The Master

The Master

Rakim’s second solo effort essentially reconvenes the team that made The 18th Letter an artistic success. DJ Premier and DJ Clark Kent each contribute a handful of beats, and the remaining tracks are split between old-school pioneers (the 45 King, TR Love) and modern-day hit-makers (Ron “Amen-Ra” Lawrence, of Puff Daddy’s production team, the Hitmen). Conciseness and directness are the outstanding values here. Regardless of who is behind the boards, each beat aims to complement Rakim’s lucid rhyme style. While his verses always exhibit a learned complexity, they also display a monk’s simplicity. There are moments on The Master that reveal the influence of Rakim’s younger students — especially Nas and Jay-Z — but when he is in the zone his verses have a magic that is mystifying yet utterly logical. His excellence is embodied in “How I Get Down”: “They hopeless whoever approaches my high explosives / My vision seditious, and freestyle's ferocious / I wrote this, words flew over my head like a locust / I turned the beat up, sat back, and stayed focused.”

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