Paid in Full (Deluxe Edition) [2003 Remaster]

Paid in Full (Deluxe Edition) [2003 Remaster]

Released in 1987, Eric B. & Rakim’s debut album, Paid in Full, signaled a tectonic shift in hip-hop music, changing the way people would rap forever. Long Island’s Rakim was an absolute virtuoso, injecting his slick-talking with an icy nonchalance that stood in hard contrast to the shouting-based style popularized by artists like Run-D.M.C. and LL Cool J. But it wasn’t just Rakim’s (relatively) low-key approach that set him apart, it was also his technical skill—a whirlwind of internal rhymes, evocative vocabulary choices, and instantly iconic combinations. He rapped over slower tracks to cram in trickier wordplay, and his rhythms mirrored the unpredictable syncopations of the jazz records he’d loved growing up, treating his flow like a John Coltrane solo. Rakim had honed his MC chops by rapping over his mom’s copy of James Brown’s “Funky President (People It’s Bad)”—a song that would be sampled on “Eric B. Is President,” the A-side of Eric B. & Rakim’s breakthrough 1986 single. “Eric B. Is President” became an immediate New York City radio hit, thanks to one of the greatest opening lines in rap history: “I came in the door, I said it before/I never let the mic magnetize me no more.” The single’s B-side, “My Melody,” was no less revelatory, featuring a battle-routine boast—“I take seven MCs, put ’em in a line”—that would later be interpolated by Nas, Eminem, and Pete Rock. (Rakim recorded the song while sitting on a couch, much to the confusion of co-producer Marley Marl, but his relaxed flow would prove groundbreaking). Both tracks are collected on Paid in Full, which also features “I Know You Got Soul,” widely regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever constructed, thanks to its Bobby Byrd sample. Hearing Eric B. & Rakim’s “I Know You Got Soul” would inspire Public Enemy to revamp its own sound for its breakthrough track “Rebel Without a Pause.” The song’s influence didn’t end there: Electronic collective M/A/R/R/S would make mincemeat of Rakim’s vocal for its hit “Pump Up the Volume,” and Timbaland would quote the song for Aaliyah’s 2000 future-funk No. 1 banger “Try Again.” Still, Paid In Full was more than just a historic moment for rhyme, as evidenced by “Eric B. Is On the Cut” and “Chinese Arithmetic”—two classic turntable showcases. Even the album’s cover made a pop-culture impact: Paid in Full features an iconic shot of Eric B. & Rakim sporting custom jackets from storied Harlem designer Dapper Dan—a choice that highlighted Dan’s brilliant and influential repurposing of luxury brands. “Eric B. & Rakim epitomized and personified the street culture of New York and the rest of the nation,” rapper (and superfan) Nas would later note. “They wore Gucci before Gucci [was popular], they were counting money on the album cover and they made it look cool. The style of the music was built for the streets. Rakim’s lyrics were the streets put into music.”

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