April 8, 2021, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Rakim may be “God MC” and widely regarded as one of the most influential and skilled artists in hip-hop, but it wasn’t easy to get his voice heard as the art form developed in New York.
“New York was hip-hop; the city was the core of hip-hop,” he told an audience in-person and online during this week’s Grand Rapids Community College Diversity Lecture Series. “On Long Island, I was on the outside looking in…I had to be rough enough to break New York from Long Island.”
One half of the golden era of hip-hop duo Eric B. & Rakim, he spoke about his influences, artistry, and determination during a wide-ranging discussion moderated by Bakari Kitwana, a 2020 Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.
The discussion is now available for viewing here.
Dr. B. Afeni McNeely Cobham, GRCC’s chief equity and inclusion officer, said the pandemic forced the college’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to change its approach to the popular lecture series.
“Six months ago, the writing was on the wall that the Diversity Lecture Series would be online,” she said. “ODEI, in collaboration with I.T. Media, began to develop an expansive and interactive virtual experience. Using a hybrid model (in-person and remote), we provided the opportunity for several community partners to be a part of the production. So, in essence, the event aligned with GRCC’s role as the ‘people’s college.’”
The evening included guest performances by PJ DA DJ and the Collec7ive, a Grand Rapids hip-hop group powered by community partner, MuseGR.
Rakim discussed his book, “Sweat the Technique: Revelations on Creativity from the Lyrical Genius,” which he co-authored with Kitwana.
Part memoir, part writing guide, the book offers insight into how Rakim thinks about words, music, writing, and rhyming as it teaches writers of all levels how to hone their craft. It is also a glimpse into Rakim’s private life, with personal stories that celebrate the influences that shaped his development.
Eric B. and Rakim’s 1987 release “Paid in Full” was listed in Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 Albums of All Time
The Diversity Lecture Series provides GRCC stakeholders and community members with access to society’s most prolific scholars, thought-leaders, activists, and innovative artists.
Overseen by ODEI, the series aims to connect members of the community with people that hold a compelling interest in shaping a culture of inclusion and social justice.
“A core principle of culturally competent services or curriculum is to amplify the life experiences of the students we serve and support,” McNeely Cobham said. “Focusing on art and artistic expression as a framework for navigating the beautiful struggle of life was timely, impactful, and important.”
GRCC offers learners of all ages opportunities to gain credits for degrees or transfer and in-demand career skills leading to rewarding careers. GRCC was established in 1914 – Michigan’s first community college -- and offers affordable classes on weekdays, evenings, Saturdays and online at locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.