Welcome to Timeless Affairs, the corner within Steppin' Into Tomorrow, where we shine a spotlight on essential albums that have shaped our culture (and lives in some cases). We lovingly revisit, explore and zoom in on these gems in their full length. Digging out stories and fun facts from the making of the masterpieces that have built the foundation of the music today and continue to shape the future.
July 7th 1987 was the day when Eric B. & Rakim dropped their debut album 'Paid In Full' and the game hasn't been the same since. Truly one of the top records of all time without exaggeration that ages incredibly and it's definitely essential listening for anyone that's even remotely into hip hop.
Interestingly enough, DJ Eric B. (born Eric Barrier) and MC Rakim (born William Michael Griffin Jr.), a.k.a. Eric. B & Rakim, also known as one of the most influential duo's ever, came together in 1985 following Rakim's response to Eric B.'s search for "New York's Top MC" during his disc jockey work for New York City station WBLS. Rakim the God MC has already been an established master of ceremonies at the time within the Long Island scene, frequenting block parties & park jams, but also venturing out to Brooklyn, and often sharing the stage with the likes of Biz Markie in the 80s. 'Eric B. Is President' with 'My Melody' on the flipside, recorded in Marley Marl's home studio was released on Zakia Records in 1986 as the first single and that's where the journey really began.
Lyrically, the bar has been set really high here for other rap acts to follow. Rakim, often compared to Thelonious Monk in jazz, pioneered the use of internal rhymes in rap. Being a John Coltrane fan and sax player in his early days, the affiliation with jazz is most likely not too far off in this case.
Kicking things off with 'I Ain't No Joke', first song on the tracklist, and second single off the album, the lyrical virtuosity is eminent right off the bat. Followed by 'Eric B. Is On The Cut', which is an instrumental track (and we've got four of those on the album altogether), we transition into the aforementioned 'My Melody' and 'I Know You Got Soul'. We could say that this is basically where hip hop's long-lasting infatuation with James Brown samples was kicked off. Key cuts on the album like 'Paid In Full' are still on heavy rotation at hip hop parties today. The iconic opening line of the latter “I came in the door/I said it before” is still one of rap’s most often quoted lines.
Eric B.'s heavy soul-filled sampling also became quite influential for hip hop production in the years to come, although apparently he didn't do the producing single-handedly. Credit should most definitely also go to the legendary producer Marley Marl here, when it comes to the sound of the record, as he was responsible for the recording in his home studio where the record was partially recorded. After all, Marley Marl is credited as the first one who figured out how to sample - how to get pieces of songs off vinyl records and into a drum machine, because all of this was before the MPC came around. His skills were undoubtedly instrumental in the making of this album. Another part of the album was recorded at Power Play Studios in New York city, where Patrick Adams was engineering. (Patrick Adams sadly passed away recently, you can read more about Patrick Adams in our piece from a few weeks ago).
There's been quite some disputes over the years regarding the production credits on this album and who they should really be attributed to, but regardless of all that, Eric B. & Rakim dared to do things differently than they've been done before and their debut album is a prime demonstration of that. Lines from this album were sampled countless times by other artists like 2 Pac, Jay Z, Diddy, Aaliyah, 50 Cent, Eminem, MF DOOM or Gang Starr, to name a few, and infinite amount of remixes. The most acclaimed one being the Coldcut remix of 'Paid In Full - Seven Minutes of Madness' you're most likely to be more familiar with than the original cut, incorporates about 25 samples and is considered a benchmark remix.
Speaking of samples, 'Paid In Full' sports some classic breaks, which are all great tunes top to bottom. If this is your cup of tea as well, feel welcome to nod your head to this playlist:
'Paid In Full' was certified platinum in '95, Named "The Greatest Hip-Hop Album of All Time" by MTV in 2006 and followed by four more albums this duo has put out together before their split in 1992.
1997, Rakim dropped his long-awaited solo debut album 'The 18th Letter/The Book of Life', so this year we're also honoring the 25th birthday of this legendary moment in time as well. A great opportunity to celebrate will be on August 27th in Melkweg Amsterdam within Rakim's 'The 18th letter 25th Anniversary European Tour'. Catch him live there or checkout other tour dates. You do not want to miss this show!
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