Rakim Says "Staying Underground" Is His Greatest Career Accomplishment

In an interview with UBATT.Tv, Rakim says he contemplated crossing over to the pop side, but is ultimately glad he decided to continue catering to underground fans.

Looking back, it may be hard for Hip Hop fans to imagine Rakim in a glittery suit doing the “Running Man” over an R&B track. But the man widely regarded in some circles as Hip Hop’s greatest emcee says he was tempted to crossover to a more accessible brand of Hip Hop and the commercial success that was likely to accompany it.

“It’s a game where you have so many people crossing over to get that paper,” Rakim explained in an interview with UBATT.Tv. “Especially when I was at the height of my career, a lot of artists had to make a choice. Were they going to stay underground or was they gonna crossover? I choose to stay underground, and I used to question myself and ask if I made the right move.”

To date, Rakim has one platinum credit to his name—1987’s Paid In Full was certified platinum eight years after its release. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, both Follow The Leader and The 18th Letter are certified gold. By most accounts, the closest thing Rakim had to a crossover hit was the 1989 Jody Watley single, “Friends,” on which he was only a featured guest. That single peaked at #9 on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 singles chart.

“When they hollered at me and said I won the greatest emcee—I think it was either The Source magazine or XXL—I ain’t gone front, that was like, ‘Alright. I did something right.’” In their February 1999 issue, now out-of-circulation Vibe subsidiary, Blaze magazine ranked Rakim as the greatest emcee of all time. You can watch Rakim’s full UBATT interview below.

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74 Comments

  • the truth

    all these kids talking shit; dont know shit.. not realizing they're favorite "emcees" are rapping about some lame stuff. PERIOD...bragging about their material things like some fashion show... its all gay.. tell me what did they rap about before they were famous???? IF PEOPLE LIKE CHRIS BROWN ARE MAINSTREAM...IS IT BECAUSE HE'S DOPE OR IS IT BECAUSE CHICKS BUY HIS ALBUMS???... and there isnt nothing wrong with that... but dont mix up the line of a sick emcee and someone who makes tracks focusing on sales!!!!!

  • Yamz

    Ra's a pioneer of the game, but negro please. Contemplated my ass. Son did songs with Jody Watley and Truth Hurts. The crossover just never happened

  • Anonymous

    Trentimus - Yes, we know you're a dumb troll.

  • ETK

    I be coming out here tryna break niggas off but they seem to never get faded. I quit it. Fuck y'all

  • Gay Tony

    Failed rapper goes to underground. Always.

  • YESSIR

    RAKIM THE LEGEND? LMAOOOOOOOO!!!!!! I NEVER HEARD OF THIS OLD FAKE ASS NIGGA!!! YMCMB WILL KICK THIS OLD FUCKFACE ASS IN 2 SECONDS!! #YMCMB

  • Anonymous

    You used to Know The Ledge, Rakim. Now you fell off of it. It's ok though. Take your Social Security and retire. Nobody will blame you or call you a quitter.

  • FuKKK RaKKKim

    Yo Kim hoo you think you fooling we all know you underground because nobody wants to buy your bullshit and therefore record labels have no interst in you and your wack sound.

  • Anonymous

    "There is nothing of substance and nothing that reflects any raw emotion" Do you understand that's not what rap is now? It's a business, and 99-100 albums are going to follow a set formula. Remember too that most of these rappers aren't singers. They don't have it in them to get raw and emotional. I think expectations are sometimes too high.

  • FuKKK RaKKKim

    nigga you 98 years old and you still finna rap? GTOFH before I roll up on you bitch nigga

  • Cadd

    man how these fools not respecting their favourite rappers favourite rapper

  • G. Sallo

    Yup. The biggest TROLLS are on this board. Rakim, always will, be the greatest MC ever. He'd skool those amateurs nowadays. I'm white, 25 and been a huge hip hop head, UG and mainstream hip hop has gotten worse. There is nothing of substance and nothing that reflects any raw emotion. Rakim, my man, if you're reading this; You're a legend and a pioneer. Thank you for changing the culture, my friend!

  • Anonymous

    HEEELL Y EEEZZZ NIKKKAS FINALLY IT HAPPENED - JUST BOUGHT A NEW RIDE - A CAM A RO CONVERTIBLE.GOT APPROVED FOR 26 LARGE. BEEN 5 YRS SINCE IVE GOTTEN SHYT APPROVED, BUT NOW ALL MY CRE DIT SHEET GONE. ALL OF IT. IF YOU STRUGGLING WITH THAT CRE DIT HISTORY ISHH, GET RID OF ALL DAT TODAY - CALL THESE PEEPS AT 8--8--8-9-2-7 -3-3-5-6 . . THEY DO AMAZING WORK AND THEY ARE CHEAP AS FUQQ. GOT RID OF ALL MY SHYYT IN NO TIME. MY HOMEBOY WAS IN THE GUTTA TOO, AND HE CLEANER THAN ME NOW-gettin a condo!! Hit em up - THEY WILL HELP U!!

