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The 18th Letter
may not quite rank next to his stunning 1980's work with Eric B ("Follow The Leader", "I Know You Got Soul", "Paid In Full"), but that's okay, because said tracks appear as a second CD, The Book Of Life
, alongside it. Rakim's impressive comeback album serves as reminder that he possesses one of the most thrilling voices in hip hop. Both his technique and his lyrics on The 18th Letter
show the influence his deep-voiced, commanding, reflective rapping style had on later notables like Gang Starr
, Mobb Deep
, and prove that he has lost none of the talent and sophistication which set him apart from the beginning. Pride of place goes to the title track and to the swaggering, staccato statement of intent, "Guess Who's Back". --David Bennun