I just finished reading Grandmaster Flash’s autobiography, The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash (More on the book later), and this particular excerpt that had to be shared.
Too often, those of us in the here wonder why Rakim was and still is so revered as an emcee. I even remember hearing him for the first time and I know I’ve told the tale. When you heard him for the first time, you were mesmerized. Period. But having been a little too young to fully remember all the way back to remember the impact of the first generation of Hip-Hop, of which Flash was not only a member but an originator, it was insightful to hear his take on Rakim’s effect on lyrics & rapping.
“Rakim brought so much new thought and technique to the game when he rhymed, it was like he singlehandedly reinvented the art form of being an MC. When it came to verbal acrobatics, no other MC came close. If everybody else’s raps were like nursery rhymes, Rakim’s were like Shakespeare.
Before Rakim, MCs would rhyme “cat” with “bat,” or maybe “pretty” and “witty” if they wanted to get cute. Rakim rhymed polysyllabic words like “residence” and “presidents.” Before Rakim, people started and ended verses in complete thoughts. Rakim would leave you hanging with an idea, just to make it rhyme, but finish the thought in the next sentence. Before Rakim, most rappers would set up one rhyme per line. Rakim would load up entire verses with so many continuous rhymes, I’d have to listen to them three or four times just to catch everything, marveling at how every phrase was a hook, every verse a complicated play on words.”