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Rakim Is Taking The “Lid Off Hip Hop” With Sprite For The Culture’s 50th

Some of our favorite Hip Hop pioneers are going all out for the culture’s 50th anniversary. Nas’s company Mass Appeal has been instrumental in honoring the ongoing impact of Hip Hop throughout the year. They are hosting events highlighting the significant contributions of those that laid the foundation of what we know as Rap today. Another company that has long supported the culture and its artists is Sprite, and they’re back with another campaign. This time, they’ve called on the likes of some Rap heavyweights to celebrate, showcasing various generations of Hip Hop.

One of those artists is music legend Rakim, and this isn’t the first time he has partnered with Sprite. The 2015 “Obey Your Verse” campaign highlighted his unmatched lyricism, along with other standouts, including Missy Elliott, Drake, Tupac Shakur, and J. Cole. The following year, “The God Emcee” appeared in the “Obey Your Verse – Lyrical Collection” commercials, and now, he returns once again for the soda brand’s latest. This time, he even joins Nas, Latto, and GloRilla for an updated chopped-and-screwed version of Sugarhill Gang’s classic 1979 hit, “Rapper’s Delight.”

We were able to catch up with Rakim and spoke with him about the “dope campaign from Sprite,” as he put it. He told us that the company has been “supporting Hip Hop from Day One,” so it made sense for him to link with them again. “We’re celebrating 50 years of Hip Hop,” said the legendary emcee. “We all—it’s dope—we all spit bars from ‘Rapper’s Delight.’ You know, we kind of did it in our own way. Everybody kind of took a bar from ‘Rapper’s Delight.’ And it’s just showing the growth of Hip Hop from there to here.”

Rakim’s Biggest Hits From His 40-Year Career

Music has surrounded Rakim since he was a child. His aunt, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ruth Brown, was a legend in her own right. She was instrumental in helping Atlantic Records become what it is today and even earned herself two Grammys. Although he’s been penning rhymes since before his age hit double digits, a teenage William Michael Griffin Jr. had football aspirations. However, after a chance meeting with DJ Eric B., their lives would be catapulted in a different direction.

The rapper would later change his stage moniker to “Rakim Allah” after joining the 5 Percent Nation, or The Nation of Gods and Earths. With Eric B., the pair of talents would go on to craft four monumental albums, from their 1987 mega-classic Paid in Full to their final as a duo, 1992’s Don’t Sweat The Technique. In those early days of Hip Hop, DJ-rapper duos were the norm, but no one paired as effortlessly as Eric B. and Rakim. The formidable emcee continued his solo career throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, culminating in 2009 with his final stand-alone record, The Seventh Seal.

Although he hasn’t given us a complete project in some time, Rakim hasn’t been down for the count. A select few have secured a verse or two within the last few years, further showing his ability to adapt to any generation. His mentorship with other artists and resounding impact on Hip Hop culture is also palpable. Across the Rap board, lyricists have cited Rakim as a cornerstone of inspiration. His wordplay, rhyme schemes, and ability to reflect his personal and political world perspective poetically have influenced celebrated artists that came after him. Unsurprisingly, the likes of Eminem, Tupac, Ghostface Killah, J. Cole, Jay-Z, and Kendrick Lamar have all cited the Rap legend as someone they’ve long admired.

Melle Mel: “Blasphemy” Nicki Minaj Is Higher Than Rakim On Top Rappers List

That said, it’s clear that Rakim has been an active participant in and observer of Hip Hop for decades. Not many are afforded such a unique vantage point, so we wanted to know what the Hip Hop icon wants to see from the genre in the next five decades.

“I’m looking forward to…man,” he began. Then, there was a slight pause as he gathered his thoughts. “I think, with the 50th-year anniversary, I think it’s kind of taken a lid off of Hip Hop.” To him, it seems casting a vision for the future requires learning about the past. “It’s taken a limit off of Hip Hop, to be able to celebrate 50 years. What we’re actually doin’ is celebrating 50 years of emceeing and DJing and B-boying, you know what I mean? So, it’s like we were going back with knowing our history on these great artists.”

He isn’t wrong; many aspects of the foundation of Hip Hop have been edged out of conversations. While some still praise our favorite pop-and-lockers, breakdancing is an art form that is respected but no longer at the Hip Hop forefront. Although DJing is still massively popular, arguably, many of those popularized creatives are more focused on producing the next hit record than discovering new sonic elements on the ones and twos. The collective needs to sit in its history to understand what is to come for its future.

IRVINE, CA – JULY 18: Rapper Rakim performs onstage at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre on July 18, 2015 in Irvine, California. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Rakim & Eric B Shone Bright On “Don’t Sweat The Technique”

“We’ve started to realize that music is timeless. You know what I mean?” Rakim said. “You go back and listen to a song from the ’80s or the ’90s. And, you know, a lot of it’s timeless. It shouldn’t be a lid on Hip Hop.” Those artists from 20, 30, and even 40 years ago have aged with the culture. Yet, often, there are conversations about someone being “too old” to continue their Rap aspirations. However, Rakim wants it to be known that plenty of grown folk contenders with talents deserve recognition.

“There’s a lot of great artists that’s over 30, over 40,” the 55-year-old icon stated. According to some commentators, Hip Hop is a young person’s sport. “I think that we have a lot to bring to the table,” he continued. “With this going on [celebrating Hip Hop’s 50th], I think it’s going to open the doors for that.”

NEW YORK – 1987: Rappers Eric B & Rakim pose for a portrait session in 1987 in New York, New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

50 Cent Pledges Loyalty To Rakim

These days, Rakim continues to tour worldwide, spitting familiar bars that have been ingrained in millions of memories for decades. Although Hip Hop has bolstered a reputation of being concerned about bling-bling and flashing cash, that is a far cry from Rakim’s daily routine. His dedication to his faith centers his focus, and according to him, he enjoys peace and the simple pleasures of life.

“I think normal things in life is what makes me feel good. I’m a family man,” he said. “I mean, I love being around my family. And I love doing things around my house. You know what I mean? Everything from putting floors and cutting grass, planting trees. You know, I do it all. But that’s kind of, you know, when I come home from off the road.” Touring and performing for four decades can take its toll. “That’s what kind of makes me feel normal to me. So, that’s what breaks the monotony for me. Being normal, being a family man, and doing regular things. I think that’s what keeps me grounded.”

Stay updated with us throughout the year as we continue to celebrate Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary. We have many more exclusives from artists, ranging from the culture’s coveted pioneers to its talented newcomers.

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