March 16, 2010
A Reader's Gut Reaction: Rakim - The Seventh Seal (November 17, 2009)
(For today's Reader Review, D Money tackles one of the most highly anticipated rap albums of 2009 that nobody purchased, that being Rakim's comeback The Seventh Seal, which is sadly not directly named after the Ingmar Bergman film of the same name. (Rakim Allah missed out on a huge opportunity, though. Playing chess with Death could have made for the illest album cover ever, especially if he convinced the actual Death to come through: Rakim has enough clout in the rap game that he could have probably pulled it off.) For those of you two who are wondering why I haven't yet mentioned this project myself, my response is this: I haven't even been able to sit through The Master without shutting it off halfway through, so I held out zero hope for this. Maybe D Money can help change my mind.)
William Michael Griffin Jr, known to most of us hip hop and rap enthusiasts as Rakim, hasn't released an album in forever. As for why the God MC felt it necessary to completely alienate his fanbase by not releasing any music over the last decade is beyond me. However, on November 17th, 2009, everything changed. Rakim, the Microphone Fiend, the God MC, finally released The Seventh Seal, after promising it to fans for approximately ninety-seven years.
After achieving immediate success on albums with his former partner Eric B., Ra released some subpar solo albums (The 18th Letter and The Master) before signing to Dr. Dre's Aftermath label. All we ever heard out of that pairing was a song off of Jay-Z's The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse, which sucked as an whole, but the individual song I'm talking about, "The Watcher 2", was pretty awesome. After leaving Aftermath (citing "creative differences" with the Doctor), Rakim proceeded to sign to a bunch of labels that crumbled right after he signed to them. So, he finally decided to create his own record label, Ra Records, so he could finally release The Seventh Seal.
Being a rap album collector, I picked this shit up the day it came out. I listened to it a little, but didn't really give it a good spin. Today, I'm going to pay attention to the entire album and tell you what I think.
Here we go.
1. HOW TO EMCEE
"This is your Qu'ran, your bible, to be a true MC, an icon or idol". This was a fantastic way to start off on Rakim's part. Even though The Seventh Seal had an extremely small budget, the production on this song is pretty sweet. I have never heard of the producer Slyce, but his work on this song is pretty sick anyway. Ra appears very hungry on this track, and...hold on a minute, did he just dis Dr. Dre? Yes, yes he did!
2. WALK THESE STREETS (FEAT MAINO)
Once again, the production on this song is epic, even though it's just a basic piano roll with some strings thrown in for good measure. There was a reason this was the second single, people! However, once Maino grabs this beat, he fucks it up the ass, rips it in half, and swallows it for good measure. Basically, Maino drops a sick verse. (Wait, that was a compliment?!) Fantastic track.
3. DOCUMENTARY OF A GANGSTA (FEAT IQ)
My goodness, this is one of the most amazing beats I have ever heard. Once again, it's pretty basic, but I am just in awe of this beat. Rakim could take a shit on this instrumental and I wouldn't even care, the music is that good. But Ra is nicer to us than that, so he spits some noteworthy bars about the daily life of a modern gangster. Great cut here.
4. MAN ABOVE (FEAT TRACEY HORTON)
The beat, once again, is simplistic (this appears to be a running theme), but this time it isn't nearly as impressive as the production on the first three songs. Ra spits nothing interesting on here, so the highlight of this song is the hook, performed by Tracey Horton, who also added additional vocals on the first two tracks of this album, for those of you who care about those things.
5. YOU AND I (FEAT SAMUEL CHRISTIAN)
Wow, the chorus on here is absolutely incredible. Sure, the beat is a little lackluster, but Ra definitely seems more comfortable over this minimalist beat than he did over the previous track. And by the way, the hook is awesome.
6. WON'T BE LONG (FEAT TRACEY HORTON)
The beat creates an awkward flow for Ra to keep with, and, sadly, the hook is once again the best part. It's hard to get into songs when every part but the chorus sucks.
7. HOLY ARE YOU
Okay, this is the best Rakim song ever. (I assume he means “Best Rakim solo song” ever.) There is no doubt in my mind: this beat is epic and the rhymes are tight, working seamlessly over the production, which uses a sample with terrific results. “Holy Are You” is the reason I bought The Seventh Seal. There is absolutely no excuse why this song should not be number one on all the charts right now (other than the fact that pop audiences have no idea who Rakim Allah is). A+. (Personally, I find the lyrics decent enough, but the Nick Wiz beat sounds a bit too corny for my tastes. Buy hey, that's just me.)
8. SATISFACTION GUARANTEED
There's no way in hell to follow up a banger like "Holy Are You", but this song certainly tries its best. The instrumental uses upbeat horn stabs to put me in a good mood, and Ra sounds good. Whoever keeps shouting "uh uh uh uh uh" over the beat needs to die, though.
9. WORKING FOR YOU
Boring ass beat, boring ass rhymes, boring ass hook. All in all, a boring ass song.
10. MESSAGE IN THE SONG (FEAT DESTINY GRIFFIN)
Rakim's daughter appears on here, as if any of you give a fuck. (I'm more intrigued by the fact that both Nas and his idol Rakim have daughters named Destiny.) Anyway, this song absolutely sucks. The sample is sped up to a point where it's simply annoying to listen to. Skip.
11. PUT IT ALL TO MUSIC
The sample is just a pain in the ass, the beat pisses me off, and Rakim doesn't bother to say anything you absolutely need to hear.
12. PSYCHIC LOVE
The beat is okay enough, but the best part of this track for me was when Ra talks about his prowess for fucking all day and night. It's worth a listen for the lyricism presented alone, but other than that, you never need to hear this again.
13. STILL IN LOVE
The beat once again sucks hairy ass. Damn it, Rakim, that's four shitty songs in a row. Let's get it together, buddy.
The sample to start off the song is sick, but soon after, the song takes a turn for the worse. However, Rakim still manages to spit a few quality bars. Overall, this was a solid track.
The Seventh Seal also features a bonus track that is only accessible from Rakim's official website after registering your purchase.
15. EUPHORIA (FEAT STYLES P., JADAKISS, & BUSTA RHYMES)
Why this song didn't make the album is beyond me, because this song is extremely good. The beat makes you bob your head up and down, and Rakim kicks the party off with a quality verse. Styles P sounds alright, but his contribution was unnecessary. Jadakiss, on the other hand, sounds fantastic, and he rides this beat very well. Busta Rhymes tones down his usual approach and makes it work. This was a nice way to cap things off.
THE LAST WORD: Well, to say the least, The Seventh Seal was inconsistent. It starts off extremely well, and “Holy Are You” is going to be blasting out of my speakers everyday for the next five years, but everything that appears afterwards is pure and utter shit. It is a damn shame, because after waiting ten years for Rakim to get his shit together and finally release an album, I was hoping that maybe he could have given at least a little bit of a fuck for the second half of his comeback. But oh well, that's life sometimes, eh?
- D Money
(Be sure to leave some comments for D Money below. I'd love to see what you two thought about The Seventh Seal. If there is another album that you want everyone to know about and I haven't yet gotten to it, you can also submit a Reader Review of your own by hitting me up at the e-mail in the sidebar.)