Skip links

A piece of hip hop history

This is no ordinary microphone.

This particular microphone, from the Smithsonian’s collection, was used by Rakim to record the album “The 18th Letter” (1997).

The hand-held microphone has a circular silver mesh wire grill covering the foam interior of the microphone.

The grill is attached to a black plastic cylindrical handle with text printed in silver type near the attachment reading “SHURE” and “BETA 58A” twice around.

And so on, goes the catalogue description, prosaically. Not so for Borys Kossakowski, who produced this musical response to the item, titled “Rakim’s Loop” for our Smithsonian Treasures project:

“I dare to say that we are friends with Rakim now. For the last couple of weeks, we spent a lot of time together. Although we never met or talk.

“Rakim was walking around the room, talking about his life. I was listening, noting, recording his words. We listened to the music. I showed him some old sketches of mine – ideas, improvisations, live sessions. Finally, he said: this one. What’s that?
‘Lately’ by Love Loopers – a live-at-home session recorded by my wife and me – said I.

“Suddenly everything started to match and fit – just like in a puzzle game.

“That’s Rakim’s Loop. Meet Rakim.

“Rakim – William Michael Griffin Jr. (born January 28, 1968), better known by his stage name Rakim. American rapper, one half of golden age hip hop duo Eric B. & Rakim. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential and most skilled MCs of all time.”

Samples used:

– Rakim – Skits from album “The 18th Letter”
– Rakim – excerpts from “An Evening With Rakim Allah Interviewed by Chuck D”
– Tomasz Stańko Quintet – Dark Eyes
– John Coltrane Quartet – Acknowledgement
– Miles Davis – Generique
– Tomasz Stańko live solo feat. Wisława Szymborska – Tutaj/Here
– Love Loopers (feat. Anna Szuchiewicz and Borys Kossakowski) – Lately (live at home session)