Released: 1999
Features: DJ Premier

In the track “Waiting for the World to End,” Rakim, the god MC from New York, paints a desolate picture of the socio-economic struggles faced by those living in the ghetto. Through his bars, he tries to bring to light the existential dread, the hustle for survival, and the constant threat of violence that makes up a harsh reality for many. However, there’s also a conscious call to rise, to keep moving forward and strive to excel, even amidst the hardships and complexity of life.

Right from the opening verse, Rakim locates his narrative within the slums of New York, expanding it to the gutters worldwide, thus universalizing the struggle. He talks about the difficulty in choosing right from wrong in a world where “right or left could mean life or death.” The neighborhood he speaks of is a toxic environment, filled with negativity, poverty, and violence. Yet, despite this grim setting, Rakim urges not to fall for the trap set by materialistic desires that often lead to envy and violence.

The chorus emphasizes the idea of moving forward and trying to excel. There’s artistry in persistence, he implies, and a raw, unvarnished truth lies within the struggle to paint the perfect picture of life amidst chaos. His use of the word “complicated” underlines the complexity of life’s challenges but signifies that it isn’t an excuse to stop striving.

The Master

In the second verse, Rakim provides a dialogue with a youngster. The kid fantasizes about wealth and a life free from the burdens of his current reality, yet he admits to merely waiting for death. The idleness he describes is a sad reflection of how oppressive circumstances can suppress ambition.

However, in the third verse, Rakim presents an antidote to this despair. He refers to himself as an advocate for the divine, who uses his gift to uplift others. He stresses the importance of education and understanding one’s worth, thereby encouraging self-improvement and resilience. He argues that being recognized as one of the greatest MCs implies more than monetary success – it’s about the positive impact he can make on people’s lives.

The song concludes with Rakim stating that, through his music, he tears up the stage, thus metaphorically disrupting the status quo. By doing so, he aims to provide a glimmer of hope and a promise of a better tomorrow for those ‘waiting for the world to end.’