Review - The Eighteenth Letter

Artist: Rakim

After seven years without a full-length recording, Rakim has returned to stake his claim in the New World of hip-hop where rappers with lyrical substance are few and far between. You might have thought that rust had set in since he parted with longtime collaborator Eric B., but this is far from the case. Rakim is on the top of his game on this debut solo release. He shines throughout with clarity, sense and magnificent prose.

One example of how Rakim is in a class by himself is the absence of cameos by other artists. Because of his stature, Rakim could have called on anyone from Wu-Tang to Puff Daddy to appear on this album. He chose to stand alone, delivering grand performances on cuts like the tribute to his hometown, "New York, New York." Rakim's lyrical mastery is particularly evident in "Mystery," which goes back through the channels of time while revealing the true mysteries of life. "Guess Who's Back" and "It's Been a Long Time" are both prime Rakim tracks that fit well into his impressive resume of classics.

If you're new to this true star, prepare to be enlightened.

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