William Griffin aka Rakim hasn’t played in the UK for over 10 years, but his status as one of the greatest emcees ever ensures that this gig at the Jazz Cafe is sold out. His DJ and hype man is Technician from the Bronx, and he starts the show by warming up the crowd with a selection of classic Hip Hop, playing no more than 8 bars of a track before cutting and scratching another gem.
Rakim takes to the stage and stands there for a while just receiving the applause and cheers. He opens with “My melody”, the B side of his first single from 1986 and it’s a perfect starting point for him to go through his back catalogue.
He doesn’t play too much from his last album “The Seventh Seal, apart from stand out track “Holy are you”, but it wasn’t his strongest album to date and I think most people are here to reminisce with the classic Rakim tunes anyway. And reminisce we do, with great tunes like “Know the ledge”, “Don’t Sweat The Technique”, “Move the crowd”, “It’s been a long time” and “Microphone fiend” all reminding us why he acquired the nickname “the God MC”. Before playing “Eric B is president”, Rakim and Technician do a nice introduction by playing tunes that were popular in 1986, the year his first single came out. Weird to think the song is 25 years old and to be reminded of some of the songs that were around back then. Check the video below to see what I mean.
The proceedings dip a little bit when Rakim and Technician divide the crowd in two for some tired call and response stuff to see which side is louder. This goes on a little longer than it needs to and wasn’t really necessary but apart from that it was a great show.
He finishes the show with that anthem to making money, “Paid In Full”. It’s good to hear him rhyming over the Coldcut remixed version, as I always thought both him and Eric B didn’t like it, but maybe that was just the rumour at the time. He doesn’t mention his former DJ Eric B, but they did part company back in 1992 after the fourth album “Don’t Sweat The Technique” so he’s been solo for a while now.
Finally, he does a quick acapella rendition of “Follow The Leader” and that’s a great show (w)rapped up. He tells us that next time he won’t leave it so long before he comes back to the UK. Here’s hoping there’s a quick return visit from one of Hip Hop’s greatest MCs.