Among hip-hop enthusiasts, Rakim is looked at as THE pioneer of the new school, and perhaps the greatest lyricist of all time. Once paired with DJ Eric. B, the two dropped four arguably classic albums before The R went solo two years ago. His last album, Book Of Life was a series of hit & miss tracks which had mixed reactions from his audience.
Ra steps up on the solo tip for the second time, with his sophomore LP, The Master. Unfortunately, the album is hurt by poor production. Rakim is on point lyrically, but the quality of the beats, plus the way the songs themselves are arranged, lack the magnetism of earlier Rakim classics, or even popular hip-hop music of today.
“Uplift”, for instance, features Rakim in his element, spitting some truly prophetic lyrics, but Amen-Ra’s track sounds like it would have been better with some “Spanish-fly-honeys” type of subject matter. A similar plague strikes “Waiting For The World To End”, which suffers due to an uncharacteristically boring DJ Premier track. “It’s A Must” features Rahzel doing vocal scratches of classic Rakim lines, but turns into a four and a half minute nightmare with Big Jaz’s monotonous beat. Then, of course, are the two R&B flavored joints, “I’ll Be There” and “We’ll Never Stop”. Like usual, these two aren’t good enough to crossover to commercial radio, and only end up hurting the album.
Sure, the album has these flaws, but it is not at all wack – it’s just not as good as it should be. Tracks like “Real Shit”, “I Know”, and “Finest Ones” are cool, and sound reminiscent of later Eric B. & Rakim material, but aren’t up to par with today’s music. Looking back at “It’s Been A Long Time”, it obvious that Rakim still has potential to make incredible songs, and lyrically he is not slipping at all. Possibly if Rakim could find one consistent producer to team up with he could better establish himself again in today’s flooded hip-hop market.
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