Sweat the Technique: Revelations on Creativity from the Lyrical Genius

Amistad: HarperCollins. Sept. 2019. 256p. ISBN 9780062850232. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062850256. MUSIC
Growing up in the Long Island hamlet of Wyandanch, surrounded by a musical family, rapper Rakim was first exposed to hip-hop at age six. Watching aspiring MCs spit their best rhymes in Wyandanch Park ignited a lifelong passion. By the time he was a senior in high school, the lyricist was booking gigs that included the Def Jam ’87 Tour with Public Enemy, Doug E. Fresh, and LL Cool J. While Eric B. and Rakim were on tour, their seminal debut album, Paid in Full, was released to fan and critical acclaim. In this blend of memoir and creative blueprint, Rakim, with Kitwana (The Hip-Hop Generation), writes with the unpretentious wisdom of a seasoned juggernaut. While repentant about the mistakes of youth, he is unapologetic about protecting his talent. A running theme is Rakim’s refusal to sacrifice his integrity or his artistic brand for the sake of public approval.
VERDICT Die-hard fans will enjoy gaining unprecedented insight into the rapper’s life and career, while casual readers will appreciate his advice for harnessing creative potential. Less an episode of Behind the Music and more testament to an undeniable artistic legacy, this account neither romanticizes the highs and lows of fame nor acts as a cynical public service announcement. [See Prepub Alert, 1/14/19.]

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