I was lucky to meet Rakim last year and get a signed copy of his book – I had been waiting to read it and it didn’t disappoint. I remember being hooked on any piece of news I could get about hip hop back when I was a kid and their first album came out and this book made me nostalgic for that Golden Era.
He gives a lot of insight into his background and upbringing, and then dives into not only his approach to writing his lyrics, but his thought process in general and dedication to his craft. He opens up a lot about the challenges that he had, and how he overcame them or in some cases, still struggles with them. While he conveys his pride in his own accomplishments, he has a lot of humility in praising and respecting others which something that doesn’t seem to happen in the hip hop world today. The most striking part for me was where he references the struggle to resist temptation to sell out for $$ vs maintaining his integrity of what he wants and staying connected to his own purpose. It is struggle that many face on a daily basis. His memoir is not only a great insight into how one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) lyricists approached their craft, but it is also a great tutorial on how to start creating that space yourself and the level of commitment you need. There were a lot of ‘a-ha’ moments throughout the book. I wish I had read something like this in my youth!
Here is a much more comprehensive write up of the book: https://christopherpierznik.com/2019/11/04/on-writing-for-the-hip-hop-culture-rakims-sweat-the-technique-reviewed/