Illuminated Chronicles: Words by Rakim

There’s a great irony in rap music. The lyrics in rap are supposed to spring forth as a kind of rough street poetry. Poetry by any standard demands proficient articulation, profound thought and pleasurable connection.

Yet despite the surge of rappers and rap music many of these specific elements are missing, either in action or just RSVPed but didn’t bother to show up.

You can clearly understand what I mean when you hear a rapper being interviewed, often times, he’s not articulate. The cohesion of thought just isn’t there. And it’s understandable, rap is driven by the beat, the sample is destiny.

A solid infectious 808 beat can instantly triumph where lyrics falter. (And to be fair this happens in rock music, though not on the same level, a rock song can unfold many different ways, if a rap song has found a fresh beat it sticks with it, all the way to the top of the charts).

That irony of making a living off poetry and not being articulate ends with Rakim. He remains a lyrical grandmaster, deftly wielding words with the reverence a samurai saves for his sword. Like Chuck D, he needs no introduction, the work is that quality, only sometimes, we foolishly forget.

Director Matt Bieler offers this short yet insightful documentary on Rakim.

Appropriately and succinctly entitled Words:

Also published on Medium.

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