Rakim has been hooking up with former partner Eric B. again to battle in the courtroom, and now he hopes to realign himself with Dr. Dre.
"Obviously we had creative differences," Rakim explained of his studio sessions with arguably the greatest hip-hop producer of all time. He split from Dre's Aftermath imprint in July after several years under contract with no album to show for it (see "Rakim Splits With Dr. Dre, Aftermath Records").
"Dre wanted to go one direction, I wanted to go another direction," he continued. "For a while [we were] trying to please both sides of the fences. Later on [we decided] it was best I went my way and let him finish doing what he do, but it's still love. He's been working in his mindset for so long, I been working the way I been working for so long, the chemistry didn't really mix the way we thought it would."
Rakim said just because he and Dre are no longer part of the same musical family, it doesn't mean they won't get down in the studio again. The Doc is one of the high-profile collaborators he's hoping to get on his new album.
"I'm working on my own label deal," he said. "I ain't got to worry about the corporate structure. I do my thing and don't worry about the way the label handles things. I'm trying to set that up now and finish the album for the summer. You've got a bunch of people that are reaching out that wanna work on the project, from Pharrell, Timbaland — Dre promised me a track. I'mma do a couple of duets, something I haven't really done in the past. There's going to be a couple of surprises on the album."
Rakim already surprised the world once when late last year he and Nas collaborated on Alicia Keys' "Streets of New York." The track made it onto mixtapes, but not onto Keys' album.
"That was good," he said. "I think the world had been wanting that [collaboration with Nas] for a while. Then, especially to do it with Alicia Keys, that made it that much better. It felt good letting the world hold that."
The rap veteran is holding onto his zest for life even tighter these days. Last month he was involved in a freeway accident in Connecticut (see "Rakim Injured In Connecticut Car Accident").
"I was taking my mom to dialysis," he said. "An 18-wheeler came over into my lane. [It] hit me, spun me out. Almost threw me up into the woods. I managed to avoid the woods, but I hit a pole. I'm just fortunate to be here. I'm supposed to be somewhere sippin' soup."
Although Rakim avoided serious injury, he hurt his back, bumped his knee and hit his head. His mother fractured her back. He realizes the situation could've been a lot worse.
"The accident happened the day after the anniversary of my father's death," he said. "It was so much going on, it's a sign. ... I gotta find out what it is. It might be to slow down, it might be 'do what you gotta do while you're here.' I had an angel in the car."
In the courtroom, Eric B. and Rakim recently filed a lawsuit against Russell Simmons, Lyor Cohen, Island Def Jam and Universal Music Enterprises among others, claiming they're still owed a hefty penny for the use of the master recordings of 1987's Paid in Full (see "Eric B. & Rakim Sue Label, Claim They Weren't Paid In Full").
Regardless of the outcome of their suit, which they said could earn them $100 million in back payments, it's unlikely the pair will make more music together. Eric B., however, doesn't rule it out.
"I'll let Rakim do music, I'mma do TV," the DJ said. "Y'all can have this mess. [But] anything is possible, man. Every day with life, there's no road map. But for now, Eric is gonna keep TV, let Rakim keep music."