Rakim – “King’s Paradise” (Netflix / 2018)
The God MC gets into a New York state of mind with this cut from Season 2 of Marvel’s “Luke Cage”.
Rakim – “King’s Paradise” (Netflix / 2018)
The God MC gets into a New York state of mind with this cut from Season 2 of Marvel’s “Luke Cage”.
As the man behind cult underground films such as “King Of The Beats” and the Hijack documentary “Turntable Trixters”, UK-based Hip-Hop preservationist Pritt Kalsi has amassed some classic footage over the years.
Finally dropping his long-awaited Paul C. project, “Memories Of…” features the likes of Rakim, CJ Moore and Dr. Butcher reminiscing on the super-producer who crafted classics for Ultramagnetic MC’s, Super Lover Cee & Casanova Rud, Mikey D and more – watch here via Pritt’s own site.
The Nottingham wordsmith pays homage to the God MC with his own lyrics of fury over the classic 80s instrumental.
With today marking the 40th anniversary of Clive ‘Kool Herc’ Campbell kick-starting the culture of Hip-Hop by throwing his first party at 1520 Sedgwick Ave in the Bronx, here’s some footage of yesterday’s huge event in NYC’s Central Park which featured Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Roxanne Shante and more all paying tribute to Herc – respect the pioneers!
Rakim – “Eric B. Is President”
Rakim – “I Ain’t No Joke”
Rakim – “My Melody”
Rakim – “Paid In Full”
Big Daddy Kane, Rakim & Lil’ Rodney C
Big Daddy Kane – “Raw” / “Set It Off” / “Smooth Operator”
Craig G & Marley Marl – “Droppin’ Science” / “The Symphony”
The Soulsonic Force – “Planet Rock”
Roxanne Shante & Kangol Kid – “Roxanne, Roxanne” / “Roxanne’s Revenge” / “Have A Nice Day”
Fonda Rae & Marley Marl – “Over Like A Fat Rat”
The great Rakim Allah speaks to NY’s Red Bull Music Academy about his early days as an emcee, coming from Strong Island, lyrical influences and much more in this lengthy interview.
Chicago’s HNHH.Com speaks to The R about Hip-Hop’s growing number of mature fans and artists.
Previously unreleased 1995 jewel from the God MC produced by UK music man Dominic Owen during his time at High Class Studios in Brooklyn, New York working with the likes of Biggie Smalls, Special Ed, PMD and more.
Queens, NY rap fanatic Gudtyme of Flampro.Com drops this brilliant collection of vintage live performances, radio sessions and freestyles from the likes of Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, Stetsasonic and Craig G – peep the flavour here.
Footage of Rakim and R.A. The Rugged Man in the studio discussing the God MC’s back-in-the-day rivalry with Big Daddy Kane.
The latest instalment of PNC Radio’s infamous online onslaught “The Combat Jack Show” featuring New York straight talk from Combat Jack and Dallas Penn with an indepth interview this week with BK legend DJ Clark Kent who recalls working with MC Lyte, Jay-Z and Biggie – listen here.
Extensive TheMontreality.Com interview with the legendary Rakim discussing his school days, religion and his legacy.
There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about a generation gap that’s developed in the Hip-Hop world between older heads who still adhere to true-school ethics such as creativity and originality, and younger artists and fans who have grown-up with Hip-Hop as a mainstream genre, often placing simple lyricism and shallow materialism before a genuine love and respect for the art.
But whilst there is some validity to that way of thinking, it’s also a very simplified and somewhat distorted version of the debate which would suggest there are no younger artists out there who have anything worthwhile to add to the culture of Hip-Hop, which, of course, is far from the truth.
Meet Nottingham, England’s Juga-Naut. An emcee in his early-twenties who cites the likes of Raekwon and Big Pun as influences, this talented lyricist has spent the last decade working on his craft, cultivating a passion for rhyme that developed at a young age thanks to musical family connections.
Drawing inspiration from both golden-era greats and local Notts artists who’ve released plenty of quality material over the years, such as Cappo and Outdaville, Juga-Naut is now determined to leave his own mark on both the UK and global Hip-Hop scenes, having already collaborated with upcoming Bronx emcee Tommy Nova.
