President George W. Bush had a lot of screw-ups during his eight-year term, but he did do a couple things right. One of them was proclaiming June as Black Music Month on May 31, 2002. June is here,* and to celebrate Black Music Month, I'll be featuring one of my favorite artists each day, sharing my first or most personal memory of them, and explain what their accomplishments are and why I felt they should make the Black Music Month Top 30 list. There will be some oldies, some newbies and some artists you may not know of yet.
Black Music Month Heat Factor "Why's this artist hot?": We already know Lil' Wayne drinks cough syrup so I understand why he's delusional enough to believe he's the best rapper alive, but whenever I hear people like Jay Z say he's "the best rapper alive," I always check the Internet to make sure Rakim is still breathing. As long as The Master is still breathing Earth's air, there is no artist (yes, that includes Biggie and Tupac, too) who has ever graced a stage who is as talented as Rakim. Today's hip-hop artists have Alzheimer's tendencies and seem to forget the hip-hop pioneers. Hip-hop is combative, and I understand the need to be on top, but it's just flat out incorrect to forget the best that ever did it just because he's not repeatedly blasting out of your favorite local radio station. R&B artists always give homage to R&B legends, but hip-hop just loves to conveniently ignore history or say things like "when he ruled hip-hop." His talent didn't diminish. Rakim just decided to live his life.
Rakim made multisyllabic wording and lyrics with depth the norm, not the exception. Other artists took note and followed in his footsteps, not the other way around. However, there were some artists who do pay correct respect (ex. 50 Cent "My favorite rapper used to sing ch-check out my melody," Tupac Shakur "Eric B. and Rakim was the sh*t to me" and Nas rhymed "U.B.R. (Unauthorized Biography of Rakim)."
First Memory, Most Personal Memory of the Artist: My brother is seven years older than me and introduced me to a lot of hip-hop groups, but it was my younger cousin who left a lasting impression of Rakim in my mind. I was hired to babysit her, and I thought we'd have big fun. She liked to dance and had a routine for Colourbox's "Pump Up the Volume." The only problem was she decided to dance after I'd let her eat a bunch of candy and ice cream, and she danced until she got sick. While she was throwing up all over my basement floor, I was listening to Eric B. and Rakim's sample saying "Pump up the volume, dance, dance." Outside of that dreadful memory, I recall seeing him on The Box when the "Paid in Full' video was new, and I just kept thinking, "This guy is a cutie."
Accomplishments from the Artist: In 1986, he started off with another lyricist named Eric B., and "Eric B. for President" put these artists on the map indefinitely. "Paid in Full," "Follow the Leader" and "The 18th Letter" singles were bought by millions, and the album was referred to as "the greatest hip-hop album of all time." He strolled onto the stage of Russell Simmons' HBO's "Def Poets." He was also featured in a collabo song "Classic" with Kanye West, KRS One and Nas to celebrate Nike Air Force 1's 25th anniversary.
And as much as men love and respect his music, the ladies dig it, too. They're fans of the songs above but a special smile crosses their faces when Rakim talks about his joy with the opposite sex on songs like "Mahogany" and artist Truth Hurt's song "Addicted." He's also one of very few artists who can talk about culture, news, women, the hood and incorporate religion and scripture without losing his core audience. He may be too heavy for some, but not everybody wants to hear dumbed down music.
* This entry was originally published on Associated Content in June of 2010. It has been republished with permission from Shamontiel. To find out who the other 29 artists were who were selected in 2010, visit this Pinterest board.
Follow Shamontiel on Pinterest for all of her latest TV, book, music and movie reviews; photo galleries; entertainment saving tips and other entries, or subscribe to her National African American Entertainment channel at the top of this page. Also, follow her @BlackHealthNews, and follow this Pinterest board to read her celebrity interviews.