Rakim with Kyprios and Defenders of the Faith (Live) [Review]
Vancouver, B.C. – It’s not too often than a hip-hop mastermind like Rakim will drive all the way across the continent – he won’t fly until he can upgrade the parachutes, apparently – to play in a small packed club on Hastings in Vancouver. Yet it did happen, and Pop Opera played host to possibly the most influential MC of all time.
No surprise then, that everyone was there to see it. Spotted at the joint were Shad, Global Syndicate, Influents Crew, the Now or Never champion b-boys, and even Mad Child was spotted in front of a camera after the show. Jay Swing, Hedspin and Flipout opened the night by digging into their collections for the best of the golden era which naturally progressed into a breakout of breakdance.
Kyprios brought some great energy to the stage, and Defenders of the Faith followed him with a veteran set which included Maestro Fresh Wes letting his backbone slide; it seems like every MC has somehow been influenced by Rakim’s revolutionary rhyme style, so the openers paid due respect and put on great sets. It was nearly 2 a.m. before the God MC stepped on the stage, and not before his tour DJ Technician got the crowd attuned to the true school, warming the place up with snippets of everyone’s favorites, delivered with a good deal of cuts and scratches.
Rakim was everything the crowd expected and more. He gave them what they wanted – the classics – and wove in a few jams from his latest album The Seventh Seal. The saga began with Ra’s subtle metaphors; “watching my artistry spin,” pulling from the narrative of rap that he himself helped create. “Clap to This” and “It’s been a Long Time” followed as he spit, “I got the whole world responding.” The crowd was told that if they truly knew and loved hip-hop they’d know the next number, “Follow the Leader,” a poignant theme considering all the MCs who have in fact followed Rakim’s lead.
“Holy Are You” and “How to Emcee” followed, both fresh tracks from the new album. The crowd joined in the chorus of “It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at” for the classic Eric B and Rakim track “In the Ghetto,” and the ladies got a taste of the softer side with “Mahogany Lyrics.” The classics continued with “I Know You Got Soul” from the first album Paid In Full and then Rakim stepped onto the turntables and sampled cuts of his own name. The microphone fiend then started to shut it down “before my voice go” and ended with the “Paid In Full” title track and “Juice (Know the Ledge)”. It was 3 a.m. at that point, and the crowd dispersed in a bit of a daze, a little mesmerized.
When the masters take the stage, hip-hop as a cultural movement becomes immediately apparent. It’s not just the way that the DJ plays an intrinsic role in the performance, nor the MC’s magnetic invitation to the crowd. There’s a sense of pride to a performance like Rakim’s, as though he’s representing ideas instead of bling, spitting history instead of hype, tapping into a time-honored tradition with a respect that many modern MCs lack in their cookie-cutter styles. It’s an honor to see a living symbol of hip-hop’s roots so personal on the stage, and hopefully, a lesson that won’t soon be forgotten.
Written by Amalia Judith for HipHopCanada
Photography by Jamie Sands for HipHopCanada