With an authoritative baritone, conceptual rhyme patterns, and impeccable flows, Rakim is, without a doubt, one of hip-hop’s most influential lyricists of all time. So it is fitting to open his new album, The Seventh Seal, in a decade with “How to Emcee.” Aspiring rappers should take notes: “To be the true emcee, icon, or idol / The contents you put in your song are vital.”
Word wise, Rakim is still at the top of his game, but his choice of beats has kept him from making classic albums for years and The Seventh Seal is no exception. On most tracks, the production tends to overpower his voice. “Man Above” sounds like a Dr. Dre’s watered-down production. On “You & I,” you could hear the speaker-rattling bass more than his voice. The speed-up sample on “Message of the Song” gets in the way of the message. “Satisfaction Guaranteed” featured way too many bells and whistles including various drum tracks and irritating chipmunk effects. And what’s up with all the snoozing R&B hooks? Can’t believe he fell for that.
Getting through The Seventh Seal once again makes you realize how indispensable Eric B. was to Rakim’s success. Eric knew how to kept the beats to the minimal to let Rakim’s lyricism shined. After all, even the God Emcee needs the president by his side.