July 7, 2008

Eric B. & Rakim - Paid In Full (July 7, 1987)


Every hip hop fan has been involved in the debate at one time or another: who is the best emcee ever? A lot of folks on forums tend to lean toward 2Pac, a stance I can't comprehend, since Pac himself probably would be the first to tell you that he wasn't the best (that is, if he were actually rhyming and not hiding in the Bahamas after faking his death). Valid points can be made for the likes of Shawn Carter or Nasir Jones, but some would consider their inclusion on the shortlist as blasphemy (myself included). Somewhere there's a disgruntled magazine editor that will make the case for Lil Wayne just to sell more copies of their crappy tabloid. But this isn't a question that can be easily answered, as the so-called "best emcee" has to be someone that changed the game and influenced countless others, all while staying true to themselves and their love of the music.

Older heads will narrow down their list to one of these two men: KRS-One and Rakim. An argument could be made both for and against both of these guys. But for my money, Rakim is the best emcee in the game, or at least he was, in the late 1980's, when everything he touched turned to platinum.

Paid In Full was the debut album from producer Eric B. and Rakim, which followed a ton of 12-inch singles that floated around for one year prior. Up until this point, hip hop was obsessed with party tracks, with only a handful or artists taking on societal ills head-on, which is what hip hop has always been good at. Rakim was among the first to mesh intelligence with consciousness, twisting and turning it into a lyrical form that was easy to swallow since he literally rapped like no one else before him. Plenty of fans lapped this shit up, as Paid In Full sold over one million units, turning Eric B. into a star behind the boards, and launching Rakim onto a whole other plane of existence.

It's hilarious to think that this album may have never actually happened had rapper Freddie Foxxx actually arrived at the studio when he was supposed to. Paid In Full, which is actually twenty-one years old today (commence feeling old.....now) feels so much like one of the most vital elements in the hip hop subconscious (almost as if it could stand alongside graffiti and breakdancing all by itself) that it's hard to imagine a time when this album didn't exist.

All I have to say is this: there's a reason that Rakim's solo songs are never mentioned whenever anyone asks which is the best Rakim verse. (To be fair, I've always kind of liked Rakim's DJ Premier-produced "Waiting For The World To End" from The Master, an otherwise negligible album from his ill-fated solo career, but I won't be reviewing that drink coaster anytime soon.) And lest we forget about the album's other star, Eric B's beats always seemed like the toast that Rakim's vocals buttered.

And with that terrible metaphor, let's get into the review.

1. I AIN'T NO JOKE
If you had ever listened to hip hop with any regularity prior to discovering my fantastic blog, then you've heard this song before. The simple drums and scratched-in horns mesh perfectly as Rakim spits quotable after quotable. I wonder if he believed his rhymes to be anything special at the time, especially considering the impact they eventually had on hip hop (even the hip hop Hobgoblin quotes Rakim Allah from time to time).

2. ERIC B. IS ON THE CUT
The deejay cut so early in the sequencing? Well, if you insist.

3. MY MELODY
This song may be considered too slow for hip hop fans today to get into. Max says: get the fuck over it. If you skip this song because of the slower tempo of Marley Marl's (remixed) instrumental, you've fucked up, and you better get that apology letter ready. If you skip this song because you prefer the original version, which only became available on compact disc when the deluxe edition of Paid In Full hit the stores, then I don't know what to tell you, because this version just plain sounds better.

4. I KNOW YOU GOT SOUL
I swear, this entire album is made up of hip hop quotables strung together with Krazy Glue and crazy beats. Or maybe it just seems that way, since every rapper alive seems to have cribbed from Rakim's notes.

5. MOVE THE CROWD
Sorry, my two readers, but "MC" actually means "master of ceremonies", not "move the crowd". But this song still rocks today, so at least one thing remains consistent.

6. PAID IN FULL
My favorite song on this record, although I'm also partial to the Coldcut remix, which is like eighty-seven minutes long. I've always been amused by the intro, in which Eric B. somehow turns reading a list of the duo's agent, label, and management company into a question. It's pretty damn sad that Eric B. and Rakim were never paid in full for their contributions to hip hop: hopefully that shit is rectified, but knowing the music industry, I wouldn't hold my breath.

7. AS THE RHYME GOES ON
If you're only familiar with Rakim Allah's greatest hits, then you probably aren't going to know this one. The beat is only okay, but that Barry White sample creeps up on you like the bogeyman in a Z-grade horror flick, so kudos to Eric.

8. CHINESE ARITHMETIC
Another Eric B. deejay cut, this time focusing on an instrumental sample that's so stereotypically Asian that it would be fucking offensive if released today (unless, of course, the Teriyaki Boyz or Jin decided to be "ironic" and rock over it). Luckily, this song dropped in the late 1980's, when nobody paid any attention to that sort of tomfoolery.

9. ERIC B. IS PRESIDENT
You've also heard this song already, but you may not recall how fucking long it is. Marley Marl's (remixed) beat still sounds pretty good today, so feel free to refresh your memory.

10. EXTENDED BEAT
Sounds exactly how it reads. Eric B. provides listeners with a sorta-instrumental to "Move The Crowd", and you'll be tired of the beat when the disc finally ends.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Paid In Full is considered to be a hip hop classic, and it helps that it actually still sounds great today. There's just something to admire about hip hop music created by two guys who could give a fuck about radio airplay: they made the beats and rhymes the way they wanted to, and the fans followed them on their journey. The exact opposite course of action was attempted when Rakim Allah released his first solo album, The 18th Letter, which still sounds embarrassing thanks to label interference. But when hip hop was as close to unfiltered as it could ever be, the raw product that it produced was light-years ahead of anything that comes out of the machine today, and this is only Exhibit A.