Recently releasing the “Marvelous Wordsmiths” mixtape with fellow Nottingham lyricist Vandal Savage (the follow-up to last year’s “Juganautology”), the project finds the pair delivering vivid verses packed with lively wordplay and creative imagery over instrumentals from the likes of MF Doom, Ghostface Killah and LL Cool J.
With numerous future releases in the pipeline, Juga-Naut, who also produces some of his own material, is keen to show the world that some young artists who make up rap’s new generation do still care about bringing skills to the battle when it’s time to grab the microphone.
Here, the proud Nottingham representative discusses his early exposure to Hip-Hop, going against the grain of popular trends and his favourite Wu-Tang album.
Remember, age ain’t nothing but a number.
How did you initially become interested in music?
“It was through my parents really. My mum was an artist and my dad was a poet and a drummer. I was literally born into it, hearing groups like Tribe and De La Soul and just good, good Hip-Hop. I was also hearing other music in the house and a lot of family friends were deejays, emcees, stuff like that. So from the age of about five or six I was writing poems and knew every word to Tribe’s “Scenario” (laughs). Obviously at that age I didn’t really make the connection between what I was doing with words and the music I was hearing, it was just one of those things where, as a child, you want to do what you see others close to you doing. So because I saw people around me who were poets and lyricists, that was just something that I did. At the time, I wasn’t five-years-old thinking, ‘Yes, I want to take this to the next level as an emcee’ (laughs). That didn’t happen until I was about eleven or twelve-years-old when I was around a proper scene and realised that it was possible for me to actually do something with music.”
So it was at that point that you started to become involved in the local Nottingham scene?
“Yeah, definitely. At the time, there was a lot of garage and grime stuff happening when I was in my early teens and I was listening to some of that as well as the Hip-Hop I’d grown-up with. But I realised quickly that what I wanted to do was different to what people around me were doing with music. Obviously, as a kid you want to be involved with what your friends around you are doing, which was the early grime stuff. But while everyone was doing their A-B-C- rhymes and listening to So Solid Crew, I was listening to GZA’s “Liquid Swords” album (laughs). I’m a huge Wu-Tang fan. So I did do the grime thing for a bit because everyone else was, but as a lyricist I wasn’t getting any sustenance from it because I couldn’t make any connection between what people in that scene were doing lyrically and what I’d grown-up listening to and was aspiring to be as good as. Don’t get me wrong, I still do like some garage and grime now, but as an emcee back then that wasn’t what I was about.”
Aside from rhyming you also produce your own material – when did you first start getting into making beats?
“That happened when I was around fourteen-years-old. From the age of about twelve, thirteen I was just a super Hip-Hop head and spent every last bit of money I had on vinyl and was working out where all the samples came from, sitting down reading the credits on old album covers. I’m not trained to play an instrument, but I could always play drums and percussion from watching my dad play the drums. So the first time I sat down in front of a computer with Fruity Loops and realised I could actually chop something up, that was when I started putting it down and playing around with ideas. I’ve always had a good ear for sounds and I used to listen to a lot of old records, look at what they were sampling and try to work out how they made it sound the way it did. I really love that crunch that a lot of those old Hip-Hop records had, but a lot of the music around the time I started making beats in the early 2000s sounded super clean, so I wanted to play around and get that sound I liked. I grew-up hearing a lot of Jimi Hendrix in the house and I used to love that distorted sound on some of his records, so that was really an influence on me as well.”
Did you ever experience resistance from your peers when as a young teenager you were trying to do something different musically to what was becoming popular in the UK amongst the youth of the early-to-mid 2000s?
“Well, the garage and grime scene was the music of my generation and that’s what most of the people around me were listening to, so there were times when it was hard for me to move away from that because people around me didn’t understand what I was trying to do. But I had to do what was in my heart and it didn’t make sense to me to be listening to an album like Raekwon’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…” and then sit down to try to write some simplified lyrics that would fit easily into a standard double-time flow to spit on grime beats. It was almost like I was living a double life (laughs). So I had to go with what was in my heart and as an emcee I felt confined by what people were doing with grime at the time because I wanted to experiment with metaphors and really be free with my lyricism like the Hip-Hop artists I grew-up listening to. That’s why, even now, some people who’re a similar age to me will describe the music I make as “old-school” because they don’t understand what I’m trying to do and didn’t have those same influences as me.”
How crazy is that, that you’re being described as old-school for actually trying to be creative and challenge yourself as a lyricist as if that’s now an outdated concept to some artists today?
