Throwback Thursday: Doing Math and Science With Rakim's "My Melody"

Sorry to all the Drake and Lil Wayne lovers out there. Sorry to all the 'Pac and Biggie fans.  And sorry to all the Eminem stans.

The Greatest Of All Time in my house is and always will be Rakim. I think my husband has every Rakim record you can think of. Last night during dinner he pulled out his classic copy of Paid in Full remixes. Heads started bobbing as the beats dropped and my husband started breaking down the rhymes for our sons.

By the time they got to the third track, "My Melody", the food was forgotten and the first verse led to a conversation about how Rakim is obviously up on his scientific knowledge:
"Turn up the bass, check out my melody, hand out a cigar
I'm lettin knowledge be born, and my name's the R
A-k-i-m, not like the rest of them, I'm not on a list
That's what I'm sayin, I drop science like a scientist
My melody's in a code, the very next episode
Has the mic often distortin', ready to explode
I keep the mic at Fahrenheit, freeze MC's to make 'em colder
The listener's system is kickin' like solar
As I memorize, advertise, like a poet
Keep you goin' when I'm flowin', smooth enough, you know with the rough
That's why the moral of my story I tell'll be
Nobody beats the R, check out my melody"
Next thing you know, they're up and vibing next to the turntable, circling the record back to re-listen to specific verses.

And then my husband started his math lesson. 

"Now you boys listen to these next verses and use your addition skills to tell me how many MC's Rakim's better than," he said.

Rakim started rhyming:
"I take 7 MC's put 'em in a line
And add 7 more brothas who think they can rhyme
Well, it'll take 7 more before I go for mine"
My husband put his hand down, pausing the record before the next verse. "How many do y'all have?"

"21" both boys answered.

"Let's see if you're right," my husband said as he let the record spin. Sure enough, Rakim spit out "Now that's 21 MC's ate up at the same time"

There were cheers and high fives all around.

I wish we didn't have to pull out a 25-year-old record to hear rhymes like this. Given all the crass materialism and sexytimes in most rap these days, "My Melody" sounds fresher than ever.


Darimo said…
Hey Liz! Long time no comment :) But a throwback to Rakim and I couldn't resist ... Rakim remains in my mind the master, and Follow the Leader I believe is the greatest piece of lyrical mastery ever composed. You know when Larryo and Kendrick, David and Donald and I were all kids, we used to memorize the lyrics to all the raps. UTFO, Whodini, EPMD, Stestasonic ... but you know I could never, never ever ever, memorize the words to follow the leader. They were honestly just to complex. I try to introduce Rakim to all the new generation of kids listening to rap, and I've put a bounty out ... $50 bucks for anybody who can recite back the words to Follow the Leader ... and I haven't had to payout once (despite multiple promises by kids that me and my $50 would soon be parted). To be sure ... there are rappers today who can rhyme as good as Rakim, but they stand on his shoulders. To quote Isaac Newton "If I have seen further than other men, it is because I have stood upon the shoulders of giants." Every modern rapper should incorporate these words with the slight twist of "because I have stood on the shoulders of Rakim." Like any art or any science or philosophy, it is not the amount of knowledge or skill that makes the artist or scientist or philosopher great, it is the degree by which they advance their respective art. My dad once told me that the average 3rd grader has more knowledge than Aristotle, but we need to remember what he was working with. Rakim truly advanced lyrical composition to all new heights. Tell Larryo I said "hey" and I'll give him a call sometime soon ... let him know that I think about him all the time, life just tends to get busy sometimes (lately more so than usual). --adam
sippinwineman said…
Once, long ago, I saw a documentary about Rakim and his writing skills. He talked about how everyone rhymed at the END of the line, but he'd learned to take the page, draw a line down the middle and not only use A-B rhyme scheme but also make sure every word on the middle line rhymed. That was some years ago. I've respected him since.
1969 said…
Love the throwback Rakim! If you really want to give them a history lesson, play "My Philosophy" by KRS-One.

some mc's be talkin' and talkin'
tryin' to show how black people are walkin
but I don't walk this way to portray
or reinforce
stereotypes of today
like all my brothas
eatin' chicken and watermelon
talk broken english and drug sellin'
see I'm tellin'
and teaching real facts
now when some act in rap
is kind of wack
and it lacks
creativity and intelligence
but they don't care
'cause the company is sellin' it
it's my philosophy


Boogie Down Productions
is made up of teachers
the lecture is conducted
from the mic into the speaker
who gets weaker?
the king or the teacher
it's not about a salary
it's all about reality
teachers teach and do the world good
kings just rule
and most are never understood
if you were to rule
over a certain industry
**** right now
would be in misery
no one would get along
nor sing a song
'cause everyone'd be singing for the king
am I wrong?!

My favorite Hip Hop Song of All Time.

Popular Posts