The long-anticipated third album from Rakim took a decade to arrive, but rabid fans should be warned that this is not a case of “ten years in the making”. Nothing here is over two years old, so none of the unreleased Dr. Dre tracks fans have hoped for are included, but chances are they wouldn’t have fit. With most songs focusing on the chorus, The Seventh Seal strives to connect with a 2009 audience and enlists vocalists like Maino plus producers like Nottz, Needlz, and Jake One to get the job done. Rakim himself is in fine form, showing the current generation “How to Emcee” with lines like “In a class of greatness/For matching phrases/My predicates last for pages”. “Documentary of a Gangsta” is the kind of stone-cold story of the streets (“He got medals for war/He a veteran/But now he bring the chedda’ in/More than he ever been”) that built Rakim’s career, and when you add that unaffected, laid-back delivery, all the pieces are in place. With so many of the other tracks being hook-minded, those hoping for a raw comeback will be a disappointed, but this is a classic rapper with all his skills intact, finding his way in the new millennium. If he was more prolific, the bar wouldn’t be so high, and when the material-starved fans get to hear The Master utter 21st century words like “Barack” and “Obama”, they’ll be less concerned that this often great, always very good effort isn’t the absolute masterpiece they’d hoped for.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries