One of the best to ever do it swung through the Northwest last week, stopping in the region’s largest cities to rock for us. I’ll admit I was pretty surprised when I first heard that Rakim would be playing Seattle and Portland the final week of February. For a moment, I wondered if I was being setup for some sort of cruel Black History Month joke… Thankfully, the rumors were true.

We Out Here Magazine thought this was pretty exciting. The Northwest loves lyricists, and Rakim is pretty much like the first rap lyricist ever. So we figured we should cover these historic moments; after all, who knows when we’ll have another chance to cover The God? I decided I’d write up the Portland show and hollered at WOHM’s newest contributor, photographer Leon’ Carter, up in Seattle who agreed to cover the show up North. Now that’s how you show respect to a living legend.

Big thanks to guys at Neumo’s for providing us with press access. The following are Leon’s words and images:

First up was my guy Fearce Vill of Dyme Def. Whenever these guys perform it’s a lock that it’s going to be a good show. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts. Once again the crowd was not disappointed. Along with his ever present companion CG, Fearce proceeded to steal the show with the first act. Damn, I thought, how are the other guys gonna follow that?

My skepticism was immediately put to rest when Grynch came on. If I’ve learned anything while shooting hip hop it’s not to judge a book by its cover. If most people were to see Grynch walking down the street and he told them he was an artist, they might blow him off dismissively. People, this guy can rap!!! I know that Ballard, Washington isn’t necessarily a breeding ground for rappers but this time it worked out in spades. 


The next up was a bit of a surprise to me. As RA Scion took the stage I thought, Wait a minute isn’t he supposed to perform tomorrow at the Method Man show? Sure enough he was, and he was also getting ready to rock the house that night. He was another artist that I wasn’t familiar with. So what do we do in the 21st century when we want info… Google to the rescue! I found his 3-song short film for BEGBORROWSTEAL and instantly became a fan, plus now I get to see him twice in as many days… Score! What I didn’t know is how smooth his flow is. I asked some friends if he was local, because he doesn’t sound local, but alas he is.

Now the moment we’ve all been waiting for…. Rakim was due and you could feel the excitement in the room. I happened to be on the side of the stage where the artists enter and as he walked, he looked at me and my camera, giving a little nod as if to say, “Get ready, it’s goin’ down.” 

Rakim has been doing this for a long time and there’s no evidence of him slowing down. R is a true performer; at one point, he even got on the ones and twos to do a little cuttin’ and scratchin’. Who knew?

3 nights later, I arrived at Dante’s with Sharde Marie and her fancy Nikon camera to take in Rakim for myself. We swagged our way inside behind the world-famous DJ Fatboy, bypassing the line which had already stretched beyond the building and toward the parking lot. The spot was buzzing as DJ Spark mixed classic rap tracks on stage. Bullē Classic had a merch table where I finally got a chance to meet Nick Woolley, one of the founders of the slick new clothing company and a hip-hop artist in his own right.

Half Man Half in Bulle ClassicActually, co-founder Aaron Moiel is a rapper as well, going by the stage name Half Man Half. He opened the show alongside fellow veterans Serge Severe, L-Pro, Destro and DJ Ozroc as they performed under the name of The Rundown. DJ Wicked followed with a riveting set, tossing vinyl records in the air as he mixed classic cuts from the headliner, showing off his award-winning scratching abilities.

Sleep followed with an awe-inspiring performance alongside DJ Zone. I caught a few rappers in the crowd with their mouths open. Cool Nutz and Fatboy hit the stage next with Maniac and the homie Pricy and they wasted no time rolling out the hits. Afterwards, I spoke to Nutz backstage and he confessed he knew he would have to bring it after Sleep’s set, also adding that “He’s been doing this for a long time… It bothers me when people don’t give him the respect he deserves.”

By the time Rakim took the stage it was basically impossible to move anywhere in the venue. I don’t know what the capacity is at Dante’s but I’m pretty sure it was greatly exceeded. As he rolled off hit after hit with the assistance of DJ 33 1/3, it was easy to remember how it was that this man had inspired so many of us to rap better. Folks my age were inspired by The 18th Letter, younger cats might have been moved by The 7th Seal, while the big homies take it back to Don’t Sweat the Technique. Shoot, I can remember my dad in the early 90’s talking about Paid in Full, and how that was real rap. I didn’t listen then, but dang, he was right.

Rakim put on a great show, one that I may never see again in my home city. In his own words:

“I’m trying to think, when’s the last time I was in Portland?”
*dramatic pause*
“All I know is…”
*drops beat*
“It’s been a long time!”
*and the crowd goes WILD*

Rakim Autographs