Unvaulted: Exploring Hip-Hop’s Unreleased Albums – Rakim “Oh My God”

It started off a dream hip-hop scenario with one of the best lyricists of all time, with one of the best producers of all time. What could possibly not work?

Oh, My God was set to be Rakim’s third solo album and was to be released on the biggest label at the time Aftermath Entertainment. It was gearing up to possibly be a huge move for not only Dr. Dre, but also Rakim.  So many great things were happening in the situation that it seemed destined to succeed.  Two of the biggest artists from the East Coast and West Coast were coming together to collaborate, just years after the deadly “East Coast / West Coast” beef.  The strangest part about this album is that the disconnect between these two giants was almost immediate. Rakim was signed in 2000 at a stage where he was trying to evolve, whereas Dre had a proven formula that had him on top of the culture now. In a recent interview with Red Bull Music Academy, Rakim explained that To try and get on the same page was more complicated than we thought. A beat [would] come on, and we listenin’ to the beat—I’m already seein’ what I want to do. But then Dre might go, ‘Yo, I want you to do such and such, and such and such on there.’ I’m like, ‘Come on, Dre. Been there, did that already, nahmean?’ Realizing that, it was like night and day.” 

During a high-note of Dre’s illustrious career in 1999-2003, Aftermath could not buy an L.  After a rough start to the Aftermath label with the Dr. Dre Presents…The Aftermath project,  Dre bounced back, as only he can.  In a 4-year timespan he had a hand in a slew of classic albums including his own 2001, Eminem‘s Slim Shady LP, Marshall Mathers LP, and The Eminem Show; Xzibit‘s Restless, Eve‘s Scorpion, Busta Rhyme‘s Genesis, the soundtrack to The Wash film by DJ Pooh, 50 Cent‘s Get Rich or Die Trying, as well as many others.

At the time, Rakim was in a bit of a different place. Ra’s 1999 album The Master, though received well by the culture, lacked sales and buzz after its release. Signing with Dr. Dre and the incredible buzz it immediately set off, Oh, My God could have been arguably one of the biggest hip-hop albums ever, depending on the direction Dre took Rakim. From what former Aftermath artist Stat Quo told HipHopDX in a 2014 interview, “A lot of them 50 records was Rakim songs. That first album, Rakim did songs on all those beats, man“.  With much 50’s Aftermath debut having been Rakim songs at some point, there is no reason to believe that this couldn’t have been a classic, too.  Dr. Dre also had top-notch lyricists & singers like Busta, Em, 50, Eve, and Truth Hurts that could have been featured on the project, in addition to Dre’s production team with Scott Storch, Mel-Man, Bud’da, Mike Elizondo & Denaun Porter all there to assist. To say the other artists and producers wouldn’t bring their A-game for a Rakim album would be a shock considering the unprecedented roll Aftermath Entertainment was on at the time.

Although only five Dr. Dre and Rakim collaborations have ever been released, 3 of the 5 songs were incredibly dope, whereas not much else is known about the other two leaked songs that found their way out, “After You Die” and “Welcome 2 Da Hood”.  A remix to the 2002 Truth Hurts single “Addictive”, produced by Dr. Dre, gave us a peek into what the two industry giants were capable of, followed by Ra’s appearances on “The Watcher 2” with Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, and Truth Hurts, as well as “R.A.K.I.M.” from the 8 Mile soundtrack. Ultimately, both careers continued to flourish as Dr. Dre and Aftermath have become one of the most successful companies in history, and Rakim has continued to cement his already cemented legacy.