“It blows my mind and I’ve had this same conversation with so many people. It seems that if you consider the music you make to be Hip-Hop then that’s considered to be old-school to some people because the music has changed so much that people my age who rap don’t even connect what they do with Hip-Hop. I did some youth work recently and the kids kept referring to what they did as being “that rap ting” but then they’d say to me ‘You do that Hip-Hop stuff don’t you?’ because they consider it different to what they do, which shows how much the perception of the music has changed amongst the youth here in the UK. Over in the States, young artists will still consider what they do as being Hip-Hop, regardless of what style it is, but here in the UK young artists seem to want to distance themselves from being described as that because they see the term Hip-Hop as meaning old-school. I mean, I’m a young guy and I’m not trying to live in the past with my music because that wasn’t my era. I’m just doing it the way I think it should be done.”
When you’re writing do you ever think that the rhymes you’re putting so much effort into might be going over the heads of people who aren’t prepared to put the same effort into really listening to what you’re doing?
“Everyday (laughs). I’m actually glad you asked me that question because it’s a conversation I have with friends and people around me all the time. Some of my friends tell me that what I’m doing is being wasted because I’ve found it hard to really get exposure so I’m putting all this effort into music that’s only being heard by a small amount of people. But I can only make music the way I feel I should be doing it, regardless of how many people hear it. But I hope that as I become more well-known, people will go back and listen to the early projects I’ve done and still be able to appreciate them because I want my music to be timeless so that you can always go back and take something from it.”
Nottingham has always had a rich history of producing quality Hip-Hop artists and it definitely feels like you’re one of the next generation to be passed the baton from those who’ve come before…
“With the Nottingham scene, because it’s such a relatively small place with a lot of people doing the same sort of thing, there’s no way you can’t pass the baton to those that are coming up. If you do local gigs and open mics there will always be people there who’re connected with the generations of artists who came before. It really is one-degree of separation here and everyone knows each other (laughs). So it’s almost become like a tradition in Notts for those in the Hip-Hop scene here to pass the baton to the next generation. There’s a lot of help here from those who’ve done it before for artists who’re coming up who have something credible to offer.”
It would be incredible to see someone write a book about the history of the Notts scene from the Rock City days of the 80s up to the present time because the place definitely has its own unique story…
“That would be amazing. There’s always been a pureness and rawness to the Hip-Hop that’s come out of Nottingham. It’s always been about coming correct or you don’t bother coming at all. The Nottingham mentality is about being fresh and having your own style. Whether you listen to a Cappo or an Outdaville or someone else, we’ve all had our own style but we all come with that same authenticity and passion in our music.”
Are you constantly aware of that need to add something worthwhile to the Nottingham legacy when you’re recording?
“Definitely. The people that I work with now, like Scorzayzee, Cappo, Joe Buhdha, they’re people I grew-up listening to and who I consider to be legends in this. So the fact that they’re working with me and considering me to be an artist capable of carrying that torch, it blows my mind. So it’s not a joke to me and is something that I’m very aware of. It’s all about pushing forward, flying the flag for Notts and keeping the scene going.”
So how did you hook-up with Vandal Savage for the “Marvelous Wordsmiths” mixtape?
“He’s a childhood friend who I’ve known for years who also happens to be Joe Buhdha’s nephew. I grew-up with him as a kid just playing around. We started working together on a project a couple of years ago, but at the same time we also started working on stuff that ended up on the “Marvelous Wordsmiths” mixtape, which was just us having fun with it. The mixtape was just meant to be something to keep a buzz out there while we were working on other projects and also something we could use to pay homage to different artists like Ghostface and Pete Rock who’ve had an influence on us and who we listened to growing-up. We called it “Marvelous Wordsmiths” because both of our names come from comic book characters. Even down to the cover art, which is from a Terry Pratchett book, the whole concept of the project was about us paying homage to creative individuals who’ve influenced us in some way.”
You supported Rakim when he performed in Nottingham last year and he went on record with some extremely positive comments about your performance – how did it feel to have one of the most influential emcees in Hip-Hop history giving you props like that?
