Rakim: Return of the King

Harpers Ferry, January 17, 2009
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  January 27, 2009

As long as the Microsoft linguists who're responsible for updating Word are adding "Barack" and "Obama" to the spell-check dictionary, they should throw in "Rakim." It's about time — as he confirmed at Harpers Ferry Friday night, homeboy is pretty much the greatest MC ever to grip a mic.

Given how rare intimate Rakim Allah shows are these days, I wasn't expecting to include any openers in my limited review space. But Oak Lonetree and Dese stunned in their debut as the Dunnas, and Rite Hook and Amadeus kicked expertly executed sets that excited both Gen-Xers and underagers with X'd-up hands. If Rakim was watching from backstage (or from above, as gods are known to do), he had to be proud: Boston had more than a few b-boys and sweaty chicks on hand to get down as Slipwax, E Ness, and Emoh of the Deck Demons cut through multiple deadly medleys.

With his crowd-approved party starter on the decks and a pair of rugged beefeaters standing guard in steel-toed Timberlands, Rakim emerged swinging like a "pharaoh in ghetto apparel." After a quick intro, he removed his down jacket and commenced an hour-long-plus pounce. Moving back-and-forth between classic tracks and new joints off the forever-awaited (and still unreleased) Seventh Seal, he revisited a time when substance ruled and fans pumped fists. He whiffed on two or three old rhymes, but minor blunders were forgiven — if not because his lyrics are gloriously intricate, then because his fresh material rang with conviction while his trademarks smacked the spot.

With so much nostalgic Biggie Smalls commotion flooding the rap community's consciousness since the release of Notorious, sometimes even throwback junkies need to be reminded who the king cats really are, and that real rappers wear baggy jeans. I can't speak for everyone, but I walked away in high enough spirits to refrain from going after the folks at Robert's Towing in Brighton who yanked my car from a street where there were no signs saying I couldn't park there.

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