The legendary rapper is tipped to join [b]Dre[/b]'s [b]Aftermath[/b] label...

Legendary rapper Rakim is set to become the latest signing to hip-hop super-producer Dr. Dre's AFTERMATH imprint, according to rumours gaining momentum in the US.

Reports carried on several American websites indicate that the venerable Long Island, New York-born rapper is to sign to Aftermath after a muted commercial reception for his two solo LPs on Universal. Rakim, best known for the four albums he recorded in tandem with DJ Eric B between 1986 and 1992, has been a solo artist since splitting with Eric in the mid-'90s, and has released two LPs, under his own name, 'The 18th Letter' and 'The Master'.

A massively influential figure, routinely cited as the greatest rapper of all time by his peers, Rakim's career has stalled since his split with Eric B, as producers including DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Mark The 45 King and former Puff Daddy associate Ron 'Amen-Ra' Lawrence have failed in their attempts to furnish him with hit singles. A collaboration with Dre was mooted for Rakim's first solo album but did not in the end take place. The two men are known to be great admirers of each other's work, Rakim saying in a 1995 interview with Hip-Hop Connection magazine that "Dre's been putting the word out that he wants to do some beats for me", and expressing his hopes that this would happen at some stage.

Dre appears currently to be at his commercial zenith, with his own '2001' album and lauded production for Eminem giving him a string of massive hits. However, his numerous commitments to other artists may prove to be a stumbling block to any deal with Rakim. Dawn Robinson, the former En Vogue member now a part of soul group Lucy Pearl, was signed to Aftermath for a year but left the label in 1998 after repeatedly having her recording sessions postponed due to Dre's crowded schedule.

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