Watch Rakim’s awkward interview on ‘Soul Train’ from 1987
(Credit: Eric B & Rakim)


Watch Rakim's awkward interview on 'Soul Train' from 1987

Rakim is known as one of hip-hop’s lyrical pioneers. Emerging in the 1980s, Rakim, alongside his partner in crime Erb. B, Rakim’s music changed the landscape of the culture concerning lyricism and paved the way for the likes of Nas and Talib Kweli to prosper with complex and unique flows.

Idolised for his 1987 album, Paid In Full, the rapper (real name William Griffin Jr.) advanced hip-hop by ignoring the prevalent cadences of early-’80s rap. 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.

As a legend, alongside Eric B within the culture, Rakim was often featured on television and in 1987, following the release of his album Paid In Full, Griffin had an awkward interview with Don Cornelius of the popular 1970s and 1980s music show ‘Soul Train.’

Don Cornelius hosted every episode of Soul Train from 1970 to 1993 and was the face of the program, which featured a multitude of music, primarily funk and disco. However, his interview with Rakim went awry when he highlighted how the emcee never smiled.

Throughout the interview Cornelius insinuated that Rakim was (in comparison to funk and disco artists) unnecessarily angry and perpetuating a negative stereotype about the temperament of African-Americans. He initiated the interview stating “Rakim you don’t smile to much,” to which Rakim responded “I ain’t no joke.”

The interview highlighted the friction between the older generation of African-Americans who liked positive, dancy funk and their younger counterparts who preferred the gritty and more politically charged art form of hip-hop.

After speaking with Eric B, Cornelius concluded the interview by turning the tables on Rakim stating, “I’d love to have you back on the show to do some more songs for us and some more music. You don’t have to smile a lot brother ’cause I don’t smile a lot either and I ain’t no joke either.” You can watch the interview in the video below.