Rakim Fires Up Highline Ballroom

Hip-hop legend Rakim Allah and a host of friends, as well as some fire, took over the Highline Ballroom in downtown Manhattan Thursday night to give fans a sneak peek of his long-awaited album, The Seventh Seal (Ra Records/ Tuscan Villa/SMC Recordings), due this fall.

The exclusive event began at 9 p.m. but lines formed well before 7 p.m. when the doors opened. U-God, from the famed Wu-Tang Clan, took to the stage to open up the set with some classics. Halfway through his performance of songs like Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Got Your Money” and “Dopium” (off his latest album of the same name), VIP privileges were taken away from fans when an unexpected fire broke out behind the bar. Everyone in the vicinity evacuated the top floor, which made the standing room around ticket holders even more crowded below.

Most events would have ended at the first billow of smoke, but, like Rakim’s ever-lasting rap career, the party went on. A host of DJs blessed the stage including DJ Big Kap, who mixed the first half of the show, and DJ Kid Capri, who rocked the crowd for about an hour, mixing and scratching what seemed like every hit song of the past 10 years.

While it was hot and steamy outside, Miami heat rose inside when Rick Ross made a guest appearance to show his respect for Rakim. The bearded rapper ran through hits such as “Maybach Music,” “Hustlin’,” and “Push It.” Despite his recent beef with Queens native 50 Cent, the crowd of New Yorkers surprisingly embraced The Boss.

The man of the hour, Rakim aka The God MC, didn’t hit the stage until about 11:30 p.m., but fans weren’t left disappointed. He covered all the basics, performing classic tracks like “When I Be on the Mic,” “I Ain’t No Joke,” and “Holy Are You” off his first full album in a decade.

–Bilal Morris

Photos by Cassidy “Sparrow” Maldonado for Rap-Up.com