Review Summary: Rakim proves (at the time), that he still is the best MC that starts with "the 18th Letter".
Chicago Tribune: 4/4
Robert Christagu: 2/3
Rolling Stone: 3.5/5
The Source: 3.5 Mics
USA Today: 4/4
As I said in my 2 previous introductions to my Rakim reviews, Rakim is a legend, who is the best, and most influential MC of all time.
With this album Rakim changed styles different than that of what he was doing with Eric B. He was on a 5 year hiatus, and his fans were waiting for a return, and here it was. When he was making music with Eric B, the music had a lot of scratching, and other old school elements. In terms of lyrics, this album concerns the golden age of hip hop, his lyrical prowess, his return to hip hop, and the state of hip hop at the time (1997, which had Life After Death, When Disaster Strikes, Supa Dupa Fly, and Wu-Tang Forever, so it was still pretty good). Now for the track by track review.
1. Intro: Just Rakim briefly talking.
2. The 18th Letter (Always and Forever): A classic song, which has Rakim basically telling everyone how he is back. 5/5
3. Skit: More of Rakim briefly talking.
4. It's Been a Long Time: Another song basically saying that "It's Been a Long Time" since he's made music, and how he's making a comeback. This song has a phenomenal instrumental done by legendary DJ Premier. Classic. 5/5
5. Remember That: Great song, with a chorus, which has a female singing (I don't know who) who does a great job. 4/5
6. The Saga Begins: A classic song, with Rakim talking about how he's no longer with Eric B. This song has fantastic production done by Pete Rock. This song samples the song "Hell On Earth (Front Lines)" by Mobb Deep. 5/5
7. Skit: Yet another piece of Rakim briefly talking.
8. Guess Who's Back: Classic song, with Rakim talking more about how he's back into the hip hop game. This song samples the song "Bring the Noise" by Public Enemy. 5/5
9. Stay a While: A song dedicated to the females. In term of his solo career, I was never fond of his love songs. I did like the song "Mahogany" back when he was with Eric B. Great song nonetheless. 4/5
10. New York (Ya Out There): A song, that Rakim dedicates to his home state, New York. This song has excellent production, done by DJ Premier. Classic. 5/5
11. Show Me Love: Another love song. As I said before, I'm not too fond of his solo love songs, but it's a great song nonetheless. 4/5
12. Skit: More of Rakim briefly talking.
13. The Mystery (Who Is God"): A great song, which is self-explanatory, based on the title. 4/5
14. When I'm Flowin: Classic song, self-explanatory based on the title. This song has amazing production done by Pete Rock. 5/5
Overall, I give this 4.5/5, 9/10, 90/100, and my grade for it is "A-". This was a comeback for Rakim.
3 Best Songs:
1. It's Been a Long Time
2. New York (Ya Out There)
3. When I'm Flowin
3 Weakest Songs:
1. Stay a While
2. Show Me Love
3. Remember That