Happy Birthday, Rakim!
Today, Jan. 28, should be declared a hip-hop holiday, as it marks the birthday of legendary God MC, Rakim. He turns 51 today.
Born William Michael Griffin Jr. in 1968, the New York native dropped his first rhymes while he was still in high school under the name Kid Wizard, but after embracing the teachings of the Nation of Islam in 1986, he began to go by Rakim Allah. Around that same time, Rakim linked up with his longtime partner, Eric B., and the two began to create music together as one of the most respected duos in hip-hop history.
As legend would have it, producer and DJ, Eric B., was the roommate of innovative Queens, NY DJ and rapper, Marley Marl, and with his help, Eric B. and Rakim recorded their first track, "Eric B. Is President" right from Marl's home studio in 1986. Eventually, it would find the ears of none other than Russell Simmons, who signed the legends-to-be to Island Records ahead of the release of their debut album.
Eric B. and Rakim’s classic debut album, Paid in Full, was released July 7, 1987 and is considered to be one of the most influential rap albums of all time. It spawned hits such as the aforementioned “Eric B. Is President,” “I Ain’t No Joke,” “I Know You Got Soul,” “Move the Crowd” and the title track, “Paid in Full.” The duo went on to record four more albums together before Rakim began to embark on his solo career.
The rap legend's solo debut studio album, The 18th Letter, dropped in November of 1997 and was a commercial success, debuting at No. 4 on the Billboard 200. More importantly, the album was received well by critics and fans alike, proving that despite not having released an LP in five years, the "Guess Who's Back" MC's mic and pen were both still strong.
He followed his solo debut up with The Master two years later in 1999. Though it was also reviewed positively, the album lacked the sales that Rakim had grown accustomed to, and The Master would be Rakim's last studio album for nearly a decade.
From there, aside from signing with Aftermath briefly and working sporadically on some Dr. Dre-produced tracks, Rakim went silent for the most part until 2009, when he dropped his third LP, The Seventh Seal, which of course, was met with critical acclaim, featuring the lead single, "Holy Are You."
In recent years, Rakim Allah has released collaborative work with artists like DMX and Linkin Park, and went out on tour in 2018 after reuniting with Eric B. The two are currently set to perform in 2019 alongside Slick Rick and Big Daddy Kane.
Widely known for his calm, cool and collected vibe, his methodical approach to delivering bars and most likely being your favorite rapper's favorite rapper, the God MC is and probably always will be regarded as one of the top lyricists of all-time.
Happy Birthday, Rakim!
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