On Tuesday night, Rakim was poised to make his triumphant return to the New York stage. The legendary MC had been asked by Ghostface, an MC he respects, to perform a set at the flamboyant Wu-Tang Clan member's headlining show at the Roseland Ballroom. Rakim's only goal was to smash NYC and reciprocate some love to the fans who have supported him through the years.
He never even made it to the mic.
Instead, Rakim's arrival at the club set off a very different kind of drama, one that stems from his ongoing dispute with Nicole Smith, the mother of his 14-year-old son, over child-support payments. As he entered Roseland, Rakim (whose real name is William Griffin) was arrested for alleged failure to make those payments, and the following morning, Smith appeared on Hot 97's "Morning Show" and aired some family business (see "Rakim Cleared Of Child-Support Charges, Released"). Among other allegations, she contended that Rakim was $25,000 behind in child-support payments and that he had not seen their son in five years.
The MC recalled Tuesday night's events for MTV News. "I take one step inside the club, and a plainclothes officer grabs me, asks me if I'm Rakim," he said. "I look [to] my right, there's four more cops coming at me. Right now, I don't know what's going on: I'm thinking something happened before I got there with some of my people."
Rakim, 36, said he was shocked when the officers stated their business: There was a warrant, issued in 2001 by the Suffolk County (Long Island) sheriff's department, for his arrest for failure to appear in court on a child-support matter. He said that he was not aware of the warrant, and that accepting a paying date — at a show where his name would be advertised — would be the last thing he would do if he'd known authorities were seeking him.
"I know I don't have no warrant, so I'm baffled," he continued, recalling the experience as if it were happening right then and there. "So right now, honestly, I'm thinking, 'Should I dash?' "
Rakim didn't run, he was handcuffed and put into the back of a police car.
"I'm like, 'What did you arrest me for?' " he recalled. "[One of the officers] said, 'We arrested you on child-support charges.' So I chuckled a little bit because it all hit me: I remember recently paying child-support bills, because it's an every-month thing — to be exact, April 8th."
The MC was taken to Suffolk County, where he was held overnight until a judge was able to hear the case the following morning. Rakim said no one could produce documentation of an arrest warrant, but he paid in excess of $2,000 pending the resolution of the case and was released.
"Just to make a long story short, the judge thought that everything was bogus," Ra fumed, adding that this was not the first time he's been "falsely arrested" for failure to pay child support. "It's [happened] a few times, to me it's like an every-couple-of- years thing." He said that he and Smith have been at odds since the child was born.
Rakim claimed that he wasn't even aware that he had a son until he was arrested for failure to pay child support. "[I first] found out I had a son [by getting] arrested," he said. "I've been dealing with this since day one. I went to jail because they said I wasn't paying child support. I'm like, 'Wait a minute, what are you talking about?' I took the [paternity] test."
"He's lying about everything and he's hurting my son tremendously," Smith told MTV News, and contested Rakim's version of events. "I let him know I was pregnant seven-to-eight months after I got with him. He ignored my phone calls, [so] I took him to court a year-and-a-half after my son was born. Right now, he's trying to play me. He's trying to make it seem like he pays his child support. He pays when he wants to pay. He doesn't pay for eight, nine months at a time, then he sends a lump sum."
Rakim said the relationship between him and Smith has been so tumultuous that he "disappeared" from her and their son's lives four years ago. His only contact with them has been to send checks.
"I wanted her to suffer for a little while," he said. "We all gotta come to an understanding. She has got to understand that she is messing up more than trying to fix it. It's not right, but all I could do at the time is back up for a minute and make her feel the pain and see what she is doing to the whole situation. The only thing I'm guilty of is not seeing my son. I spoke to my son before I did it. I told my son, 'Have patience, man, this sh-- is about to get real crazy right now. Stay strong. Understand what's going on and understand what we got and don't let nothing break it.' That's the last time I seen him or spoke to him.
"I disappeared for a minute, and if the world is gonna mark me for that, tell them to go ahead," he continued. "Tell them to mind their business. Everybody is going to have their opinions. Have your opinion, but mind your business. I do what I can do. I can't do what every person in the world can do."
Rakim admits to falling behind in child-support payments — which are just over $1,000 a month — upon occasion. He and his lawyer have purportedly produced documentation proving that he is current with his payments.
Rakim and Smith disagree on a number of matters. He claimed that she's jealous of his relationship with his current girlfriend, and speculated that Smith's affiliation with Suffolk County Court, where she is a court advocate, may have been the real reason he was arrested on Tuesday. Smith denied both allegations, although they both concurred that he needs to be a part of their son's life. Rakim, who currently lives with his girlfriend and their three children, says he's going to be more present in his other child's life.
"It's an unfortunate situation, man, but I love my kids, all my kids, and they know that. The situation is messed up."