Did you know the Beastie Boys made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, but Eric B. & Rakim didn't? I know it's the "rock and roll" hall of fame not the "hip hop" hall of fame. Still, that's unbelievable to me.
I doubt that the voters really appreciated the extent to which Rakim -- rhyming over some funky DJ Eric B. beats -- could move the crowd with the best of them. He ain't no joke!
And I seriously doubt that they understood the impact Rakim had on generations of conscious rappers -- by showing and proving that rappers can spit knowledge and still maintain swag. In addition to controlling the crowd, Rakim made us hungry for knowledge of self, society, and spirituality using his mind, "one of Allah's best designs," as he tells us on his solo joint the 18th Letter.
I grew up in New York City's Queensbridge Housing Projects -- home to some of the most influential and deepest rappers in the game, including Nas, Havoc, Tragedy, Craig G, Cormega, Blaq Poet, Big Noyd, and Roxanne Shante. We traveled different paths out of the Bridge, but all of us -- the rappers, philosophers, sinners, and Five Percenters -- were hungry for knowledge. And that's why Eric B. & Rakim got made love from us back in the day.
Rakim once rapped that his "mind" would stand the test of time when he rhymed. But there has been a long history of diminishing and ignoring black intellect and black thought. David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and other European philosophers denigrated the intelligence of people of color. So did American President Thomas Jefferson who once remarked:
Comparing [blacks] by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.
To his credit, though with obvious sarcasm, Jefferson recognized the indisputable musical talents of blacks:
In music [blacks] are more generally gifted than the whites with accurate ears for tune and time... Whether they will be equal to the composition of a more extensive run of melody, or of complicated harmony, is yet to be proved.
Jefferson clearly didn't foresee the likes of composer Duke Ellington, saxophonist John Coltrane, deejay Eric B., and emcee Rakim. Maybe we can forgive Jefferson for his oversight. After all, he was a product of his times.
But should we forgive the Rock Hall for not checking out Rakim's melody, for not supporting Eric B. for president, for not honoring a deejay and emcee duo who paved the way for conscious rap? Should we forgive them for missing a golden opportunity to recognize a pioneering rap duo that seamlessly combined party with purpose? I don't think so.
We'll see how many conscious artists (Public Enemy, BDP, and others) make the cut next year. But even if they miss it, these hip hop pioneers will always get mad love from hip hop heads around the world, especially ones longing for a resurrection of conscious rap to bring balance back to the game and to put purpose back in the party. Peace!
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