The Archive: Live, Lost & Found

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Fans disappointed by the continued delay of the third Rakim solo album, The Seventh Seal, will perhaps find some solace in The Archive: Live, Lost & Found, which, as the title suggests, contains mainly live cuts as well as four new, previously unreleased tracks. Perhaps find solace only because the songs, the first four on the record, don't stand out as particularly strong parts of the rapper's discography, either alone or with Eric B. The single, "It's Nothing," has been in Ra's concert repertoire since 2006 (and in fact is even included as a live cut later on). It takes a decent but almost boringly straightforward DJ Static beat and has the MC rhyming about his skills and what he brings to hip-hop; not bad by any means, but very standard fare. Rakim sounds better when doing his older, more classic material, and the sound quality from the performances (many, if not all, are from New York) is good, and displays his smooth, effortless flow well, helping to reestablish why he's considered one of the greatest MCs ever. He runs through all the favorites -- "Paid in Full," "Follow the Leader," "My Melody," and "Eric B. Is President," the latter on which he changes the references to his former partner to let everyone know that he is indeed not there -- and he does them well, and is clearly performing to an excited and appreciative crowd. Because, however, the audience is not miked, the numerous times Rakim lets his fans fill in the lines are nearly inaudible to the album listener, and rather pointless because of that. Still, it's clear he's still got his chops and talent, and though The Archive: Live, Lost & Found is not a replacement for an actual studio full-length, it helps to fill in the space while we wait.

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