Hip Hop legend Rakim sat down with journalist Peter Bailey for a recent interview in which the two discussed the current state of U.S. race relations.
The interview opened with Rakim — born William Michael Griffin Jr. — contrasting the differences between today’s rap game and the “golden age” of Hip Hop, during which he and former bandmate Eric B. released the critically-acclaimed “Paid In Full” album, before steering the conversation toward police brutality.
“The images of what’s going on between police and black men,” Bailey posed to Rakim. “What do you feel when you see that?”
“Come on, man. Nobody wants to see that happen,” Griffin responded. “We watch the police brutality, and then we watch the police get ambushed, nobody wants to see that.”
“At the end of the day, all these families are going through shit and getting hurt,” he added. “A lot of these people is good peoples, man, regardless what color they are or what suit they had on. Whenever someone gets their life taken like that, I’m a compassionate brother, man. I feel for shit like that.”
Later in the interview, Rakim criticized the victim mindset.
“What we’ve got to do is realize we are who we are, and nobody defines us. Just because some people stereotype us or feel like we this way or that way, the problem is when we start feeling guilty and start falling victim to that,” he explained. “When I go somewhere and I’m around a bunch of Caucasian people… I don’t fall into the ‘oh, I wonder how they’re thinking about me.'”
“Once we show that confidence, they’re going to think different… and they can tell just like we can tell the knuckleheads from the people that’s trying to do good,” he continued. “When you climb out of that motherfucking hole, you let them know. I’m an intelligent person. I’m a taxpayer. I’ve got kids, I’ve got grandkids, I put my pants on just like you.”
“When they see you like that, man, they can’t do nothing but respect you as a man, but you have to demand that respect… Either you’re going to be a gangster or a respectful person.”