's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you" is hands down one of the most recognizable/jacked openings in Hip-Hop history. One of his few party-inspired songs, "I Know You Got Soul" showed a different side from the usually serious minded MC. Over a funky backdrop and James Brown sample (which this track also helped popularize the usage of), The R proceeded to break down what Soul actually was and how you could tell whether you had it in you or not.
4. "Paid In Full (Seven Minutes Of Madness)"
Arguably his most timeless cut, "Paid In Full" served as the title track from his and Eric B's landmark debut album. Rhyming from a street-wise perspective, he detailed his struggles and journey to get paid in full not from a criminal lifestyle, but the rap game. Although the original is great in its own right, the extended version (courtesy of UK production duo Coldcut) is the one to peep. With the break in the beat being as timeless as any out there and the Arabic chanting serving as audio hypnosis, Ra created his go-to banger with just one verse and a classic visual to match.
5. "Follow The Leader"
After the critical acclaim the duo received from "Paid In Full", Eric B. and Rakim followed up with their sophomore effort, Follow The Leader. While the production on their debut was minimalist in nature, the pair upped the ante sonically on this go-round, with the title track from the album serving as ample evidence. Ra was also in lyrical form on this outing, taking the listener on a journey through the mind of The R, even taking a detour through the milky way. The music video does the track justice as well, as it is one of the most memorable from that era, hands down.
6. "Microphone Fiend"
One of, if not the earliest correlations between Hip-Hop and drugs, "Microphone Fiend" is one of the first songs that comes to mind when you think of the Eric B. and Rakim's discography. Over a funky sample of Average White Bands' "School Boy Crush" Ra reminisced on his days before rap stardom when he was just a rap junkie fiend'n to get his shot on the mic. The cute little white kid in the video didn't hurt the crossover appeal either.
The winning streak continued with their third LP, Let The Rhythm Hit Em, released in 1990. Usually not one for love-letter rap, Rakim showed a rarely seen romantic side on this cut about him and Eric B. bagging a pair of chicks at the Palladium. Eric B. got Ebony, which left Ra with her fictional twin sister, Mahogany. Even though The R comes lyrically correct as always, the real scene-stealer may actually be the addictive drums showcased on the record.
8. "In The Ghetto"
The original God MC takes us on a ride through Ghetto, USA with this one: giving an up-close and personal view of the ills and ways of the inner city. Though not one of his more ballyhooed cuts, the accompanying visual to the track will always stick in the minds of many, as shots of the legendary duo overlooking the streets of new york on a rooftop and cruising through the avenues and boulevards were perfect compliments to the grittiness of the track.
9. "Juice (Know The Ledge)"
In a rap game that leaned more and more to the street aesthetic, Rakim adjusted with ease. Over a frenetic track filled with various horn stabs and other mayhem, The R delivered an edgy, yet cautionary tale in his 1992 hit "Juice (Know The Ledge)." While also featured on his Don't Sweat The Technique album, the song became associated with the movie Juice and its accompanying soundtrack. The song provided the perfect backdrop for the flick but the success was bitter sweet. "Juice" and the title track from the famed duo's 4th LP would serve as their last classic together.
10. "It's Been A Long Time"
After a hiatus due to label red-tape, Ra returned in 1998 with the well-received solo effort The 18th Letter. Although out of the loop for a few years, Rakim definitely hadn't lost a step, with this DJ Premier produced head-nodder as clear proof. While he followed up with another album in '99s The Master and made an unsuccessful switch to Aftermath, The R slowly vanished from the scene, only leaving us with a string of classic to enjoy. Which is just what you would expect from an enigmatic figure like Rakim Allah.