Even in 2021, three decades after his debut on the scene, the god-emcee Rakim is growing into a more profound rapper and distinguished gentleman.
On Saturday, February 13th, Rakim served as the special guest speaker at the annual Black Book Fair sponsored by the ladies of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Brooklyn Alumnae Chapter) and their new community partner, Usher’s New Look.
While breaking down his life and legacy as communicated in his memoir, “Sweat the Technique: Revelations on Creativity from the Lyrical Genius,” he spoke about his regret for not joining in community with rappers in the 80s & 90s.
During the interview portion of the fair, UNL’s Chief Operating Officer Geoff Street posed a question, “One thing that really stood out, was when you said you really didn’t feel like you were competing with anybody but yourself.”
“Also at that time because of that competitive energy that was out there, a lot of emcees in your era didn’t really hang out. So you talked about your evolution over time. I’m just curious to see how do you feel … watching the younger generation and how they’re socializing [with each other] as emcees?”
“That’s a really good question,” Rakim shared. “Because for years I used to beat myself up because I was that dude. I wouldn’t conversate with too many other emcees. If I did, it was ‘What up, peace!,’ ‘Thank you,’ ‘Later,’ type of thing.”
“All I knew were the streets and I kind of incorporated what I knew from the streets into Hip-Hop. I didn’t let nobody get close to me. I drew that line in the sand and dared somebody to step over it. That’s all I knew.”
But the reflective legend went on to talk about who he is now as a 53-year-old man, “I beat myself up for years when I grew up and matured and realize that you know these brothers are not really my enemies. I treated him like that for years.”
“A lot of the brothers that I came up with in my era, I have a lot of respect for. And it took me a while to learn how to express that to them.”
Evidence of this revelation being put into practice comes into how he views LL Cool J, who arguably was the biggest “pop star” rapper of his time.
“I remember one day I saw LL in Cali. You know me and L, we used to go on tour. We used to speak, but we used to bump heads a little bit too,” he said, talking about his relationship with the Queens rapper.
“So you know… not seeing him in a while and seeing him in California … I’m on this new Ra’ thing … you know what I mean? I wanna get out and say, ‘What’s up?’ to this brother and let him know that I love him.”
“So I guess you look a little crazy … So, L is coming out of a record store so I see L … so we passed turn back around … he might have seen us go by …. then come back because he was looking like ‘Who was just pulling up?’ So we pulled up on him. I get out of the car and say, ‘What’s up to him?’ A couple of my people get out of the car … but through the hectic … whatever was going on … I tried to say, ‘Yo, L ! Man, you out here doing your thing. Keep doing your thing. I got a lot of love for you!’”
“Well, he might have looked at me like …” The R tilts his head to the side as if LL was questioning his intentions.
“I just left for that. ‘Yo, L … peace and love, man. Keep doing your thing.”
Rakim was at ease at the book fair, wholly honest and an example of an expanded idea of manhood, competition, and focus.
“I was going through my … ‘Ra … man it’s alright. You can take your foot off they neck. It’s not like that. You know, L is doing this thing. Big Daddy Kane. EPMD. Slick Rick. All these brothers that I came up with, it wasn’t like they all were against Ra.
“I just realized, growing and maturing … I just wanted to make things right. And let these brothers know, regardless so you know what we’ve been through or what I might have said … or vice versa … I have a lot of love and respect for them. To this day, EPMD, Kane, and KRS-One… there is nothing but love,” Rakim said.
Other authors who spoke during the Black Book Fair were as follows: Candace McDuff (“50 Rappers Who Changed the World”), A.D. “Lumkile” Thomason (“Permission to be Black: My Journey with Jay-Z and Jesus), former AllHipHop.com staff writer, Clover Hope ( The Motherlode: 100+ Women that Made Hip-Hop.”
The sorority, whose chapter president is Shawna Green Myles, also spotlighted 42 Black authors in the following genres: Children’s Lit, Self-Care and Inspiration, Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Professional Development.
For the full video, please see the Brooklyn Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.’s Facebook.