Paid In Full is the debut album from the legendary duo Eric B & Rakim, hailing from Long Island, NY. As the story goes: In 1985 Eric Barrier, then a deejay at WBLS in NY, was in search of an emcee to compliment his musical works. Through a series of events Eric would eventually link up with up and coming emcee, William Griffin – better known to the world as Rakim- and as they say the rest is history. Paid In Full marks the mythical beginning of arguably the greatest emcee of all time (Kool Moe Dee would beg to differ), Rakim. Paid In Full is considered by many to be the greatest album of all time, including The Source, who added it to their 5 mic list in 2002. Random factoid: The majority of Paid In Full was recorded at Marley Marl’s home studio, as he and Rakim were roommates at one point.
Let’s see if Eric’s beats and William’s ryhmes are worthy of the classic status that Paid In Full is usually praised with.
I Ain’t No Joke – “Even if it’s jazz or the quiet storm, I hook a beat up convert it into hip-hop form”…wow! Right off the jump Rakim comes off cool and collected, with an unmatched mastery of the English language, unlike hip-hop had seen before him. This song is laced with hip-hop quotable after quotable, and Eric B’s beat matches Rakim’s precise rhymes perfectly. Nice way to start the show.
Eric B Is On The Cut – Eric B gets a chance to show his skills on the wheels of steel for nearly 4 minutes. This was mediocre at best, it sounds slightly better then mediocre if you considerate it merely an intermission for the real star of this show, Rakim.
My Melody – Marley Marl gets a production credit (he did syntherze it, after all ) on this one, as a hungry Ra rips this minimal beat to shreds. Every other line in this song has literally been sampled and used in a hip-hop song by nearly everyone. The “I Ain’t No Joke” line “you’ll be one of those seven emcees”, will make more sense after hearing the rhyme about the “21 emcees” (arguably the greatest line ever spat on wax). Rakim’s flow was so impressive I didn’t realize there was a beat in the background. Seriously, this wasn’t accapella?
I Know You Got Soul – Hank Shocklee of the legendary Bombsquad, once said in an interview, that this was the greatest hip-hop record ever made. While this is definitely a banger, it’s not even the best song on Paid In Full. As usual, Ra rips Eric’s (very nice) beat to shreds.
Move The Crowd – Mr. Barrier provides another proficient track for Rakim to completely dismantle, and he manages to teach you a lesson or two in the process. Nice.
Paid In Full – The bass line alone easily makes this the best track on Paid In Full, and there’s no need to waste word space describing how Rakim comes off on this. This should be in everyone’s top 10 hip-hip song of all-time list, no question.
As The Rhyme Goes On – Mr. Barrier samples Barry White’s classic “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little Bit More babe” (which is way too long of a song title, but I digress), mixing it with heavy drums and tweaks the bass line to give it a dark and mysterious feel. Oh, Rakim? He kills it.
Chinese Arithmetic – I have one word, boring. But if you apply the same rule mentioned on “Eric B Is On The Cut”, you’ll be okay.
Eric B Is President – “I came through the door, I said it before”. This song is filled with hip-hop quotables (like the majority of the songs on Paid In Full) that you’ve heard sampled by several other artist. This still bangs today.
Extended Beat – What a generic name for a song title, but is does give an accurate description of the song. This is simply the instrumental for “Move The Crowd”. Whatever, it is what it is.
My version of Paid In Full is a 2005 re-release, and it includes the following bonus songs:
As The Rhyme Goes On (Radio Mix) – Same as the original with a few extra scratches.
Paid In Full Mini Madness (The Cold Cut Remix) – Extended version of the original with a few added vocal samples. If you have an older print of Paid In Full there is absolutely no reason to track this version down, as the bonus cuts add nothing to the album.
Paid In Full presents us with a young Rakim beginning his quest on the journey to becoming the G.O.A.T. There is no question Rakim is a great lyricist, but his cool, calm and poised demeanor are what set him apart from the rest. Mr. Barrier’s instrumentals compliment Rakim’s complex poetry, perfectly – but there is no question this is Rakim’s show.
Did The Source Get It Right? Even with the three useless instrumentals, Rakim’s lyrical potency alone is enough to make Paid In Full a bona fide classic. This is arguably one of the top 5 hip-hop album ever made. Yeah, I said!