BUY OR BURN? Assuming you don't already have this, buy this shit as soon as humanly possible. Push old ladies down escalators if they have the audacity to get in your way: let nothing get in between you and a copy of this bonafide classic disc. Oh, and you young'uns should also pick this one up and give it a spin: you might learn a thing or two about some good hip hop.

BEST TRACKS: "Paid In Full"; "My Melody"; "Eric B. Is President"; "I Know You Got Soul"; "I Ain't No Joke"

-Max

14 comments:

  1. Yes. That's all i can say.

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  2. Stil Trying to Figure out how he ate 21 MC's all AT THE SAME TIME!! How can you not have this album? Rakim singlehandley changed the game on this record and seeing what he did after he split with Eric B, You have to value Eric B. just a little more (I mean he was a bodyguard for Suge( I Think it was Suge)).

    Anyway, Paid in Full Is a certified Hip Hop classic and a lot of young cats need to hear this album before they make declarations of "Lil Wanye is da beest manee" (I Sh*t you not, that is how one kid said about him) and understand why Rakim Allah is Best MC ever in this thang called rapping.

    So, peace to the nation, the people that represent, and those cats that never bug out to the extreme


    Yo, If word is bond
    then Q is gone

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  3. This album fucking sucks and everybody who likes it are homos! Rakim is a bitch who got verbally slaughtered by Freddie Foxxx and ain't do shit about it. Fuck Eric B & Rakim it's all about Erick & Parish Making Dollars fuckin bitches!!!!

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  4. AnonymousJuly 07, 2008

    Yea, you reminded me of how crucial this album was and still is...I'm mad I lost my cd (blasphemous). But yo Max you gotta admit "Let the Rhythm Hit'Em" was waaaaay harder..

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  5. ON POINT!!!!!!!!!!!!! I share your sentiments about Jay-Z. The dude is an excellent rapper but he has brought nothing original to hip hop. He's a student of the game but he has contributed some good stuff to it. Rakim still does not get the respect that he should receive and Paid in Full is like required reading for Hip Hop 101.

    In response the The N-word, I absolutely loved your comment. No matter how wrong it is.

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  6. "Paid in full" isn't a great album, but it brought to us Rakim, the best MC ever. Back then there were aother groups that blew up harder and louder and made the world talk about them (N.W.A., Ice-T, even Public Enemy), but Eric B & Rakim delivered the rhyming technique...

    Rakim "Moves the crowd" with his voice and his rhyming skills.

    "I wonder if he believed his rhymes to be anything special at the time"... Well, Max, I don't know if he was about his rhymes, but I'm absolutely sure that he was about his skills on the mic...!

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  7. True story. In the summer of '86, at 13 years old, I was listening to the new rap countdown (on Power 99 in Philly) on a Sunday afternoon trying to record songs for me and my friends. They played 'Eric B is President' and 'My Melody' back to back as the top two songs. I literally could not move for like ten minutes straight. I didn't even record the songs because my finger wouldn't hit the record button. I was THAT stunned by Rakim's rhyme style because no one rhymed like that in '86. No one. When I told my friends about it and they heard the songs that week, they had the same reaction. Hip-hop doesn't exist this way anymore. What a shame. Anyway, 'Paid in Full' is still the second greatest album in hip-hop to me.

    Vincent
    thimk.wordpress.com

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  8. Freddie Foxxx...nah. He just shouts and stuff.

    Let the Rhytm hit em = better than anything on this album.

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  9. AnonymousJuly 08, 2008

    To the dude who said "This album fucking sucks" Please go to the highest cliff you can get to, and proceed to jump off.

    Don't kill yourself, just seriously injure yourself to remind you of how much of a jack-ass you truly are.

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  10. SteveO The Jack AssJuly 09, 2008

    This album is str8 homo music. Rich Boy>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Rakim.

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  11. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJuly 11, 2008

    This album is the genesis of all of my favorite aspects of hip hop. Nas said it best: "Understandable smooth shit that murderers move with." Imagine what a difference it would make if every rapper in the world was forced to trade their Scarface dvd for Paid In Full. I'm bewildered at Rakim's age on this album. The man was a fucking scientist at 18. He doesn't have to be everyone's favorite but he's earned the title of Greatest MC of All Time.

    As for Eric B being a bodyguard for Suge Knight, I'm not sure but I don't think he was. I do know that the dudes on the back of Paid In Full are some real live drug dealers. Some of them were kingpins, some of them worked with and for the dudes they make movies about. Eric B kept it real in the streets while Rakim patrolled the universe.

    Finally, I completely disagree with the comment from theni**a but I respect him for knowing the history. I was happy when Nas mentioned the rumored beef with EPMD in Unauthorized Biography of Rakim from Street's Disciple but even knowledgeable rap fans are often unaware of the situation. A Freddie Foxxx mention was also cause for celebration. The homophobia to set the comment off is essential for anyone hoping to make a name for themselves as a slanderous commenter on Hip Hop Isn't Dead. It completes the cipher.

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  12. i'd say kool g rap is the greatest of all time, but rakim's up there

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  13. Had some retard tell me JMT are the greatest hip hop group ever, I told him to give My Melody a spin and he said 'The guys voice is shit'. Ignorant fool. I consider this a classic, and not just because as a hip hop head I'm supposed to.

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