Rapper Rakim is known for his iconic flow and lyrical ability. When he burst on the scene as an 18-year-old, he had no idea that he would wear the crown as the “greatest” or “most influential” emcee ever to walk the planet … but he does.
He poured so much of his journey in his 2019 memoir, “Sweat the Technique: Revelations on Creativity from the Lyrical Genius,” but one little detail he left for “The Brooklyn Deltas.”
Nikki Duncan-Smith, a member of the Brooklyn Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., interviewed the “Paid in Full” artist and teased him about writing the rap love ballad for her.
“Can you tell all my Sorors, what you were thinking about … ME … when you wrote Mahogany?” she asked.
He chuckled and went along with the joke, saying, “Oh, yeah, yeah! I didn’t wanna tell everybody.”
She followed up, “Talk about ‘Mahogany.’ We know you… it was a departure from your hard rhymes and all of that. Talk about why it was important for you to write ‘Mahogany.’”
“Mahogany was a song that [required me to tap into] so many different elements [for me] to write it. Mahogany came from Diana Ross’ movie. I was so in love with that movie and intrigued by it, that the name just stuck with me,” he revealed.
“Ironically, just sitting there, I said that I wanted to know a nice song for the ladies.”
“I said ‘What personifies Black women?’” he finishes. ‘How can I personify or explain … and then boom [it came to me] ‘Mahogany.’”
“The R” noted that the recipe to make the song great included a little bit of “sarcasm” and “freshness,” making him push his pen to the limit. He never had to write like that before or expose his vulnerable side in what is essentially an LL Cool-J style of love ballad. He hoped that the challenge would pay off.
Geoff Streat, the Chief Operating Officer from Usher’s New Look, noted that his approach was appreciated, describing it as “smooth with the roughness.” It was classic Rakim but displayed that he could “manifest to the ladies” just as easily as he manifested “science” to the brothers.
Streat pushed that it was a song, not just for the ladies, saying “It was a strong record for fellas too. It showed how you can articulate your thoughts about that woman that was drawing your attention.”
“That was such a powerful record.”
Ending everything, the god emcee set the record clear. “To Miss Mahogany— herself— thank you for inspiring me to write that joint.”
“Mahogany” appeared on Eric B and Rakim’s 1990 release, Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em. Produced by Large Professor, it contains samples from Al Green’s I’m Glad You’re Mine. The artist spoke about the song, his life, and his book as a way to support the Deltas and Usher’s New Look as they help encourage lifetime readers through literature focused on Hip-Hop.
For the full interview, click here.