Two years after his comeback album (18th Letter), Rakim dropped another album on Universal. After the dopeness of the 18th Letter, and of course Rakim’s history in the rap game many expected this album to be straight fire, and the lead single “When I B On The Mic” seemed to back up this feeling. But could the rest of the album live up to the hype?
Flow Forever – (3 of 5)
The first proper track on the album, produced by long time Rakim collaborator Clark Kent. The beat is alright, nothing special but it does its job, the problem is that it doesn’t really seem to inspire Rakim. He sounded a little bored on this track, and although lyrically it’s pretty good, his flow isn’t as smooth as normal. The hook is also quite bad, the whole track is really just average summed up.
When I B On Tha Mic – (5 of 5)
Well, what can you say about this track? Straight classic in ever department. Brilliant Premo production based around a chopped up piano loop, Ra spitting fire for three verses, and perhaps one of Premo’s best scratched hooks ever. This track is hiphop in its purest form.
Finest Ones (feat Clark Kent) – (3.5 of 5)
This is basically a track about women, and it is obvious that Rakim is at ease with this subject matter. His flow and lyrics are definitely on point on this track, the beat is pretty good, but Clark Kent proves to be very annoying on the hook which does spoil the track a little.
All Night Long – (3 of 5)
Produced by Punch this track never quite feels right. The beat is quite simple, basically some percussion, a bit of bass and a few scratches here and there. Rakim only really drops average verses on this track though, and the hook is once again a very average half sung affair.
State of Hiphop Interlude
Uplift – (3.5 of 5)
At least this track doesn’t have a wack hook. The beat is once again a pretty simple affair, but I’m liking the build up, and what sounds like a Indian vocal sample. Rakim spits pretty well on this track, not vintage verses but at least he doesn’t sound bored. Rakim handles the hook himself this time, and its certainly a better result than the chanting/singing on previous hooks.
I Know – (3 of 5)
This track features a pretty nice beat from Tr Love, sounds sort of like a less advanced Premo production. However, it doesn’t seem to inspire Rakim at all, especially on the first verse, and he really does sound bored on this track. The hook is alright I suppose, but the end result is another average track.
It’s the R – (4 of 5)
This Clark Kent production puts a bit of life back into the album. Although the beat is still quite simple, it’s definitely got some funkiness to it, and this seems to suit Rakim who drops his some real dope verses. The scratching in the hook isn’t top notch but its still pretty good, and is certainly better than the singing/chanting hooks, and actually amounts to a dope track.
I’ll Be There (feat Nneaka Morton) – (3 of 5)
You have to wait through 38 seconds of the women on this track singing before you get to Rakim, and even then his vocals seem to be mixed very quietly into the mix. His verses are nothing special, and the beat doesn’t really do anything for me (or Rakim by the sound of it). Nneaka Morton sounds like your standard rnb singer, and doesn’t really do anything wrong, its just that there isn’t really much point having her on the track.
It’s A Must (feat Rahzel) – (4 of 5)
Featuring the beatbox talents of Rahzel was an inspired move on this track, because he provides his version of a scratched hook, and a dope drum pattern throughout the track. Rakim drops some dope verses, and the beat is pretty nice, leading to a dope track.
Real Shit – (4 of 5)
This track produced by Ron Lawrence and V.I.C, has a relatively dope beat, although it only really comes into its own with the horns that are added for the hook. Rakim actually sounds interested on this track, and therefore drops some quality verses. The hook is rapped by Rakim, and is dope as well.
How I Get Down – (3.5 of 5)
This track has quite an eery feel to it, with some dope strings and sporadic water dropping type sounds. Whether it fits the subject matter of the track or not though is a totally different matter, and I think it would have been more suited to one of Rakim’s deeper tracks. That being said this is still a pretty dope track, with some good verses and a standard rapped hook.
Strong Island – (4.5 of 5)
This self produced track seems to give Rakim an incentive to spit some hot shit. The crowd noises and scratching on the hook are pretty dope, and the beat itself is better than most of the rest of the material on this album. Rakim is basically giving props to his home Long Island throughout this track, and his flow is top notch on this track.
Waiting For The World To End – (5 of 5)
The second DJ Premier production on the album, and once again its straight heat. Rakim spits some deep shit on this track, and combined with the brilliant simplicity of the beat, and the scratched hook, you can’t help but get hypnotised by this track. Straight classic.
We’ll Never Stop (feat Connie Mckendrick) – (4 of 5)
I think one word can describe Connie Mckendrick – annoying. Her voice really annoyed me, and for me spoiled what was otherwise a dope track. The beat is real nice, with a piano loop which sounds straight old school, and some nice strings coming in and out. Rakim also spits dopeness, but it is still spoiled by Connie. This track which a scratched hook, or even Rakim rapping a hook would have probably been a classic, but the singing just makes it sound too soft.
Conclussion: For me this album was a pretty large disappointment. The 18th Letter was dope, but this album just seemed to lack any of what made that album great. The whole album seems very low budget, even down to the cover design. The majority of the beats used are very boring, and only DJ Premier actually hooks Ra up with some straight dopeness. Why Pete Rock didn’t do anything on here after the dopeness of the tracks he produced on the 18th Letter I really don’t know, and even Clark Kent, who is normally quite a dope producer didn’t really bring anything to the table for this album, and therein lies the main problem with this album. When Rakim has a dope beat to spit over he takes full advantage of it and drops pure classic rhymes, but when the beat isn’t high quality it just doesn’t seem to inspire him, and he sounds bored. There are a few dope tracks on here, but most of it is average at best, and I don’t think I could really recommend this album to the average hiphop fan because it just isn’t really worth your money at full price. If you are a big Rakim fan (like me), or it you see it second hand for cheap then maybe pick it up, but just don’t expect anything that great from it. Final Rating: 3.5 of 5