Turn it Down: Hip-hop legend Rakim heads to Lansing

Iconic member of Eric. B & Rakim headlines The Loft

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Friday, Feb. 14 @ The Loft, 414 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing. All ages, $30, $25 adv., 7 p.m.

A historic Lansing hip-hop show happens Friday, as the legendary Rakim performs at The Loft alongside a roster of local openers, including: AOTA Creative (Ozay Moore, Jahshua Smith, Y’Z, Sareem Poems and James Gardin), AON, Sincere Sinatra, DJ Ruckus, Edicius, Izydope CEO & Dirtsound Affiliates (Jae Vet, Beneficial and Karm4). 

Known as an influential architect of rap lyricism, Rakim, a Long Island native, first started making waves back in 1986 with his duo: Eric B. & Rakim. The New York pair’s first 12-inch single, “Eric B. is President,” was recorded at Marley Marl’s studio and soon after landed on wax via Zakia Records, an indie imprint. However, after the track made waves across the city, the pair inked a deal with 4th & B’way, a subsidiary label of Island Records. 

The follow-up smash single, 1987’s “I Know You Got Soul,” helped make their debut LP “Paid in Full” a mainstream success—hitting No. 58 on the Billboard Top 200. The groundbreaking album, stacked with now-iconic lyrics and hooky, sample-filled beats comprised the singles “I Ain’t No Joke” and, the landmark title track, “Paid in Full.” Before his come up on the scene, hip-hop lyrics were often simple from a structural standpoint. So—while standing in the shadows of Grand Master Flash & the Furious Five and Run-DMC—Rakim provided a new, poetic template for emcees to follow: a complex and cerebral style of rhyming that changed rap music forever. Along the way, his artistic use of metaphors and stoic delivery heavily influenced soon-to-be industry trendsetters like Jay-Z, 2Pac, Nas and Eminem. 

Born William Michael Griffin Jr., aka Rakim, now 52, went on to produce three more successful albums with producer/DJ Eric B., including “Follow the Leader” (1988), “Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em” (1990) and 1992’s “Don't Sweat the Technique”—all are now considered hip-hop standards.

Since then, in 2006, MTV named Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid in Full” as the Greatest Hip-Hop Album of All Time, while Rakim himself was ranked No. 4 on MTV’s list of the Greatest MCs of All Time. In 2012, The Source ranked him No. 1 on their list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time. In 2011, Eric B. & Rakim were even nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

While Eric B. and Rakim spent a bulk of the ’90s and 2000s working on solo albums and touring the world independent of each other, the duo reunited in 2017 for the first time in decades at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre. The show was in celebration of the 30th anniversary of “Paid In Full.” Since then, the two have played select reunion concerts across the map. 

Late last year, Rakim also published “Sweat the Technique: Revelations on Creativity from the Lyrical Genius,” the 236-page book is part memoir and part writing guide. The emcee offers insight into how he thinks about words, music, writing and rhyming. It’s a perfect “how to” for rookie rappers. Beyond rhyming, he divulges stories from his youth on Long Island and his come-up as a renowned emcee. Of course, he also shares plenty of amazing anecdotes about his various cohorts, like L. L. Cool J. and Dr. Dre, among others.

 

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