Follow the Leader

Jose Vilson

I wrote this a few weeks ago in another site in response to someone’s inquiry as to why I believe Rakim’s the greatest rapper of all time. It bothers me a little that he doesn’t have an official website, and the last time someone tried to pay homage to him through a site, it was taken down. Yikes. Rakim’s the greatest. Timeless …


Venturing onto Jamaall’s blog, I noticed a comment by my homie Kika, who asked, “What makes Rakim the best rapper ever?” I thought it was a valid question, and one that I could respond to while Jamaall was coming up to on his own time. Rakim is the greatest rapper of all-time for 3 main reasons:

1) He is the absolute embodiment of a Master of Ceremonies in terms of presence and confidence behind the microphone

2) He achieved and continued to achieve at least some commercial success without selling his own message and agenda of P.E.A.C.E. short, which means that people are bending to him, and not the other way around.

3) He was a revolutionary when it came to rap flow. Rather than stick to the simple subject matter and rap flows that were popularized by his predecessors, he used tons of alliteration, alliteration, and other techniques that many rappers hadn’t even thought of to that point, and did it with such ease, that every rapper after him thought they could somehow emulate that.

To this day, people still can’t touch his combination of flow, charisma, and omniscient. Even his worst rhymes have often been favored by true hip-hop fans versus the more contemporary artists. He’s had the greatest influence of any hip-hop artist, living or dead, just off fact #3, and he also made it cool for rap lyricists to jump on an R&B track, now a staple for many rap and R&B albums for collaborations.

Jamaall went on to call him the Wilt Chamberlain of rap; I guess that’s an OK analogy, but I would more readily compare him to Muhammad Ali or a Malcolm X in his later years: awesome storytellers and lyricists, who didn’t necessarily have a “team” around them, and who people regarded highly in their respective populations. Then again, I would more compare him to Malcolm in his later years only because people only talk about him as part of the Nation of Islam, and not when he founded his own organization and spoke of peace after coming back from Mecca. Even those are weak analogies to the god MC, whose legendary status was sometimes ignored by younger rap fans.

By the way, that “Classic” with Kanye, Nas, Rakim, and KRS-One is nice, but honestly, they could have all hit harder. Maybe it’s because it became part of a Nike promo.

Updated: For more Rakim, you MUST listen to:

“Follow the Leader” by Eric B. and Rakim
“I Ain’t No Joke” by Eric B. and Rakim
“Microphone Fiend” by Eric B. and Rakim
“Don’t Sweat the Technique” by Eric B. and Rakim
“Eric B. is President” by Eric B. and Rakim
“Paid in Full” by Eric B. and Rakim

features he’s done:

“The Watcher 2” with Jay-Z, Truth Hurts and Dr. Dre
“NY State of Mind” with Alicia Keys and Nas
“R.A.K.I.M.” off the 8 Mile Soundtrack (*** HIGHLY SLEPT ON ***)
“Militia II” with Gangstarr, and WC

Whatever happened to P.E.A.C.E.?


jose, who tells competitors to not sweat the technique …

p.s. – Anyone that mentions Lil’ Wayne, Juelz Santana, or (insert random rapper who doesn’t even belong in the same paragraph except with the word “not” in between) needs to check themselves before they wreck themselves.