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It is often said of contemporary hip-hop that the form has lost touch with its roots, forgotten the streets where it was first born and abandoned its role as a form of protest music. This is a generalization, of course, and like all generalizations, it is simultaneously partly true and greatly misleading. Hip-hop has become mainstream pop music, yes, but a healthy underground hip-hop scene unquestionably exists, on both a national and a local level.

One of the fathers of underground hip-hop is certainly Rakim, who as one half of Eric B. & Rakim, brought a dexterity, verbal agility and a dark, gritty, urban realism to the form, in the process earning a reputation as perhaps the greatest MC of all time. In fact, in 2006, MTV named Eric B/ & Rakim’s “Paid In Full” the Greatest Hip-Hop Album All Time. A wise choice.

Rakim doesn’t tour as often as he once did, so an opportunity to catch him doing his thing in real time is truly a treat. Your opportunity to do so comes at 8 p.m. Friday, when Rakim, with special guests including DJ Cutler, take over the Town Ballroom (681 Main St.) Tickets are $25, $30 day of show (box office, Tickets.com).

– Jeff Miers