Follow the Leader
Rakim is a hip-hop legend, a monument, the entire genre to some. When fans mention Rakim it’s in a reverential tone, always in the past tense, as if Rakim no longer exists. Rakim is often referred to as one of the greatest if not the greatest lyricist of all time. The debate as to who’s number one can go on forever but Rakim’s legend can never be denied. As I walked into BB Kings I didn’t know what to expect. Rakim has been something of a recluse over the last six or seven years. A few concerts here and there. A few aborted albums and rumored label signings, but not much production. So what kind of Rakim was I going to see? Would he reassert his greatness? Would this be a full fledged nostalgia show with no hint of a comeback? Would he even be on point?
Here I go again, ready to flow again, better hope my mic don’t blow again
Standing around and waiting is par for the course at a hip-hip show and this was no different. Rakim made us wait until 2:45 in the morning. As each successive minute passed the crowd became restless, but a sense of what will be floated through the air. If there's anyone who can make you wait and you can't complain about it, it’s Rakim. When Rakim finally made his grand entrance he crossed the stage like a prize fighter walking into the ring for a championship bout. (Click here to see the video of his grand entrance) I was right up front, first row, six inches from Rakim and my first impression of him was his size. Damn he's small. In my mind his lyrics have inflated him to at least six-foot-eight. Later on he backed up his small stature by informing us that he wont be jumping into the crowd because he's a small dude. My next thought was, damn, there’s Rakim six inches away from me, the legend. Unreasonable expectations are what Rakim lives with. But the bottom line, and this is no exaggeration, Rakim melted the microphone leaving it sore. He had complete control, his flow was spot on and he delivered a greatest hits set with a few new songs sprinkled in.
MC Means Move the Crowd
Speaking of crowd control, Rakim had it covered from step one. He stalked the stage like a bull, fully aware of his lyrical power and legendary status. He made the crowd beg for his hits, which they willingly did. When Rakim quieted down, the crowd followed suit waiting for Rakim to speak. As the show carried on Rakim became more comfortable, even changing his sneakers mid-set. The crowd caught the bug, loosened up, and from then on it was a full fledged love fest. Rakim signed autographs and even gave me pound. He could have asked everyone very nicely to hand over their wallets and people would have obliged.
I'm Asiatic, and blazin microphones a habit, At least once durin the course of a day, it's automatic
Rakim hit us with one hit, and the rest just kept on coming. The show hit its apex when Rakim performed Paid in Full, I Got Soul and I Ain’t No Joke in order with no breaks in between. It was a classic overload which some people couldn’t handle. During Paid in Full the audience shouted out every word and was transported back to ‘87 and it felt damn good. I went into the show hoping to hear Run For Cover or Mahogany. Run For Cover was a no-go but Ra delivered a smooth version of Mahogany. The crowd took great delight in singing the "she rub me on my chest and call me Mr. sexy" line. Rakim played a few new songs that sounded, well, like Rakim. Nothing new, his flow is the same and he's still dropping metaphors and similes like its nobody‘s business. His new single, It’s Nothing, serves to remind everyone that writing hits and being number 1, well, It's Nothing.
I circulate, and remain to rotate, Seven days a week at a quake or a slow rate, Be prepared whenever I come, Competition is none
Rakim talked about being away from hip-hop for a minute and then acknowledged he’s been away a looooong time. Considering Rakim is only one year older then Jay Z, where has he been? He really had no explanation as to his whereabouts. He made sure to remind everyone that his new single will be coming out in January and his new album in February. As for Eric B., he was nowhere to be found and Rakim didn’t try to hide his absence. He made It crystal clear that he doesn’t roll with Eric B. anymore by stating, "I don't roll with Eric B. no more." Furthermore, if a lyric called for an Eric B shout-out, Ra would substitute Eric. B’s name for either his name or Kid Capri. The only down side to the concert, besides its start time, was its flow. Rakim took his time between songs talking to the crowd killing any chance of building momentum. Overall, Rakim delivered the goods and I walked out of BB Kings feeling hopeful that he’ll enter the ring again on some level and reassert his legacy.
Incomplete and out of order set-list
Paid in Full
I Ain't No Joke
I Know You Got Soul
Follow the leader
Juice (Know The Ledge)
In the Ghetto
Don't Sweat the Technique
Eric B. Is President
More Concert Photos: Rakim @ BB Kings 11/25/06
More Concert Photos: Styles P @ BB Kings 11/25/06
Video: Styles P performing Wild Out @ BB Kings 11/25/06
MP3 Eric B. & Rakim - Run For Cover
Rakim @ BB Kings 11/25/06 Follow the Leader
Rakim @ BB Kings 11/25/06 Paid In Full
Rakim @ BB Kings 11/25/06 Microphone Fiend