Paid In Full

Eric B and Rakim Paid in Full Cover

The year is 1987 and I’m about 9 years old: no bills, no worries, just a kid living with a few chores here and there. Life is easy. If I’m not playing with my G.I. Joes, I’m watching them on TV. This is the life. Michael Jackson poster on my bedroom wall next to the Run-DMC and LL Cool J ones. My heroes! To me, rap is special. I admit, before I was a rap fan I was strictly MJ. I write my own poems and draw due to his influence. There’s something about making words rhyme that entertains me.

One day I’m just chilling, turning through different stations on the radio when I heard a sound in hip-hop music I’ve never heard before. “What is this?” This rapper isn’t coming off like the rest I’m used. He isn’t hype in the sense of shouting his words or being aggressive. This guy is smooth. Woah! Who is the guy scratching records? I know Run-DMC has a guy who does that named Jam Master Jay – is Jam Master Jay with this guy too? Nah, I’m hearing Eric B. and Rakim for the first time. Mind blown… Paid In Full was the song pulsating through the speakers of my mini boom-box:

Thinkin of a master plan
‘Cause ain’t nuthin but sweat inside my hand
So I dig into my pocket, all my money is spent
So I dig deeper but still comin up with lint
So I start my mission – leave my residence
Thinkin how could I get some dead presidents
I need money, I used to be a stick-up kid
So I think of all the devious things I did

Wow, to be honest I didn’t know what most of that meant, but I knew it sounded good. It definitely sounded like he meant business. Years later I revisited that song as well as the entire Paid in Full album. Now having experiences of my own in the streets, I finally understand what it meant to have sweat in my hands and lint in my pockets. That one song in particular was new all over again to me. Now I’m living those words.

This album was different than the ones I was listening to at the time because of how the track-list was set up. These guys were partners, but Eric B. had tracks on the album where he just did his thing alone. Track 2, Eric B Is On The Cut – POW – showcasing his talent on what would become  one of the classic, no, one of the holy grails of hip-hop albums.

Another track on that album I dig heavy is I Know You Got Soul. It just makes me wanna break out in the hammer dance, ha! I mean, at those times people were all over the dance floor losing their minds! The vibes were so real.

Wait… you the reader! Do you know who I’m speaking of? Eric B. and Rakim? I mean a quick wiki would give you some info on their history, but it’s nothing like digging into the music yourself. Personally, that’s how I go into albums and I suggest you do the same. Imagine and visualize what you’re listening to at first and the pick up the details later.  Check out this article by Steve Huey if you want more.

It’s wild Eric B. and I have something other than just the love for hip-hop in common. We both played the trumpet and I was extremely good at it. Great minds, I guess. Eric B. and Rakim came together and made hip-hop history and their records are played all across the world still to this day. They’ve influenced so many rappers, dj’s and beat makers it might be impossible to name them all. No, Paid in Full wasn’t their only album together, but it was the one that changed the rap game permanently. PIF helped give birth to emcees like Nas and the rest is history.

To close, not all collaborations are successful ones. In fact many duos never make it to the public’s eye due to creative differences. There was even a time in hip-hop history where these two creatives went their separate ways.

Old rumours about a return have finally been answered and the duo have put differences aside to rejoin forces. A tour sure, but maybe a new Paid in Full album?  Should we call it The Big Payback? Whatever they come up with, this hip-hop head is ready for it!