The raging debate about who is the greatest rapper of all time rages on till this day. There is no obvious right or wrong answer to this question, but it all boils down to influence. However, when Rakim dropped his first album, Paid In Full, alongside his friend Eric B, he seemed to be ahead of the pack. His style and flow distinguished him as the best amongst a group of talented rappers such as Big Daddy Kane, Kool Moe Dee, and KRS-One.
His lyrics and laid back style made him the most influential rapper of his generation and hip-hop artists in the late 1980s and early 1990s were keen to emulate his style. In 2006, MTV named his album, Paid In Full, as the greatest hip hop album of all time and he was ranked position four on MTV’s list of the Greatest MCs of All Time. Here are 10 of the greatest Rakim songs of all time.
10. New York (Ya Out There)
At position ten, in our list of the greatest songs by Rakim is a song that pays tribute to New York City. The track was produced by DJ Premier and it is one of his finest productions till date. “New York (Ya Out There)” is the 10th track from Rakim’s 1997 album. The album contains incredible samples from James Brown’s, “Down And Out In New York City.” “New York (Ya Out There” features some dope visual lyrics and Rakim does justice to the incredible beat, which features some DJ Premier scratches throughout.
9. King’s Paradise
Rakim’s music has found its way in several Marvel series. The track “King’s Paradise” is the original soundtrack of Luke Cage Season 2. The song mentions some influential people who hail from Harlem such as Malcolm X, Joe Louis, Louis Armstrong and Maya. Rakim then sings praises to Luke Cage in a combination of both fact and fiction. The song is named after the “Harlem Paradise,” which is a house that is passed down by the generations of the Stokes family.
8. Microphone Fiend
“Microphone Fiend” is the second track from Rakim and Eric B’s second album Follow The Leader. In the song, Rakim compares his love for rapping to how drug addicts feel about drugs. The song is featured in the 2001 movie “Freddy Got Fingered” and has been covered by many artists who cite it as the golden standard of hip-hop music.
7. Waiting For The World To End
“Waiting For The World To End” was a song of reflection for Rakim. The song was released in 1999 when the US was preparing for the elections and hence there were lots of uncertainties in the White House, Congress and at all state levels. Rakim offers hope and encourages people to stand for each other to make the changes that they desire.
Rakim’s 1999 album, The Master, was a masterpiece. “Uplift” is the seventh track from the album that was produced by Ron “Amen-la” Lawrence. The album received positive reviews and some mixed reviews.
5. Don’t Sweat The Technique
The reason Rakim is regarded as one of the greatest MCs of all time is because his music is timeless. Twenty to thirty years from the release of his song, the lyrics remain relevant. “Don’t Sweat The Technique” is the eleventh song from their fourth and final studio album alongside his friend Eric B. If you aren’t into hip-hop, the aggressive in line in the song might be what will hook you into this music genre.
4. I Know You Got Soul
In the number four spot on our top 10 Rakim songs list is one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time entitled “I Know You Got Soul.” The song by Eric B and Rakim got its name from a similar song which was recorded by Bobby Byrd. Rakim and Eric B’s song samples heavily from the Bobby Byrd song and contributed to the widespread use of James Brown samples in hip-hop.
“I Know You Got Soul” was the third track from the duo’s 1987 album Paid in Full. The song has been sampled by several other artists such as Sean Paul in his song “International Affair” and Timbaland in the song, “Cop That.” The song is also featured in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as a song played in a fictional radio station. “I Know You Got Soul” peaked at position 13 in the UK singles chart and position 64 in the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs.
3. Paid In Full
“Paid in Full” was the fifth song from Rakim and Eric B’s debut studio album with the same name. The track is one of the most successful songs by the duo. It was covered by Coldcut and their version was renamed, “Seven Minutes of Madness.” The song came about after Eric B did a search for a rapper who would complement his style. When Rakim accepted the challenge, the duo began recording songs immediately. The song stands as one of the greatest hip hop songs of all time.
2. I Ain’t No Joke
Rakim changed hip-hop forever with his style, flow and voice. In the song’s video, you can get to see classic New York attire which features a dookie chain, colourful attire and lots of street graffiti. “I Ain’t No Joke” is hip-hop at its best.
The track was released in 1987 from Rakim’s debut studio album, Paid in Full and is often described as one of the most significant singles from the album. Rakim said that they took a week working on this album although the track “I Ain’t No Joke” took most of the time. Rakim also mentions that he avoided using any form of foul language through the song. The track peaked at position 38 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks.
1. When I be On The Mic
When most rappers mention their list of the greatest rappers, they often mention Rakim as one of the best. When you listen to this song, you will understand why he is often held in such high regard. In this song, Rakim says that he is “internationally known on the microphone.” Depending on where you come from, you can answer the question yourself. However, my opinion stands, “Rakim is internationally known on the microphone.
Top 10 Rakim Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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