Rakim

The 18th Letter

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It took Rakim five years to begin his solo career, but the wait was worth it -- The 18th Letter is one of the strongest records a veteran rapper released in the late '90s. Working with a variety of producers (Pete Rock, Clark Kent, Father Shaheed, DJ Premier), Rakim sounds sharp, focused, and strong, rapping with a force unheard of on his classic albums with Eric B. He still retains his knack for rolling, laid-back rhymes, but what's impressive is how he can switch between that style and a more aggressive technique. There are a few slow spots on the record, but in general, few latter-day albums by '80s rappers sound as powerful and vital as The 18th Letter.

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