William Michael Griffin Jnr., 28 January 1968, Wyandanch, Long Island, New York, USA. Between 1987 and 1992, Rakim released four influential albums in partnership with Eric B that have accorded him the status of one of raps greatest figureheads. His complex, cross-referencing lyrics and relaxed delivery style inspired a new generation of hip-hop artists in the 90s, including the hugely successful Wu-Tang Clan, Nas and Dr. Dre. Following the duos split in 1992, Rakim worked on the soundtrack to Gunmen before disappearing into seclusion for five years. He returned in 1997 with the long-awaited The 18th Letter, a smooth soulful album that earned praise for Rakims imaginative and intelligent rhyming on tracks such as The 18th Letter (Nobodys been this long-awaited since Jesus/I heard the word on the street is/Im still one of the deepest on the mike since Adidas) and The Mystery (Who Is God). The album also came with a greatest hits bonus CD, The Book Of Life, a compelling selection of the music which made Rakim the legendary figure he is today.
The follow-up, The Master, was released in November 1999. Falling short of both his work with Eric B and The 18th Letter, the album failed to distinguish itself from any other hip-hop album released in the late 90s, which, for a MC of Rakims quality, was little short of a crime. In the early 00s, he worked with Dr. Dre on a new studio album but the project was eventually scrapped due to creative differences between the two men. During this period Rakim also guested on singles by Jay-Z and Truth Hurts, and appeared on Eminems 8 Mile soundtrack.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.