  • Fuck Outta Here

    trolls be trolling

  • andrethagiant

    God R E A T E S T

  • honest truth

    Rakim one of the best to ever do it ain't too many fucking with dude so stop the hate bitches sit and slander dudes dont do that thats a hoe trait

  • Anonymous

    RAKIM the god be the GOAT thats the truth

  • Anonymous

    Why are you wack motherfuckers on this site dissing the God MC? Shouldn't you be on some YMCMB fan site or some shit. Some of you troll muthafuckas need to get a life for real, and if you're a true wayne fan (and not just some faggot troll) do yourself a favour and listen to Rakim.

  • Anonymous

    Translated: 'I failed to sellout'.

  • Anonymous

    You faggots want to diss Rakim for staying true to the game, funny thing is, his legacy is going to live on for a long time. This guy changed rap, he's not going to be forgotten soon, who the fuck are all you people dissing him? Lol, as if anyone of you are going to have a legacy when you die. You'll all be forgotten while Rakim is still regarded as one of the best to grace the mic.

  • Onelove

    His past 4 albums have been trash he should of stuck with eric b.

  • FuKKK RaKKKim

    This 97yr old nigga is overrated ass fuck and also broke ass fuck. I am sure grandpa doesn't have one million dollars in his bank account. He is not even in my top 10. NO WAY!!! lol

  • dark man x

    i can't believe all this Rakim hate. its blasphemy to say the least. Rakim has influenced MANY rappers. One of the best to touch a mic

  • Anonymous

    seriously hip hop is somtehin different to us 80s babies..we realize the importance of the culture..talkin shit about ra could get u lil kids smacked up by a grown fuckin man

  • harris89

    only in hip-hop do you have dumbass retarded fans who INSULT an artist for staying true to himself and not selling his artisitic integrity. much love to rakim.

  • Anonymous

    he wants to be underground lool rakim FAill bye bye loser i mean rakim

    • Anonymous

      u do realize all these lame ass radio rappers know they make bullshit..cuz theres business men in suits telling them what the fuck to do.somehow selling records independantly,keepin a much greater portion of the money from ur sales and being a true artist isnt as cool as being a superficially successful jackoff...philosophical fail

  • Anonymous

    im crossing over being underground is wack as fuck try harder you lazy n

  • Anonymous

    fuck the underground go hard or go home

  • Swag

    Rakim sucks and always sucked. Old ass nigga need to retire.

    • Swag

      I've listened to all of Rakim's shit, & he still fucking sucks. If you want real hip hop, listen to Lil Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Future, 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa, Rick Ross, Waka Flocka, etc.

    • Andre Moultry(rapper)

      if yu think that listen to paid in full yu will have a different opinon

    • Anonymous

      u gotta be like 14.lol...disrespectful ass dude.thats someone u should be idolizing.thats a man who changed the history of hip hop culture.all the shit u hear on the radio is pushed on u to keep u stupid so u got a attitude like u do right now..being good dont got shit to do with it..they want u spittin ignorance..none of that fame bullshit really matters.if thats what u in it for and u gonna do whatever they tell u then u aint a real fuckin artist.ur not even a man.ur a lil boy and a fuckin ignorant coward for contributing to the corruption of a beautiful culture and heritage

  • Anonymous

    RA MENTORED NASTY NAS EM HAS GIVEN PROPS TO RA WAY BACK THEN & THERE IS A STRONG RUMOR THAT EM AND RA HAVE SOME SONGS IN THE VAULT IT'S U LITTLE FCUKBOIS THAT NO ONE BELIEVES BECAUSE UR LIL SOCIALLY INEPT COMMENTS AND OPINIONS R OVERRATED PEACE 2 RA & SHOUT 2 BILL BLASS RA GETS RESPECT U LIL FCUKBOIS KEEP TYPIN ON UR TWIN BED DESPERATE 4 A REPLY Y'ALL DON'T KNOW SH!T ABOUT INTEGRITY Y'ALL WOULD APPEAR ON JACKASS EATIN A BOWL OF HOT SH!T 4 FAME & A GRAND

  • xBITCHESxHATExMEx

    Here's a word missing from you young E-thug's vocabulary...INTEGRITY. Props to the god Rakim. Greatest ever. Go kill yourselves, Wayne-Stans...