“That was incredible, man. If you were to ask some of the most famous emcees out there who their favourite emcee is most would say Rakim, so for the ultimate emcee to say that about me, I can’t even explain to you how that felt. Just talking to him was incredible, but for someone of his status to have really listened to what I was saying onstage was an unbelievable feeling. For a legend like Rakim who has influenced so many people to acknowledge me as being a talented emcee was one of the greatest moments of my life. It was like Michael Jordan telling you that you’re a good basketball player (laughs).”
You mentioned earlier in the conversation that you’ve found it hard to get exposure – why do you think that is?
“It’s a difficult one and I’m trying to think of the best way to explain it. The Internet is one of the best tools in the world, but it’s also one of the worst. It’s a catch-22 because the Internet is instant and available to everyone, which means you can potentially reach such a wide audience, but at the same time it means the music game is so saturated that people consider music easily disposable nowadays so they skim over a lot of things. Back in the day, you could have a two-page spread in a magazine and people would see that and because you’d been given that platform it singled you out and people would then want to find out more about you and listen to your music to see what the attention was about. But now with the Internet, you could be featured on a blog, but because it’s so instant people might just skim over you because they’re not familiar with your name and they’ll just look at the posts about artists they already know. So even though the Internet is a readily available tool, as a new artist it can actually make it harder to get noticed because the scene is so saturated. I do my own promotion and it’s hard to build relationships with websites and bloggers as a new artist because they’re getting blasted everyday with hundreds of emails from other artists all saying the same thing. I’ve got a lot of love from those people who have taken the time to listen to my music, but there’s still a lot of people to reach.”
So what other projects are you currently working on?
“In the near future I’ve got an EP that I did called “Battle Of The Bulge” which is a concept-based release. There’s seven tracks on the EP and they’re all self-produced and I mastered the whole project myself as well. That’s the first official release I’m putting out following the “Marvelous Wordsmiths” mixtape to really show people the direction I’m heading in as an artist. This EP isn’t just me throwing rhymes over beats, it’s a really well thought-out, conceptual piece of work. I’m also currently working on an album with Scorzayzee which I’ve produced, and hopefully we’ll be pressing that on vinyl towards the end of the year. Then the major, major project in the pipeline is an album that myself, Vandal Savage and Scorzayzee are doing with Joe Buhdha as a group. We’re not putting any more details out there at the moment as we’re still working on the project, but we’re looking to make this a really special release with some major features. We’re really trying to work on this music thing as a family unit, do it ourselves, build something and really come with quality product.”
Random final question, you mentioned that you’re a huge Wu-Tang fan – which Wu-related album would you consider to be your personal favourite?
“Ummmm….(laughs). I think I would have to go with “Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”. I love the solo albums that came out of the Wu, but I think I’ve got to take it back to that first album that started it all because the whole group had such an influence on me not just as an emcee but also on how I approach music in general. Plus, I got my copy of the album signed by Ghostface when I met him (laughs).”
Stay updated with Juga-Naut here at his blog.
Juga-Naut & Vandal Savage ft. Scorzayzee – “Backwoods” (@Juganaut / 2012)
UBATT.TV interview with the legendary Rakim following a recent performance in Montreal, Canada discussing his choice to remain true to his roots rather than chase commercial success, life-and-death situations and future plans.
The God emcee Rakim speaks to Video Music Box’s Ralph McDaniels following a show last night in New Jersey and comments on the passing of Beastie Boys member MCA.
Prince Ali ft. Rakim – “The Mental” (PrinceAli.BandCamp.Com / 2012)
Unfortunately this track doesn’t actually feature a verse from the great Rakim but interview audio instead – taken from the Canadian emcee’s recent free EP “SP1200” which features Craig G, Oddisee and Kev Brown,
Amusing backstage interview with the legendary Rakim for NY-based cable show “Chris Music Concepts”.
While at the Essence Music Festival the Juice Crew legend gives his opinion on who would have been victorious in a Kane / Rakim battle back in the day.
Venue: The Jazz Cafe, London Date: 2 June 2011
Unlike other golden-age Hip-Hop icons such as KRS-One, De La Soul and Big Daddy Kane who have all hit the UK on a semi-regular basis over the years, until his recent handful of shows, Rakim, the first emcee to “let a rhyme flow down the Nile”, hadn’t performed on British soil for well over a decade. So even after his recent shared dates with De La and Black Star, it really wasn’t a surprise to find that this one-off gig at London’s intimate Jazz Cafe venue had sold out relatively quickly.
