One could call it an honor when a rap legend such as Rakim expresses respect for your craft, and that’s exactly what happened to Kanye in a recent interview with The Atlantic’s David Samuels. The outlet had the opportunity to chat with Rakim about the evolution of hip-hop and more, and he had positive things to say about Chi-Town’s rebel. Check some excerpts below. —Stephanie Long
On what separates Kanye from Jay-Z and Nas:
“I love Kanye for that. Being a producer, making beats, and being a rapper. He does it all. Now, sometimes somebody can give you a credible track. But when you’re searching for records or samples, only you know in your mind, in your intuition or your first instincts, what you need. When you hear that record, there’s no denying it—‘Oh my God, I’ve got to sample this.’ And he has that situation where he’s lucky enough to love rhyming but can make his own beats, and that’s like the perfect match. When he plays a record, his mind is on it right away.
So, being able to do that and the way he does it, Kanye is not afraid to reach. If you listen to his work, he did a lot of different type of music. He is not scared to just go where the track takes him. Like, ‘Jesus Walks’ is one of my favorite Kanye songs. To this day, that song comes on, and I want to turn it all the way up. I don’t want nobody to talk to me. I just want to enjoy that track, you know what I mean? A lot of tracks he does, he’s not afraid to go out the box where a lot of rappers might say, ‘Oh, I’mma do my 16 bars.’ Kanye just does whatever the track tells him to do—and that comes from being a rapper and being a producer at the same time.”
On the intensity Kanye brings to hip-hop:
“At the end of the day, you’ve really got to appreciate an artist that’s really outspoken and feels like his music can change the world. Don’t even go to the studio if you don’t think that your music’s going to do something. You’re wasting your time and my time.
You feel that in the award shows stuff where Kanye has these episodes, right? It’s because he’s passionate. If a lot of us don’t take it that serious, then it’s not going to be serious no more. People say, ‘That was his opinion, but he was so passionate about it,’ like that’s bad. You’ve got to say, ‘Well, really?’ We need that. We need the media to know that some of us are really passionate about music.”
On what Kanye is doing as an artist:
“So I guess Kanye is living, like you said, the good life. The same amount of B.S.—being an entertainer and being a rap entertainer, there is much good stuff that comes, but sometimes the negativity comes right along with it.
Kanye is living both sides and realizing, ‘Shit, I love that new car that just got out.’ At the same time, ‘I’ve got a headache,’ you know what I mean? So, it’s both sides of the coin. And Kanye lives hard. He wants to be in control of the moment.
I think he’s maturing, and I think he wants other people to see it, too. That kind of helps explain Kanye. I kind of hear in his rhymes. He’s living hard, and he’s maturing now, and I think he’s seeing both sides of the fence. We need a few more Kanyes, people that’s really passionate about hip-hop and who keep it alive.”