For lovers of classic hip-hop, tomorrow's Peace Boston concert on City Hall Plaza offers a rare chance to travel back in time with some of the genre's defining artists. The top draw is Rakim, considered by many the greatest rapper of all time. He's joined by CL Smooth, Nice & Smooth, and an assortment of Boston acts from then and now. Los Angeles-based female MC Medusa and Boston's DJ Nomadik will host the event, a production of the City of Boston and local hip-hop activists. With gun violence spiking in Boston this summer, the concert, a reprise of last year's highly successful event, will highlight "conscious" themes of community building and civic peace.
Every artistic tradition possesses legends whose contribution to its development is so great it is impossible to imagine it without them. Ask hip-hop connoisseurs which artists, in the genre's three- decade history, have had this sort of impact, and if there's one unanimous pick, it is likely to be Rakim.
Rakim links his serious manner to being in the womb when Martin Luther King was killed. In the 1990 song "In the Ghetto," he returns to the womb, honors his late father, mind-travels to Mecca and Africa, and delivers a trenchant critique of inner-city life, all in three taut verses. It's vintage Rakim, just one of many gems.