For years, people have suspected that Rakim secretly ghostwrote the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff’s timeless anthem “Summertime.” In a recent interview, though, Rakim revealed that while he didn’t write the song, it could have been his.
In a conversation with HipHopDX, Rakim confirmed Eric B’s comments in another interview, confirming that the beat for “Summertime” was originally made for The God MC, not for Will Smith. Eric B also told Combat Jack that he had Rakim record over the production, but people were in his ear telling him the song was too soft. He passed on it, and Philly’s son made a hip-hop classic out of it.
Rakim confirms that he had the beat “on the backburner,” but that it didn’t fit the presentation he wanted to make for his first album:
“It was something that we wanted to use, but we felt that the time wasn’t right because of the choice of all the records that we had on the first album. But that’s a joint that you can’t deny. You know, maybe it could’ve been hooked up a little more street-ready, and it was something that we thought was a hit record. But we didn’t want to come out and grasp on that first album. We was trying to ease back on that.” - HipHopDX Interview
It’s easy to see this as Rakim having missed out on one of the greatest songs in rap history, but all things considered, it’s tough to fault his choice. As the story so eloquently states, there are two periods of rap: pre-Rakim and post-Rakim. The Long Island, New York native has one of the most bulletproof discographies in rap, and he’s one of the few artists who can confidently say the game would be completely different without him.
Artists turn down beats that end up as hits or album gems for other artists all the time. The stories are endless: Lupe Fiasco turned down the song that became B.o.B’s breakout hit, “Nothin’ On You.” 50 Cent reportedly passed on “See You Again,” which Wiz Khalifa drove to a billion YouTube views, three GRAMMY nominations, and the top of Billboard charts around the world. There’s also a scene in the Jay Z documentary Fade To Black where Hov looks perplexed while Timbaland plays him the rumbling zoo animal sounds that Ludacris would employ later with “The Potion.” And just this year, ScHoolboy Q used a Metro Boomin beat to make "Dope" that his TDE cohort Kendrick Lamar passed on.
Would some of these songs still have been hits for the artists they were originally crafted for? Possibly, but there’s no guarantee. If you’re going to pick beats based on the idea of what other artists may do with them, you're hustling backward. All you can do is stay focused on your artistic vision and hope for the best, and legends like Rakim know that all too well.