Touré interviews Rakim on VladTV; Photo: YouTube/VladTV

Rakim is considered to be one of the greatest lyricists of all time. During its heyday The Source crowned him as the GOAT, and the title has followed him around ever since. When news broke in 2000 that Rakim signed to Aftermath the world rejoiced. A Dr. Dre produced Rakim album was like hearing Scorsese and Pacino in the same sentence, but for reasons unknown nothing ever materialized. After years of speculation, Rakim has finally broke the silence on what happened.

In a recent interview with Touré for VladTV Rakim explained that it was a difference in lyrical direction that led to the breakup. Dr. Dre wanted it to sound one way, and Rakim who was still growing as a lyricist wanted it to go down another way. In a transcription provided by Ambrosia for Heads.

“We had two different ideas of how the album was supposed to sound. Dre, at the time, his formula was Gangsta Rap. And, I guess listening to certain songs that I did–listening to stories–I guess he wanted me to do that…a Gangsta Rap album, I guess,” Rakim explained.

“And, you know, that’s his formula, but I thought at that point I should be doing something different. I was maturing at the time. I had grown up a little bit–2003–trying to elevate with [my] music, as well. I’m looking at it like ‘Yeah, get with Dre.’ I wanted to make a mega project that wasn’t…of course it’s Hip-Hop, but I wanted everybody to be able to listen to it, [to] get this opportunity. I wanted to make the best of it.”

“But, like I said, Dre, we would sit in the studio, and Dre, he would put on a beat, and he would sit next to me and be like ‘Yo, I want you to talk that shit on this one.’ I’m like ‘Dre, that’s what you say on every track you play, bruh. When you gonna let me rhyme on something? Why I gotta beef with everybody?’”

Dre wanted a more aggressive lyrical appraoch, and it didn’t fit with where Ra’s mind was heading. Rakim is an ambassador for rap, and as an aging lyricist he wanted something that anyone, at any age could listen to. Man, woman and child.

Rakim continued with his explanation, saying, “That was his formula and, to him, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But, I was looking to try and do a dope album and make sure that your daughter could listen to it, my grandmother can listen to it, and it was no [barriers] or anything, but again, we had a different view. We tried some things.”

“Did a couple dope joints, but once we realized…after him trying to push me to talk crap on every song, and me being rebellious, I guess he realized yo, this ain’t gonna work. Actually, I’m the one that told Dre, ‘Yo, I appreciate the opportunity and everything, but I’m going back to New York, bruh.’”

Hip-hop culture has made tremendous strides, but two decades ago it was hard for aging rappers to maintain their voice without having to adhere to trends. You didn’t have the Roots on primetime or Snoop Dogg hosting game shows; hip-hop was always looking for the next big thing, and the media didn’t honor the elders the way it does now.

For Rakim, the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze. In other words the creative direction didn’t fit his style, so he had no other choice but to say “no” to one of the greatest producers of all time. He could have made a fortune, but integrity meant more, which just about explains everything you’ll ever need to know about Rakim.