The Post and Courier
Feb 10, 2020
Love, Peace and Hip-Hop, the Columbia organization that strives to engage communities through hip-hop culture, has announced the headliner for its signature Hip-Hop Family Day event: Revered rapper Rakim will close out the festivities on April 11.
Over the past seven years, the free music festival has featured classic hip-hop acts like Kool Moe Dee, MC Lyte, Kid N Play, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, and Slick Rick, but Rakim may be the most highly respected emcee it has landed to date
Working with DJ Eric B. for the early part of his career, Rakim established himself as a rapper to be reckoned with, starting with the duo’s first release, the massively influential Eric B. Is President. Working over Eric B.’s minimal but surprisingly complex beats, Rakim proved himself to be a master of flow, spitting authoritative, ultra-confident rhymes that were part braggadocio and part art, abandoning the on-the-beat style hat was predominant in the late-’80s and taking a more free-style approach.
A longtime critical darling, Rakim’s approach was heralded as an artistic breakthrough by esteemed publications like The New York Times, whose Ben Ratliff wrote that Rakim’s “unblustery rapping developed the form beyond the flat-footed rhythms of schoolyard rhymes.”
As the duo progressed, albums like Paid In Full, Don’t Sweat the Technique and Let the Rhythm Hit ’Em gave Eric B. & Rakim the commercial clout to match their critical buzz, peaking with “Friends,” a Top 10 collaboration with Jody Watley, in 1989.
Creative and business tensions caused the pair to split in the early-’90s (they got back together for a reunion tour a couple years ago), but Rakim has carried on a successful solo career since his 1997 debut, The 18th Letter. His level of influence has only grown over the last two decades, with MTV declaring Paid In Full the “Greatest Hip-Hop Album of All Time” in 2006, and rappers like Jay-Z, Nas, KRS-ONE and Kanye West paying homage to and collaborating with Rakim on their own material.
Given Hip-Hop Family Day’s history of bringing early rap icons to town, Rakim’s towering influence and mic skills make him a perfect fit.