  • kite93

    to all you keyboard cowards trying to diss the R... who are you again? oh, i remember. NO ONE GIVES A FUCK OR EVER WILL!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA AND DON'T EVER FORGET IT BITCHES. RAKIM > YOU

  • Anonymous

    haha nigga it wasn't ur choice to be underground bum ass nicca

    • Anonymous

      have some fuckin respect.thats one of if not the greatest ever to touch a mic.period.that mans a legend..fuckin lil kids

  • Anonymous

    dre wanted him to rap about guns and bitches shit dre dont know about so he got game to be his bitch

    • Anonymous

      lol Game was an upcoming rapper in his 20's what do u expect him to do....he wanted a rap career n he got it....even Em raps abt killing his wife a thousand times n that fag officer Ricky talks abt sellin cane like in some deep shit....atleast Game bought the west back what the fuck u do bitch nigga?

  • JC

    Rakim is a King and lyrical beast. Props for not crossing over.

  • Anonymous

    Furthermore, Dre gave him the shot to crossover and he punked out like a little bitch.

    • Anonymous

      Nah, Gods And homos don't Mix, naa'mean? Prolly not.

    • Fuck The Chronic

      no, I'm actuallt glad he didn't sell his soul to the mainstream the way Dr. Dre did. And unlike Dre, Rakim never claimed to be something he's not. That guy is really a God.

  • Anonymous

    The best that ever did it..

  • Anonymous

    "but I guess he's got nothing to prove anymore" Until he's six feet under he's got plenty to prove.

  • Assassin221

    I think we can all agree it's good Rakim never tried to go pop or anything. Too bad he hasn't been catering to fans on either end of the spectrum in about a decade, but I guess he's got nothing to prove anymore.

  • Immortal On My Grind

    Whenever I hear somebody saying "Nas is the GOAT" or "Eminem is the greatest" I gots to cut them off cause they just don't know what the fuck they're talking about. Just check out any Rakim song if you think any of those 2 are the GOAT.

    • YESSIR

      YMCMB>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>EMINEM>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>NAS>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>RAKIM TRUTH HURTS LMAOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

    • IDK

      ^ Rakim inspired Nas and Eminem. Without him, Nas and Eminem won't be as lyrical as they are right now. So Rakim will always >>>> Nas and Eminem

    • riz

      stfu nas>>>rakim eminem>>>rakim

    • Anonymous

      Killah Priest is the greatest... Choke on that!

  • GetThatDoughBoy

    That dumb fuck way below me (literally and figuratively), Rakim is overrated? Get the fuck outta here you chump. Dude's lyrical skills are and always have been insane. Even to this day he's still got it. Dumbass.

    • W H O K N O W S

      bitch plz.. Rakim is worth $22 million and has timeless classics.. go eat a dick u fuckin' hater!

  • bizzalls

    Salute to the God and hip hop pioneer Rakim! Much respect...

  • OurReality

    Rakim is why mcs spit so deep, he is magic to the game that never left we all as mcs know in our hearts thats what matters how you can make everyone think your the best Go Rakim The 18th letter!!!!!!

  • The Decatur ATL BOI

    Rakim was running radio for about 3 years straight, putting out fire music. I'm glad he didn't put on the shiny suit and wingtips. He always kept it NYC gully. Much Respect for the music.

  • NO BRAINER

    If Rakim crossed over to the pop/young money crowd his legacy would have been tarnished and ruined instantly, thank god he didn't

    • Anonymous

      like nas right? rakim is legendary, along with pete rock niggaz get it right

    • Anonymous

      hes talking about if he wouldve crossed over back in his day not in todays climate. There was no young money in his peak. YM wasnt even an thought back then.

  • Sniper

    That song Rakim did with Dr. Dre recording artist Truth Hurts called 'Addictive' was kind of a crossover song. But when the God Emcee spits his verse, he instantly transforms the song into some out of this world isht. Rakim birthed all the legends... Nas, Biggie, Jay Z, etc.

  • 7 Letters

    I don't know how starved I am for real talk until Rakim speaks. Especially when you got Rick Ross saying "RIP to the real n!&&^s". Corporate labels and radio stations got the game so messed up.

  • Anonymous

    Watch this article get about 30comments while the next 2chainz, Big Sean, or YMCMB article gets about 170 comments. Why? because majority of the old school hip hop heads would much rather go to an article about someone they dont like and bitch and complain and argue with the fans of the artist than go to the articles about stuff they actually like. anyways, Rakim ALWAYS brought it on the mic. Salute to him even to this day.

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