Hip-hop doesn’t get much realer than veteran rapper Rakim. The 50-year-old emcee has been ripping mics for more than three decades, whether with onetime partner-in-rhyme Eric B. or on his own solo steez. However, it’s been a while since he’s blessed us with something new. Thankfully, he’s back on the scene thanks to his new original song “King’s Paradise,” which is featured in the newest season of Marvel’s Luke Cage series on Netflix. The lucky folks at NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert series got a preview of the song before the season premiered along with Rakim dusting off a couple of his classic tracks.
“King’s Paradise” kicked off the set as Rakim, along with the series’ music supervisors Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, masterfully commanded the mic while giving props to the heroes of Harlem. Underscoring his rhymes was a full string section, horns, Adrian on keys and Ali on bass, providing a rich musical backdrop to bring his lyrics to life. But he wasn’t done after “King’s Paradise” ended, digging into his back catalog to unearth two of his more familiar hits. He hit them with “Paid In Full,” the live arrangement breathing smooth life into the heavy bass line of the track as Rakim’s authoritative voice told the all-too-familiar tale audience’s first heard in 1987. He followed with “Know The Ledge” from the 1992 film Juice. The live instrumentation once again proved to add another layer to the familiar, this time making the small office sound like a jazz lounge as the musicians played with the original’s structure, which also allowed Rakim to change up some of his rhythms as well.
It’s always dope to watch a master at work and the Tiny Desk audience got a chance to do just that. You can, too, when you check out Rakim’s performance below.