Rakim, D-Risha Numbers July 15, 2014
"That was just sound check."
Forty minutes into his headlining show at Numbers, Rakim had barely broken a sweat. It's quite possible his inability to even let a bead drop from his head comes from a near three-decade presence onstage and beyond. It's also rumored that he has yet to be bested on a microphone and walks the Earth searching for challengers like Caine in Kung Fu. Whatever it is, Rakim is effortlessly cool, a rap legend in mint condition that refuses to be anything other than a legend.
Tuesday night, Lunaface celebrated its 7th year of existence by bringing to the stage hip-hop's first true lyrical MC. It didn't necessarily matter who opened for Rakim or even how long Def Jam Blaster spun through intermissions looking to reach people with classic rap records, everyone knew exactly why they were there. It felt more like a relic, a situated hub of classic rap, traditionalism and more.
True to his nature, The God MC sauntered onto the stage to rousing applause, wearing a plaid red shirt, red doo-rag and matching Yankees hat. The opening chords of "Holy Are You" played, almost as if he was stepping to a podium to deliver a sermon for hip-hop.
"Houston, y'all ready for the God MC Rakim?!" DJ 33 & 1/3rd asked the crowd after nearly every track on the set list, some 18 songs deep and spanning each of Ra's four decades of lyrical slaughter. "Microphone Fiend" led to four minutes of breath control and execution, "Don't Sweat the Technique" filtered through squeaked out female rap voices doing their best to attempt to be Rakim themselves. This is what happens with a Lunaface crowd. You never truly know what the ages may range from but the crowd solely rides upon their enjoyment of music.
Indeed, D-Risha continued rippling through what makes him a figure in Houston rap without necessarily living in the traditional realm of Houston rap. He battled through the crowd, mostly stale faces with a few supporters scattered throughout, to perform his own version of "Ebonics" and Houston slang. He kept making sure to yell "FUCK D-RISHA" at every opportunity.
I'll admit this openly. Rakim sort of became one of my first favorite rappers as a child. Your life when it comes to music deals in multiple vicissitudes, mutations, elevations, all of those things. People think you shouldn't grow with hip-hop, that old hip-hop should be segregated and remain in a time warp when the majority of us grew up on it.
There are legacies in rap and then there's that of Rakim -- the man who wound up begatting sons all over the country, worldwide and beyond. Tuesday night was a history lesson for all of us in attendance. School is forever in session when discussing the God MC.
Story continues on the next page.
Personal Bias: I used to sleep to "Microphone Fiend"; it's one of the few rap songs I know word for word without stumbling.
The Crowd: Hispanic and older black, appreciative classic hip-hop fans.
Overheard In The Crowd: "I gotta get a picture, this my bucket list!"
Random Notebook Dump: During the middle of his set, Rakim paused everything to roll out a cake made by a local baker. The cake itself, an orange and blue hat with PAID IN FULL emblazoned on it. I have zero idea how it may have tasted but I'm pretty sure one bite of it would make you at the worst a radio-ready rapper.
Holy Are You It's Been a Long Time My Melody In the Ghetto Move the Crowd Mahogany What's On Your Mind Addictive Lyrics Of Fury I Know You Got Soul Don't Sweat the Technique The Return Microphone Fiend I Ain't No Joke Eric B. For President Paid In Full Know the Ledge
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