Rakim Recalls “When Originality Was Big” [Video]

MTV News caught up with legendary New York emcee Rakim moments after his live set at Rock The Bells, where he had just performed the entire 1987 classic album Paid in Full for the LA crowd.

He talks about how it feels to still have an appreciative audience decades into his career – and notes that the emphasis was on artists being original when he first emerged in Hip Hop.

“So in the back of your mind, you were always trying to come up with something to separate yourself from what was going on,” he says. “I was heavily influenced by Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Caz – but I kind of wanted to take it somewhere else.”

“My thing was I loved music, I played music, I played the saxophone,” he continued. “So the little bit of music knowhow I had, I tried to implement that in every thing I did, from my style, my cadence, the way I tried to pause and stagnate it; that all came from John Coltrane and listening to jazz albums. Trying to rhyme like a jazz player.

“For somebody that thinks he always has wordplay to fit the situation, there’s certain things for rap that I have no words for… I been around since ’86, and to see that out there and be a part of this tour right here, it’s a blessing. I hope I’m around to see many more of these.” –Rakim tells MTV.

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