If it wasn’t for William Griffin Jr. and the innovative style of rhyming that he displayed on his genre-shaping album Paid In Full in 1987, Hip-Hop may have never reached the heights that it has reached in the past two decades. Rakim’s status is nothing short of a living legend and his influence reaches across nearly every spread of contemporary music, whether intentionally or not. After a full decade since his last release, The God MC decided to serve up his much anticipated 8th LP The Seventh Seal with his eager fans chomping at the bit to get a taste.
If the lead singles “Holy Are You” and “Walk These Streets” tell the story, The R’s return to Hip-Hop was a seamless transition into the digital age with his vivid lyricism being paired with polished production carrying his Golden Era soul into the generation of the iPod. Of course, if singles told the story, there would be countless great albums being dropped monthly. Instead, The Seventh Seal is a misguided, melody heavy Hip-Hop album with an abundance of clichés and rehashed concepts.
Seven years removed from his last prominent appearance on Jay-Z’s The Blueprint²: The Gift & The Curse and Rakim is still posing as “the watcher;” soaking in the nocturnal happenings of the corner like some weathered wino on tracks like “Documentary Of A Gangsta” and “Message In The Song” (which features his daughter Destiny). It’s an unfortunate circumstance when our heroes in Hip-Hop begin to slide into obscurity or mediocrity, but it seems as if the architect of modern day Hip-Hop has lost his will to expand on the building he built. Sounding like a disgruntled former business owner who lost his shop to corporate interests on “Won’t Be Long,” Mr. Griffin exposes how truly uninspired his pleas come across with the line: “Because my love & respect for this is so strong/I question the state of Hip-Hop, major labels, etcetera and so on…”
It’s not that The Seventh Seal is a horrible project, nor does it suggest that Rakim has lost his talent of rhyming. It does, however, show that he has lost touch with the culture he helped create. His newfound liking in drowsy beats with respected producers like Jake One and Nottz passing off table scraps, do nothing for the equation either. While Rakim’s legacy couldn’t be tarnished by any album he releases, The Seventh Seal does nothing to elevate it either.