Paid In Full

Eric B and Rakim Paid in Full Cover

It’s amazing that after almost 30 years since their debut release in 1987, Eric B. & Rakim are still 100% respected and relevant names when considering the greatest rappers of all time in hip-hop. Rakim on the microphone and Eric B. nasty on the tables have become a world renowned entity. After decades since the public was exposed to Paid In Full, a17-date tour was booked between April and May 3 of 2018. This anniversary tour establishes the duo’s place in the honorary hip-hop hall of fame forever and helps us recognize that they’ve inspired and paved the way for hip-hop, rap and the music industry at large.

Rakim covers all the verses with bars that are creatively and effortlessly constructed, and insanely relatable for many.  This album proves Rakim blesses us (as he says it on track 9, Eric B. Is President) and I, for one, am thankful when he shares his gift:

Self-esteem makes it seem like a thought took years to build
But still say a rhyme after the next one
Prepared, never scared, I’ll just bless one
And you know that I’m the soloist
So Eric B make ’em clap to this

His DJ, Eric B. aka. the President is the ideal of a right hand man. These two guys from Long Island combine seamlessly with each other, and both compliment each other’s organic bag of tricks in order to make an honest living each time they step in the studio. According to the track Paid in Full, it’s what they were made to do:

Thinkin’ of a master plan
‘Cause ain’t nothin’ but sweat inside my hand
So I dig into my pocket, all my money spent
So I dig deeper, but still coming 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
I used to roll up, this is a hold up, ain’t nothing funny
Stop smilin’, be still, don’t nothing move, but the money
But now I learned to earn ’cause I’m righteous
I feel great so maybe I might just
Search for a 9 to 5, If I strive
Then maybe I’ll stay alive
So I walk up the street, whistlin’ this
Feeling out of place, ’cause man do I miss
A pen and a paper, a stereo, a tape of
Me and Eric B and a nice big plate of
Fish, which is my favorite dish
But without no money, it’s still a wish
‘Cause I don’t like to dream about gettin’ paid
So I dig into the books of the rhymes that I made
So now’s a test to see if I got pull
Hit the studio, ’cause I’m paid in full

Taking it from the top, Rakim’s positively manic metaphors coexist with Eric’s swift scratches. That first track, I Aint No Joke, clears any issues up about Rakim’s way of working the mic. Immediately following Rakim’s rugged, at the same time sharp rhymes (as stated on “My Melody’s” third verse) comes track 2, where Eric B. constructs an idea of his own image: self expression as a producer/ DJ. Going through this album is like getting a flawless, old-school mixture of what hip-hop’s scene must have sounded and looked like back in the late 80’s.

As an artist, Rakim writes his life and brings all his experiences to the mic.  Just the same, DJ Eric B. shows his knowledge by building outstanding, top-shelf, pulsating boom-bap instrumentals that get the crowd moving and active. Songs like My Melody, I Know You Got Soul, and Move the Crowd are the perfect examples of this. Rakim’s phrases his own interpretation of this by saying:

Some of you’ve been trying to write rhymes for years
But weak ideas irritating my ears
Is this the best that you can make?
‘Cause, if not, and you got more, I’ll wait
But don’t make me wait too long ’cause I’ma move on
The dance floor when they put something smooth on
So turn up the bass, it’s better when it’s loud
Cause I like to move the crowd

Since Eric has mastered the 1’s & 2’s and Rakim, the pen, it’s clear the duo makes for an entertaining act. As a producer on the cut with unlimited rhythm, Eric B. consistently designs beats that offer a slick tongue like Rakim’s a canvas for delivery, letting his deepest, most honest and dope thoughts come through clean – a match made it heaven. On As the Rhyme Goes On (track 7), Rakim claims his spot as the ultimate crowd pleaser.  Man, “He draws a crowd like an architect,” for goodness sake:

“And think you’ll sink into the rhyme like quicksand
Holds and controls you ’til I leave
You fall deeper in the style – it’s hard to breathe
The only time I stop is when somebody drop and then
Bring ’em to the front ’cause my rhymes the oxygen
Then wave your hand – when you’re ready I’ll send you
Into your favorite dance but let the rhyme continue
And so on and I’mma go on simultaneously
And even if I stop – the rhyme remains to be
Rising to the top – and I came to drop it
Catch it and quiz it – is my topic
Universal ’cause I move everybody to come
By exercising your mind you’ll coincide as one
Then look around and see how packed the party starts to get
I draw a crowd – like an architect

Every so often, we’re thrown a solo track by our DJ Eric B. on this project. Eric B. on The Cut, Chinese Arithmetic, and Extended Beat each stand as separate tunes, with seperate tempos that bring diverse forms of energy for listeners to enjoy. Each piece on this album is a journey to the b-boy era, days when breakdancing, beatboxing, rap battles, and graffiti on city buildings and trains were just part of the youths’ norm.

Hip-hop and rap have become so much more than a hobby, and it’s neat to see how fundamental this project is to the culture, sounds, and styles we see today.  These two taught us how to create a combo of intensely versatile production and clever lyrics full of knowledge and confidence. Eric B. & Rakim are as authentic as it gets when it comes to keeping it real and doing what they do on the daily. They’re an inspiration to hone in on one’s craft, polish, and tone it up until the delivery is clean and comes off like second nature.