Eric B & Rakim were a dynamic duo that took hip-hop by storm in the mid-1980s. The Bronx-born act changed the landscape of hip-hop within five years, and whether it was Eric B’s production or Rakim’s mind-boggling lyricism, everybody in the culture learnt something from the pair.
Rakim is widely considered a lyrical pioneer, and when Paid In Full was released in 1987, that only confirmed everybody’s belief that the emcee (real name William Griffin) was on a different level from every artist in hip-hop at the time. Rakim’s approach to lyricism was far from basic. It was fascinatingly complex. The schemes intertwined different rhymes, and the rhyming sat in the pockets of the offbeat.
However, although Rakim’s rise was pivotal to the development of hip-hop as it evolved in the ’90s, to this day, people would still consider Nas a better lyricist and more influential figure. In an interview with VladTV, Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian attempted to explain why he believes people class Rakim as lesser than Nas and other ’90s MCs.
The conversations surrounding Rakim’s standing as a lyricist arose following a 2018 tweet Griffin made about the regression of rap music that read, “You are now witnessing the devolution of rap music. The death of poetry and smoothness, they use this. The absence of a message. The inability to create meaningful change through words and verses, but worse is they don’t even know they hurt this artful purpose. It’s tragic.”
DJ Vlad then asked Jamar if artists such as Nas were inspired by Rakim, who at one point was the pinnacle of hip-hop, why did the New York emcee not achieve mega-success, and why is he not looked at in the same light as Nas concerning his penmanship.
Jamar responded first off by saying it was the fault of the business that he didn’t grow and get bigger. However, concerning why people see Rakim as lesser than Nas, the Brand Nubian artist explained, “Rakim doesn’t have as many albums. We’re still talking about Rakim from his Paid In Full album. That masterpiece, how many albums does Rakim have in total? Nas got mad [amount] of albums Jay-Z got mad albums. I think Rakim might not have more than three.”
He continued, “I feel like Rakim is the type who just got frustrated with the business and whatever happened with him and Eric B. When that went south, that probably f*cked with his spirit a little bit. Then dealing with shady record people, managers, accountants and all of this other sh*t! I think it just got to him.” You can watch the full interview with Lord Jamar in the video below.