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A Fireside Chat with Rakim

DCORE Co-Director to Interview Hip-Hop Legend During Art of Cool Festival

By Micah English

One of hip-hop’s most revered legends, the Long Island-born emcee “The God MC” Rakim Allah will be in Durham this weekend for the 4th annual Art of Cool music festival. Rakim will participate in a fireside chat on the impact and creative process of his classic album “Paid in Full” with radio host Combat Jack and DCORE co-director Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of black popular culture.

The free conversation will take place at 2:10 p.m., Saturday, April 29, in the American Underground Bullpen.

A featured artist at this year’s festival alongside Common, the Revive Big Band and George Clinton, Rakim is widely regarded as one of the most influential emcees of all time. As one half of the hip-hop duo Eric B. & Rakim, he received mass acclaim after the release of “Eric B. Is President” in 1986. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the duo’s first album Paid in Full, which dropped the following year and continues to be regarded as a hip-hop standard for enthusiasts of the genre around the globe.

Rakim will honor the legacy of “Paid in Full” by performing the album in its entirety, backed by a local jazz band assembled by festival co-founder, Al Strong.

“Rakim is performing with a live band during the festival, and I’m excited to witness the energy and flow of that performance. Rakim has set a standard among hip-hop for his techniques and rhymes, and I think it’s interesting to see the influence he’s had in hip-hop today,” said Chelsey Bentley, the festival’s director of marketing and public relations.

Neal, a professor of African & African American Studies and English, and host of the weekly webcast, Left of Black, teaches courses on black masculinity, popular culture and digital humanities. He co-teaches The History of Hip Hop with Grammy Award-winning producer Patrick Douthit, aka 9th Wonder. This semester the course highlights the anniversary of “Paid in Full.”

The festival aims to provide a remixed experience of the Black American Music Festival, featuring forward thinking jazz, alternative soul and mature hip hop in its mission to expand the audience of jazz as well as innovative thought.

Last year’s festival drew over 8,200 spectators, and 60 bands and presenters in 10 venues with an economic impact projection of $1.9 million for the city of Durham.

Those who didn’t purchase festival tickets can still participate in the public events. For more information about the Art of Cool and its programming and events, visit www.aocfestival.org.