Hopefully in the wake of the success of the Dr Dre-produced Truth Hurts single, rapper/pioneer Rakim will have more interest generated in his previous work. This double-set contains 1997's The 18th Letter, which may not be as great as those classic early works, but has a fair share of spot-on tracks- anyone who likes albums like Genius/GZA's Liquid Swords, the Killah Priest debut or the 2nd Gravediggaz album will find much here to enjoy (Guess Who's Back was milked for Eminema's terrible Without Me).
The 2nd disc, The Book of Life, is what makes this a must purchase- the definitive best of Eric B & Rakim- who were as important to the development of hip hop as Mantronix, Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, De La Soul & NWA. The tracks stem from their four albums Paid in Full, Follow the Leader, Let the Rhythm Hit Em & Don't Sweat the Technique (with Know the Ledge coming from the Tupac-starring Juice). Every track is great, highlights are 1987's UK hit Paid in Full, the timely Casualties of War (recalling Ali's objection to fighting in the Vietnam War and pre-dating film Three Kings in terms of theme), the sci-fi industrial throb of songs like Follow the Leader and Let the Rhythm Hit Em ranking up there with Meat Beat Manifesto's Satyricon. Lyrics of Fury was strangely covered by Tricky on 1997's Pre-Millennium Tension album, though its lyrics "I'm as serious as cancer" would be borrowed for the idiotic Rhythm is a Dancer by Snap. I Know You Got Soul is probably the most classic single here, M/A/R/S Pump Up the Volume taking its title and key sample from here- while overrated indie band The Stone Roses would steal (but not acknowledge the stealing ) of Rakim's phrase "It ain't where you're from/it's where you're at"- another classic example of the whiteman stealing from the blackman in the history of music? (Hello Elvis!).
This is a great value double-set that needs to be owned for The Book of Life (which ought to be issued seperately) which details some of the most revolutionary pre-gangsta rap hip hop of the 1980's. Classic stuff!