Follow the Leader (Expanded Edition)
Rakim’s command of language continued on its existentialist bent (“Am I eternal, or an eternalist?”) on Follow the Leader, his and DJ Eric B.’s second album. Noting in the title and opening cut that there’s “one R in the alphabet,” he both took greatness as his due and demonstrated why. Boasting about his ability to disorient with words in “Lyrics of Fury” (“The pain’s a migraine every time you think”), he convinces us that the reason “the album was late” is that we were still digesting the previous one. And Eric B.’s art kept up, with multi-instrumentalist Stevie Blass Griffin contributing to the musical flow. The backward-spun syncopations of “No Competition” opened up new possibilities of hip-hop sound, and the cutmaster’s showcase “Eric B. Never Scared” is a masterpiece of tone and intent built from a tiny group of elements: a crushing beat, samples of Bob Marley and the Eagles (!), and a couple of Rakim slogans (“Never scared, I’ll just have fun”).