Album: The 18th Letter

Label: Universal/MCA

DJ Clark Kent:“It’s crazy how that was the name of the song, right? Because that was the record that brought him back. It was his first solo record [without Eric B.], and he [had been off the scene for years]. Me and Ra were always cool, since we were young. We both used to work in Power Play Studios making records. That was like the hip-hop studio.

 

The thing about Rakim is that he’s extra particular. A bunch of producers had sat with him and played him music, but it seemed like he only had a level of respect for me and DJ Premier.

 

“So it was time to make the Rakim album, and the A&R was this guy Dominick Trenier I was cool with, and he came to me and was like, ‘I need you to make some records with Rakim.’ The thing about Rakim is that he’s extra particular. A bunch of producers had sat with him and played him music, but it seemed like he only had a level of respect for me and DJ Premier. He knew there were other producers out there, but we were the only two that he’d be like, ‘I’ll listen to what you’re telling me.’

“Even if Rakim picked a beat he liked from a certain producer, if he showed up at the session and saw the producer and didn’t respect him, he’d walk back out. Even if he liked the beat. He’d be like, ‘I’m not dealing with this dude. Get out, let me go record the record.’

“I made that beat for him, because of who he was. I wanted it to sound energetic, and I wanted it to sound like a statement. And I thought the horn hits of the sample sounded aggressive. I wanted him to talk his talk and pop shit about being the greatest. Rakim’s the god.

 

I’ve worked with Biggie, Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, and all these big name artists, but when you go to Japan, all they care about is, ‘You, you did ‘Guess Who’s Back.’ You did a record with Rakim.’ It’s ill.

 

“You don’t realize you’re working with Rakim, because you’re in the moment. Then, later on after the record comes out, it goes Gold, and it’s critically acclaimed and hits the marks it’s supposed to hit. Then, you travel and you go to another country, and you don’t remember that you even did the record, and you go to the club in that other country, and the DJ before you plays the record, and motherfuckers lose their god damn minds, you go, ‘Oh wow, I was working with Rakim.’ That’s when it hits you.

“I’ve worked with Biggie, Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, and all these big name artists, but when you go to Japan, all they care about is, ‘You, you did ‘Guess Who’s Back.’ You did a record with Rakim.’ It’s ill.

“He’s hip-hop royalty. You have to realize, he’s the reason why everybody rhymes the way they rhyme now. He stopped all the happy-go-lucky shit, and just talked to the people. That made everybody talk to the people. It made everybody go, ‘Let me tell you something. You’re a punk. And I’m going to show you that you’re a punk. I’m the best rhymer that there is, and I don’t have to scream it at you.’”