Review Summary: Rakim's triumphant return to form.
"The 18th Letter" can be considered as Rakim's (previous) return to form, as it has Rakim strictly rhyming again. In 1997 Rakim hadn't been heard from in around 5 years, and with this album, he wanted to show the hip hop community that he still had it, and he sure as hell accomplished that.
This album features superb lyrics front to back, and great beats throughout. The lyrics were usual Rakim, as he continued to brag about how great of an MC he is, but manages to keep it fresh and exciting to listen to. The beats are conventional hip hop, which perfectly complement Rakim's rhymes. There weren't really any bad beats on here except for the remixes, and even then those aren't bad, they're just forgettable.
The beats are from a variety of producers, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, just to name a few. Those beats weren't the usual sound from either of them, they both made beats that are perfect for Rakim's rhymes. With all those positives of the album, there are some negatives (very few). At a point around track 11, the album drags on a bit, and includes 2 remixes that we could have done without. The album is the same lyrically for the most part as well too, but when Rakim is the one on the microphone I can't really complain about that.
As a whole, this album is excellent, and showcased why Rakim is still one of the greatest. One of the most underrated albums from Rakim's catalog.
2. The 18th Letter (Always and Forever): 5/5
3. Skit 1
4. It's Been a Long Time: 5/5
5. Remember That: 4.5/5
6. The Saga Begins: 4.5/5
8. Guess Who's Back: 5/5
9. Stay a While: 3/5
10. New York (Ya Out There): 4/5
11. Show Me Love: 3.5/5
13. The Mystery (Who Is God?): 4/5
14. When I'm Flowin': 4/5
15. It's Been a Long Time (Suave House Mix): 3/5
16. Guess Who's Back (Alternative Mix): 3/5
Skip-able songs: 4
Best song: It's Been a Long Time
Weakest song: Stay a While
Music vibes: 9/10
Lyric vibes: 9.5/10
Overall rating out of 100: 91/100