A must listen for all cre­at­ive indi­vidu­als and per­formers alike, not only Hip Hop heads. It con­tains many life les­sons and inspir­ing anec­dotes which will influ­ence you to reflect on your own way of think­ing.

The intro­duc­tion to this audiobook was mes­mer­iz­ing. A dis­play of Rakim as a true word­smith that he is so well known for. Read­ing this book in text for your­self will not do it the same justice as listen­ing to Rakim’s voice nar­rat­ive his own story, thus listen­ing to the audiobook ver­sion is recom­men­ded. After fin­ish­ing his audiobook I found myself yearn­ing to go back to his dis­co­graphy to ref­er­ence the many tracks he talks about writ­ing with a whole new appre­ci­ation for their con­cep­tion.

I first became famil­i­ar with Rakim through the breakin’ scene and I knew very little about him per­son­ally oth­er than how influ­en­tial he was to the artists of my time, so I wanted to learn more. This mem­oir was a per­fect look into the golden age of rap, which accord­ing to Rakim was between 1989–1992 where it all began birthed from pion­eers such as Mar­ley Marl and Rox­anne Shante. It was an age where lyr­ics mattered and the con­tent was in focus, deep and thought pro­vok­ing.

It high­lights Rakim’s philo­sophy and gives an insight into where he draws his inspir­a­tion for those who want to know how his mind works. He breaks down each aspect of writ­ing, MCing and per­form­ing with wis­dom from his les­sons in life, which any­one can apply to their own. I admired his ded­ic­a­tion for spend­ing time read­ing reli­gious texts – the Bible, the Qur­an and the Torah to add dimen­sions to his verses as well as des­pite evok­ing cri­ti­cism from reli­gion schol­ars for speak­ing his mind. There were many examples of his innov­a­tion. His calm deliv­ery on the mic was very dif­fer­ent to the shout­ing down the mic style which was rampant at the time. Once in the stu­dio Rakim refused to change the way he rhymed des­pite feed­back from Mar­ley Marl that he needed more energy. Rakim shows us we should stay true to ourselves in order for any art form to pro­gress.

Anoth­er snip­pet of know­ledge that hit home for me was to look for inspir­a­tion from out­side of your industry, some­thing I once also read George Lois say. This is the way to grow and excel. Rakim was not inter­est­ing in com­par­ing him­self to oth­ers; he wanted to be bet­ter than him­self and what he last put out. I admired Rakim’s bold­ness to unapo­lo­get­ic­ally be him­self and think out­side the box, des­pite peer pres­sure to con­form.

It is a very open and hon­est mem­oir shar­ing exper­i­ences of his upbring­ing and fam­ily life, includ­ing his rela­tion­ships with his par­ents and the love and respect they had in sup­port­ing his career as an artist which is heart-warm­ing. He revealed he did not want­ing to swear on his tracks out of respect for this moth­er as he knew she would listen to it. All the way to how the death of his fath­er affected him caus­ing anxi­ety and how he chose to leave his tour to attend the funer­al des­pite his fam­ily try­ing to keep it from him.

Rakim has always been a pos­it­ive force, pro­mot­ing self- esteem and right­eous­ness through con­scious hip-hop. He even turned down act­ing roles to play a gang­ster which he felt was ste­reo­typ­ing black men although admit­tedly received his fist gun charge at aged 12, it was not a life­style he wanted to pro­mote. The same went for his music, he refused to change his writ­ing style to gang­sta rap which began to sell com­mer­cially at the time. I respect that.

Rakim’s final thoughts encour­age us to con­nect with our pur­pose if we are to suc­ceed and that means con­nect­ing with ourselves as we will always be able to find inspir­a­tion from with­in.



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Faizah Cyanide

Faizah Cyanide

Faizah works in clin­ic­al research by pro­fes­sion and has been an avid Hip Hop lov­er since the early 90’s, hav­ing cre­ated her own Hip Hop event, ‘Breakin’ Bound­ar­ies’ in the early 2000’s which was pre­dom­in­antly based around the concept of bboy battles, she has worked with sev­er­al inter­na­tion­al events pro­moters and dan­cers to inspire oth­ers through this art­form.

About Faizah Cyanide

Faizah Cyanide
Faizah works in clinical research by profession and has been an avid Hip Hop lover since the early 90's, having created her own Hip Hop event, 'Breakin' Boundaries' in the early 2000's which was predominantly based around the concept of bboy battles, she has worked with several international events promoters and dancers to inspire others through this artform.