Rakim, "Holy Are You"
The most stoic of all rap icons, Rakim has never been one to condede to trends -- or even update his rhyme style. So it's incumbent on producer Nick Wiz to guide "the God MC" into the new millennium on "Holy Are You," Rakim's first new single since 1999's When I B on Tha Mic." The track begins promisingly, with a haunting sample of the Electric Prunes' 1968 psych-rock hymnal of the same title. The verses, however, chug along on a synth-driven beat that's more '99 than '09. Lyrically, Rakim is in top form, richly merging self-mythologizing reflections on his legacy with religious imagery. But if his upcoming comeback album, "The Seventh Seal" (due this fall on SMC Recordings and his own Ra Records imprint), is to prove worth the near decade-long wait, he'll need stronger production behind him. --Jesse Serwer