Hip hop’s golden age began in 1986, the day Rakim stepped to a microphone to record “Eric B Is President.” Only 18 years old (though he sounded considerably more worldly), Rakim (real name William Griffin) had a smooth, effortless flow that brought a cool melodicism and high intelligence to the MC game—he gave both fire and ice, set within the wiry frame of his serious features. Even those who didn’t get the Five Percenter reference wouldn’t have bridled at his nickname, God. His partnership with his DJ, Eric B, yielded four great albums and numerous classic singles before Rakim split for a solo career. Despite initial success with 1997’s The 18th Letter, he endured several frustratingly fruitless years signed to Dr Dre’s Aftermath, working on an album that never came. Now Rakim back in his native New York, the city where his immense influence is most clearly audible, notably in other NYC wordsmiths such as Nas. As recently as 2012, The Source named him the greatest MC of all time.