What on earth could I have in common with Rakim Mayers? I was sort of punk rock, he grew up on hip-hop. Seriously though, there are very few ways that we could have more disparate lives.
Growing up in Harlem, Rakim definitely had a difficult childhood – losing his father when he was sent to prison, losing his brother, there must have certainly been trauma. Whereas another might have thrown in the towel and resigned himself to a life of mediocrity, Rakim decided to rise to the challenge.
At eight he was already rapping and the death of Ricky when Rakim was only thirteen inspired him to take rapping more seriously. But the street cred is genuine here; Rakim truly knew the streets and was involved in the felonious. Is this something he seems proud of, something that he flaunts like certain other artists? No and this seems to only confirm the all-too-real genuineness of his subject matter. Yes, he is currently disconnected from that former lifestyle by some $3 million and a successful contract but I can’t imagine it’s that far in his thoughts. Then again, I won’t ever know what that’s like. But now, everything is different, and yet there are still traces of the origins there.
Moving forward, A$AP Rocky respects his past.
All that in mind, the beats here are perfectly produced, atmospheric an understated but also all-powerful. The swagger is potent, the subject is real.
And yet what is it that we share? Sure our visions, driving forces and circumstances are vastly different, perhaps polar but what is it that the end desire is? It’s a passion for fashion, money, it’s an undefined but definite feeling of success, the feeling that you achieved something. A desire to achieve something to brag about and then proceed to do so. We both understand the appeal of a $1000 Brunello Cucinelli sweater and the feeling of not having to worry about buying it because the amount is so little in comparison to the amount in our bank accounts.
Sure, the album might feel over-long at times, a little repetitive, maybe not even the most original, but it is a fun record, a certain testament, a challenge which shouts “look at me, I made it.” And why not? I get it.