The Best 20 Rakim Quotes

Without Rakim, rap music wouldn’t be what it is today. The artist came up as part of the group Erik B & Rakim and, alongside peers like KRS-ONE. He helped turn rap music from a lark in the park into a lifestyle.

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Today, the 55-year-old New York-born M.C. remains an icon in the genre. Yet, with all that experience and influence, like with his songs “I Ain’t No Joke” and “Paid In Full,” one might wonder what Rakim has to say about life and love, the world around him, his craft and more.

[RELATED: The 15 Best Quotes From Phil Collins]

Without further ado, these are the 20 best Rakim quotes.

1. “I’m not a mainstream artist. But I’ve seen my kids being born; I’ve seen them take their first steps, I’ve seen them grow up and start school. That’s worth more to me than any umpteen million dollars.”

2. “To know that I was being heard on the radio, it made me feel as if I was, I guess, spread across New York. It was incredible.”

3. “I stick to my guns—that’s what keeps me going as an artist. Stevie Wonder never changed from what he wanted to do, and each new album that came along was dope.”

4. “One of the main reasons why it didn’t work out for me and Aftermath is because I felt my music should sound one way, and they felt it should sound another. But, I learned a lot from watching Dre, and when I left California, I knew it was time for me to get my own label.”

5. “I got a lot of vinyl, a lot of music in general in the house.”

6. “You’ve really got to appreciate an artist that’s really outspoken and feels like his music can change the world.”

7. “I had nothing but respect for ‘Pac.”

8. “As a young artist, especially in rap and at that time that I came out, originality was big.”

9. “I’m more of a wordsmith, so I like taking different words and trying to see what I can do with them—as many things as possible.”

10. “People always tell me that they grew up with me—like I’m their brother or uncle or some other family member. That keeps me going.”

11. “When I started rhyming, my favorite rhythms were from John Coltrane and some of the things he did on sax. And certain rhythms that I hear on drums, I try to emulate with my words, dropping on the same patterns that them beats or them notes would hit.”

12. “You know, Paid in Full is a classic album, man. It kind of got me to where I am now, so I can never get tired of Paid in Full.”

13. “Sometimes I write from the end of the verse to the beginning of the verse.”

14. “I was an athlete in college—a quarterback, a leader—so people telling me what to do doesn’t work.”

15. “I’m very smart with my paper! I stopped buying things for myself a long time ago—now I just buy things for my kids or my wife.”

16. “There are certain things that I wish people knew—certain things that I feel I started and certain things that I’m responsible for. Sometimes you wish people knew where a certain style of rapping came from or who was the first one to say whatever.”

17. “My kids listen to rap, so I try to keep up with as much as I can.”

18. “My thing was, I loved music. I played music: I played the saxophone. So the little bit of music know-how I had, I tried to implement that in everything I did, from my style, my cadence, the way I tried to pause and stagnate it; that all came from John Coltrane and listening to jazz albums. Trying to rhyme like a jazz player.”

19. “It’s hard to have fun and make a fun album when you know that it’s something that you need to say.”

20. “I’m not in that state of mind that I was back in ’86—hip-hop is not in that state of mind that it was back in ’86. Times change. I change.”

Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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