“We just signed Rakim to our label, straight up. Rakim is on Aftermath, and the name of his album is going to be Oh My God. This is going to be the biggest hip-hop record ever, straight up and coming at you from Aftermath, baby, so fuck all of y’all.”

“I get my vibes from the street, know what I’m sayin’? I study life,” he said, “and when I’m in the street, I live it as much as I can, but then I got to record it all. So when I go home to write, you know what I’m saying, I can remember certain situations, you know what I’m saying, in the street–certain things I saw. And what that is, is you know, the way we live, you know what I’m saying? It lets me see what’s going on, so when I’m walking in the street, that’s when most of my ideas come to me.”

William Griffin Jnr., 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 rap’s 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 duo’s 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 Rakim’s imaginative and intelligent rhyming on tracks such as ‘The 18th Letter’ (‘Nobody’s been this long-awaited since Jesus/I heard the word on the street is/I’m 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. His sophomore set, 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 Rakim’s quality, was little short of a crime.

In a deal that will bring together one of the illest lyricists in rap with one of the greatest hip-hop hit-makers around, Rakim has just inked a new label contract with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records. Rakim, who in the late ’80s and early ’90s helped lay the groundwork for contemporary hip-hop via his work on such albums as Paid in Full (1987) and Follow the Leader (1988) with his partner, Eric B., now plans to issue a new solo LP on Aftermath next year.

The move had been widely rumored in rap circles over the past few weeks, and Aftermath Records’ founder, Dr. Dre, confirmed Rakim’s signing to the label while visiting the set of Eminem’s new video, “Stan.”Rakim’s new album, slated to hit stores in spring, will feature production work from Dr. Dre, DJ Premier of Gang Starr and Mel Man, one of Dr. Dre’s production prot??, according to David Saslow, a publicist for Interscope Records, the parent company to Aftermath.