Your Forecaster: Rakim (As Told by Art Of Noise)

Art of Noise were big in New York in the 1980s. How big? Getting played in clubs big, no doubt. But also pre-record-deal Public Enemy rapping over their songs big, Harry Allen doing spoken word sermons over their songs big. Did those WBAU airings make their way across the pond back then? Rakim definitely did. See: the UK-smash Coldcut remix to "Paid in Full." From there, Coldcut starts Ninja Tune. Ninja Tune begets trip-hop. And when Art of Noise return from a nine-year hiatus with Lol Creme (yes, that Lol Creme) in tow for high-concept comeback album The Seduction of Claude Debussy, it's Rakim, they ping to provide lead vocals on lead single "Metaforce."

Rakim had previously collaborated with Art Of Noise producer Trevor Horn on 1998's "Buffalo Gals (Back to School)," a reworking of Malcom McLaren and the World Famous Supreme Team's 1983 classic, and it's there that today's brief oral history lesson begins. 

Trevor Horn: "He remembered all the early hip-hop stuff I’d done with Malcolm McLaren like ‘Hobo Scratch’ but told me his favourite track was ‘Moments In Love.’"

Ann Dudley: "As soon as Rakim came up with the immortal rhyme 'Aerodynamic in the Evening Air' we knew that we had it!"

Paul Morley: "We just sent Rakim some information, thinking it wouldn't mean much to him, and he did this fabulous rap, throwing things out of context all over the shop."

Dudley: "He was very interested in it – the whole idea of what we were doing."

Morley: "We sent him this big raft of stuff about Charles Baudelaire, who’s one of my favorite poets. It was kind of interesting because one of the thrills of the whole thing was that he totally got inside the spirit of the record and didn’t lop anything on top of it that came from his world. [He] went inside what we were trying to do with the record and gave it something that then inspired us to cover other areas as well. It was a fabulous thing that he did. There’s some great images in there."

Dudley: "It seemed like Rakim represented the modern poet, the poet at the end of the 20th century, rapping about Charles Baudelaire, the poet at the end of the 19th century, and I've never heard those sort of rhymes in a rap."

Morley: "It was a wonderful moment. It’s like 'Splatter my wisdom in a design,' is a great way to describe painting. We were absolutely thrilled."

"The Noise are back in town," The Guardian, June 20, 1999; "Art of Noise makes a new impression with 'Debussy,'" CNN, September 27, 1999; "The Art Of Noise: Do You Dream in Color?" Ink19, October 15, 1999; "Anne Dudley and Paul Morley discuss The Art Of Noise," Chaos Control Digizine, 1999; "Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Trevor Horn," NME, November 11, 2021.

Additional reading: "Somebody Down There Loathes Me," The Observer, August 31, 2002; "The Velvet Revolution of Claude Debussy," The New Yorker, October 22, 2018.

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