Rakim sounds like he dropped in from another planet when held up to his contemporaries. His flows and rhyme schemes were lightyears ahead of the norm during his heyday, so much so that his songs still don't sound stale with decades of hindsight. So, it's fitting that one of this era of hip-hop's foremost futurists is named after him.
For the unaware, ASAP Rocky's birth name is Rakim Mayers. And the rapper actually met the infant Rocky while driving through Harlem. He shared that story during a recent visit to Hot 97 to talk about his book Sweat the Technique: Revelations on Creativity from the Lyrical Genius.
"I remember a long time ago, driving through Harlem. A lady walks across the street. I'm at the light, she walks across the street. She got the carraige and everything," he said. "She says can 'you sign this for me?' I never say no. I say 'what's him name?' Rakim. I'm like word? She's like Rakim. I sign the joint, I remember that day, cause that was the first time hearing someone named their son after me. Like I said, humbling experience."
Rakim said he'd largely forgotten the story until he spoke with Rocky.
"When I spoke to him, he brought the story up and it all came back to me," he said.
Elsewhere in the comprehensive interview, Rakim dove into the most glossed-over part of his career: his late-era work with Dr. Dre and Aftermath. Rakim said that time period was marked by two well-known stylists who weren't able to budge from what worked for them.
"[I was] trying to adapt to what Dre wanted to do, but at the same time keep my grounds," he said. "It was a little confusing, we couldn't get on the same page. Dre got a formula that works for him, it's gangsta rap. I had to let him know I been there, did that. I don't think people want to hear Ra go take it back to the streets, you know what I mean?"
Rakim said he had to walk the tightrope between not starting trouble and making music that sounded right.
"Just trying to keep my ID," he said." I was trying to fit in and not be difficult to work with. A diva. I do have my certain style of music I like to write to."
Take a look at the whole interview up top.