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With Damon "Tuba Gooding Jr." Bryson on the tuba, James Poysner on the keys,
Kirk Douglas on guitar, Frank Knuckles on percussion, Owen Biddle on bass, DJ J. Period on the turntables, Questlove on drums and Black Thought holding the mic beside the God, the evening was set to be more than memorable.
"We gon' get comfortable up here," Rakim told the eager audience, who, now at 1AM, waited since 11:30PM to witness the man of the hour -- albeit tardy -- kick his rhymes. "It's been a long time but it's good to be here tonight. Word up. I have the best band behind me."
Dressed in a cream-colored button down, the Long Island native sat comfortably on the stage, resting on a stool, bathed in a purple glow from the heated lights above. "I came in the door, I said it before/ I never let the mic magnetize me no more," rapped Rakim in his signature laid-back style, spitting the famous lyrics from the album's classic track, 'Eric B. Is President.' With his longtime partner not in attendance -- J. Period manned the 1s and 2s -- the lyricist switched up the ode's rhymes. "Eric B. ain't on the cut but my name is Rakim."
A former saxophonist himself, Rakim gelled well with the band, each member feeding off the rapper and vice versa. Journalist Touré probed the veteran MC between breaks in his set, asking if he thought of himself as the No. 1 MC of all time, just as his supporters did. "Do I think that?" Ra said. "Nah, I'm probably one of the most modest dudes. I appreciate the people calling me that. I don't think my humbleness will allow myself to call me that."
The 43-year-old moved through songs like 'As the Rhyme Goes On,' 'Paid in Full,' 'I Know You Got Soul' and 'My Melody' with the same vigor as a hungry rapper of 18 -- his age when 'Paid in Full' first debuted. In the intimate atmosphere, Rakim, who had the crowd chanting the lyrics to many of his tracks word-for-word, was in his true element.
Before ending the show with 'Juice (Know the Ledge),' the theme song to the 1992 flick 'Juice,' one fan in the audience chose to unveil himself and speak on the impact Rakim's lyrics had throughout the course of his life. "I came out of hiding for this," comedian Dave Chappelle admitted. "You are my favorite of all time. You remember your life via music. You came out with 'Follow the Leader.' It was the first time I ever heard someone make a reference to their third eye. I love what you do and love the memories you scored."