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Rakim: The Seventh Seal

Legendary golden-age rapper Rakim opens his first album in a decade with “How To Emcee,” and the regrettable words, “This is your Koran or Bible / To be a true MC icon or idol / The content you put in your songs are vital.” The song itself is a funky banger that schools listeners in the art Rakim once redefined, but that almighty content quickly drops off a couple of tracks into The Seventh Seal. Impressive rhyme schemes aside, “Documentary Of A Gangsta” takes a narrative tack that pales next to Ghostface’s work, while “Satisfaction Guaranteed” merely flips the theme of Rakim’s classic “Microphone Fiend,” likening his own rap to a drug that addicted fans would kill for. More disappointing still is the scattershot production, sourced from several different beatmakers, which saddles “Message In The Song” with sub-par chipmunk soul, and “Man Above” with seriously bad early-’00s Dre-style funk. Echoing that rap chestnut of yore, Rakim recently told Billboard, “I’m hoping to kill the old state of hip-hop and start with the new.” To that end, The God MC does absolutely nothing. The Seventh Seal is a record that’s been made a hundred times or more—one that attempts to save rap while rocking beats that prove the producers aren’t sure what rap’s current state is. Having once been one of the genre’s biggest innovators isn’t reason enough to take a pass on trendsetting for the future. And no, with apologies to the album-closer “Dedication,” subbing out the James Brown samples for No Doubt absolutely does not count.


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