The Long Island lyricist really needs no introduction. Having influenced everyone from Nas and Pharoahe Monch to O.C. and Common, the fingerprints of the god are all over the rap game, with Rakim championed by many as the greatest emcee of all-time, despite the fact that his output has been relatively minimal since he parted ways with Eric B. following their fourth album, 1992’s “Don’t Sweat The Technique”. Such was the impact of the cerebral, Islam-influenced, streetwise rhymes Ra first began delivering in his trademark slow-flow style a quarter of a century ago, the emcee’s rap royalty status will be forever unquestionable.
By the time The R’s Bronx-raised wax spinner Technician had hyped the crowd with a quick-fire selection of classics from the likes of Slick Rick, Camp Lo and Jeru The Damaja, anticipation for the 18th letter was building quickly.
When Tech threw on Doug E. Fresh’s old-school classic “Play This Only At Night” and announced Rakim with all the drama of a heavyweight title fight, for a moment it seemed like the second coming of Jesus as the Strong Island legend made his way downstairs onto the stage, standing silent for a few moments as the crowd roared at the sight of their Hip-Hop hero with a sea of arms waving in unison. “All this love feels real good,” stated a typically low-key Rakim. “I ain’t been in the UK for a minute, but we’re definitely going to make up for that tonight.”
With that, the opening keys of the Marley Marl-produced classic “My Melody” threw the crowd into a further frenzy, with Rakim, decked out in a Carhartt hoodie and Yankees cap, proceeding to spend the best part of the next hour-and-a-half dropping almost non-stop classics from his impressive back-catalogue.
In the past, Rakim has been criticised for performing over full vocal versions of his own tracks, but that definitely wasn’t the case here. Ripping through timeless joints such as “I Ain’t No Joke”, “Juice (Know The Ledge)” and “Let The Rhythm Hit Em”, Ra dropped every line with perfect clarity and didn’t miss a beat.
Although the crowd was reminded regularly by both Rakim and his deejay of the old-school artist’s most recent release, 2009’s largely disappointing “The Seventh Seal”, the New York icon made the wise decision not to force the album into his performance, dropping only a few cuts from the project, including its highlight, the David Axelrod-sampling “Holy Are You”.
On wax Rakim has always appeared cool, calm and collected with something of a serious demeanour, yet tonight, clearly comfortable in his surroundings, the artist responsible for some of the most intensely intricate rhymes in Hip-Hop history dropped jokes about becoming a future rap-addicted grandfather still sporting box-fresh sneakers, gave a little insight into how Ra impresses the ladies, and also jumped behind the turntables to show that rhyming isn’t his only talent.
At one point the show did seem like it could possibly lose a little momentum when the standard split-the-audience-in-half-and-see-which-side-can-make-the-most-noise routine went on far much longer than it needed to. But Rakim soon picked up the pace again with flawless performances of “In The Ghetto”, “Microphone Fiend” and, of course, the 80s money-making anthem “Paid In Full”.
With the crowd rhyming almost word-for-word with Rakim throughout the show, it could be argued that, when it comes to solo performers, possibly only KRS-One could match the God emcee’s sheer volume of universally acclaimed classics. And still Ra kept them coming – “Move The Crowd”, “Eric B. Is President”, “Mahogany”, “Don’t Sweat The Technique”, “It’s Been A Long Time”.
Ending with an acapella rendition of the first verse from 1988’s “Follow The Leader”, Rakim dropped his scientific rhymes slow and deliberate, as if to remind both himself and his fans that the words he committed to a notebook over two decades ago still outshine many of today’s verses thanks to the vision and sheer poetic brilliance of their creator.
The majority of the crowd in attendance tonight had obviously grown up with Rakim, respected him, studied him, and now, finally, had the chance to celebrate him. Ra is to rap lyricism what John Coltrane was to the saxophone or Jimi Hendrix to the guitar, a completely original talent and a total physical embodiment of his craft who has left an indelible stamp on his chosen artform.
With Rakim thanking everyone for the unconditional love shown and promising to return to the UK again next year, those in attendance left the Jazz Cafe on a Hip-Hop high probably stronger than any other they’ve felt in recent times due to the performance they had just witnessed.
And on that note, we say peace!
Rakim performing “Follow The Leader” at The Jazz Cafe.