Rakim’s status as hip-hop trailblazer is unquestioned. But after modernizing the genre with his intellectualized, complex rhyme schemes on golden-age albums with Eric B. and releasing two solo discs in the late ’90s, he’s been silent for 10 solid years. Thankfully, the independently released The Seventh Seal is well worth the wait.
Composed largely of modern-day parables about middle-aged folks turning to God for help in their daily struggles, it’s a grown-up album that should nonetheless appeal to the younger generation through its fresh, inventive beats. “Working for You,” for example, is a love story about a married couple that samples Robert Cray’s “I Forgot to Be Your Lover,” with Seattle producer Jake One flipping the blues song into a compelling hip-hop track.
Still, Rakim’s biblically focused lyrics are the truest highlight. On “Holy Are U,” he spits, “Like Revelations, I’m hoping my quotes reveal/The seven spirits of God when I open the seal.” His carefully considered, perfectly executed rhymes show that despite his long absence he still lives up to his nickname, the God MC.