Rakim in Concert
Le Belmont 03/21/15
Patience is not a renewable virtue. It just runs out after a certain point of waiting. But despite the series of delays and unknowns, Rakim appeared on Le Belmont’s stage and all frustration disappeared as the GOD Emcee’s classic rhymes started flowing.
Fans from all backgrounds had waited in an auditorium hoping to get a close up, some in depth questions answered, and hear the legendary Rakim talk about his life. But due to winter weather, he was unable to attend the panel. Hip Hop Week organizers cheered the crowd up with the reminder of his live performance in a few hours. People left disappointed, but not disheartened.
Doors at Le Belmont opened at 10, which was a delay in itself (originally 9:30). Music didn’t start until 11. People were creatively waiting, with an impromptu dance cypher coaxed by DJ Asma.
First up was Gabe Nandez: a young, Montreal bred emcee, followed by the Fugee-like Nomadic Massive. Rakim was supposed to be next, but Narcicyst took to the stage with some smooth freestyling: a welcome distraction. It was 1:20 in the morning. No Rakim. Patience was running low.
I checked my phone: 1:43 and still no sign of Rakim. I toyed with the idea of leaving, but what if? What if I left and Rakim showed up? That thought (and patience) kept the audience intact.
Then, through the drunk, high, and tired crowd of bobbleheads, emerged the reassuring sight of two bouncers, with Rakim in between. He took to the stage and all was well. The lethargic crowd was instantly revived.
His set was mostly early songs from the Eric B. & Rakim days, getting the audience started with “I Ain’t No Joke” and other old favorites like “Don’t Sweat The Technique.” He bounced effortlessly between new “Holy Are You,” (The Seventh Seal, 2009) and the classics “It’s Been a Long Time,” (The 18th Letter, 1997), during which he playfully grabbed a selfie stick and made a quick video with the audience.
While it was amazing to experience the GOD Emcee live, the set felt rushed, and a little disconnected. Perhaps it was the tardiness, or the insular size of the venue, or that it was well beyond 2 in the morning. Rakim only performed a forty-five minute set: a fraction of the long evening. Yet the crowd showed no sign of disappointment.
Rakim gracefully and briefly crowd surfed, floating above his disciples. Once set down, the God Emcee gave an almost imperceptible gesture goodbye and exited. I was tucked to the left of the stage, near the exit, and he was ushered out right past me. He had a calm pride about him; not humility, but not ego. Stoic, his temple pierced with a crown of sweat under his cap, he left as quickly as he came, like a prophet.