Today in Hip Hop History, the legendary MC William Michael Griffin Jr better know as Rakim released his first debut solo album, The 18th Letter in 1997.

Following a successful run with his partner Eric B and solidifying himself as one of the greatest emcees of all time, Rakim Allah single-handedly changed the sound of music with his street gritty rhymes and knowledge of self he shared with the world. The album features production by DJ Clark Kent, Pete Rock, Father Shaheed, Nick Wiz and DJ Premier. The album debuted at number 4 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and sold 500,000 copies in the United States.

As a hip hop head myself I was a freshman in college and played this every single day and even saw him perform several times. If you ever get a chance you don’t want to miss a Rakim show. He embellishes everything a legendary emcee is made of. We salute Rakim for this flawless piece of hip hop history.

Here’s a few of our favorite songs from that classic album.