We last heard from this legendary duo in May of 1990, with the release of their classic third album Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em. No one could deny the awesomeness of that album and Rakim’s lyrical mastery laced throughout. It was a critical success that earned the duo their second 5 mic rating from The Source, cemented their legacy in hip-hop, and in my opinion, is the best album in the Eric B. & Rakim catalog. After a 2 year hiatus Eric and Ra would return to release their 4th album, Don’t Sweat The Technique.
Like their previous three albums, Eric B & Rakim would handle the bulk of the production duties (well, at least that’s what the credits said; there has been some controversy regarding claims of ghost production provided by other producer [*cough* Large Professor] on some of their previous works) and it would not feature any guest appearances. Just the R on the mic and Eric on the cut. What else do you need, though?
This would be the last album from the two as a group, as they would soon fall out with each other and go their separate ways. Eric B would go onto to release a self-titled solo album on small independent label (that I’m sure sold exactly 3 copies, which were all purchased by his Aunt Pearl) and Rakim would eventually release a few more solo albums, but neither of the duo were able to recapture the magic or touch the success they had together as a group. There truly is power in numbers.
What’s On Your Mind – Eric & Ra kick things off with a smoothed out, slightly r&b seasoned instrumental that Rakim uses to articulately relay a detailed romantic story (which includes a line about watching the Huxtables, so add another mark to the Bill Cosby tally) in his signature smooth tone, proving once again that love raps don’t have to be corny (see “Mahogany” from Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em). This song was also included on the House Party 2 Soundtrack, though the instrumental on the soundtrack version had a slightly difference mix than the album version. This was nice.
Teach The Children – The R is in conscious mode as he addresses the snares and traps laid throughout the hood and the importance of making sure the youth don’t becomes victims of them. Kudos for the positive message but this song is average at best.
Pass The Hand Grenade – It took him three songs, but Ra delivers the kind of rhymes the fans are accustomed to hearing from him on this song: the god emcee in battle mode. The rawness of the instrumental (which occasionally brings in a slick trumpet loop to break up the roughness of the track) compliments Rakim’s vocal and rhymes. While Ra doesn’t spit his greatest battle rhymes on this one, they’re still dope enough to fade your favorite emcee.
Casualties Of War – Ra drops the most politically charged rhymes in his career on this one. He plays a Gulf War vet who once followed his commands blindly, but slowly begins to question his superiors, the government and why American troops are over their fighting in the first place. Things get a little more interesting when he starts to question who his true enemies are. The instrumental is kind of underwhelming, but Ra’s rhymes are worthy of your attention and will leave you with something to chew on.
Rest Assured – Over a funky instrumental the R warns both the ladies and the heads not to panic, because 007 is on the mic and everything is under control. This was cool.
The Punisher – This is a monster! Over a dark and epic instrumental , Rakim mixes battle rhymes with torture techniques as he goes for the neck of all competitors. I love his line “your conscious becomes subconscious, soon your response is nonsense”, and the simple hook that has Rakim repeatedly yelling “Kill ’em again!”. This is sick, and more evidence to support the argument that Rakim is the GOAT.
Relax With Pep – Decent.
Keep The Beat – I have an emotional tied to this instrumental. As a kid, I actually looped the opening portion of the instrumental from cassette to cassette for me and my partner in rhyme (what up MD?!) to freestyle over. Ah, the good old days. Over a laid back jazzy instrumental, Ra puts back on the Casanova cap he left on “Rest Assured”, as he finesses the mess out of the woman of his desire. Not my favorite Rakim rhymes but I love the smoothness of this instrumental.
What’s Going On – This one kind of ties in with “Teach The Children”, as Ra addresses some of the issues a lot of young black men face coming up in the inner city. He makes a lot of valid points but the instrumental is so boring you won’t even give a shit.
Know The Ledge – Don’t let the spelling of the song title fool ya. Yes, this is the same song from the Juice Soundtrack. And it still sounds dope.
Don’t Sweat The Technique – The instrumental for the title song and lead single is probably the sickest instrumental in all of Eric B & Rakm’s catalog. The bass line (which is a loop from Young-Holt Unlimited’s “Queen Of The Nile”) is both funky and infectious, while the Kool N The Gang horns samples are the delicious icing on the cake. And of course Rakim’s rhymes are as sharp as Ginsus. I think Target brought this instrumental back a few years ago for a commercial they were running, which proves how timeless this track is. It sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a beautiful summer day on South Beach. Classic.
Kick Along – Eric and Rakim end DSTT with an up tempo instrumental that Ra uses to prove he can rhyme swiftly when the tracks bmp’s are bumped up. Not one of the duo’s best songs, but it’s decent.
Eric B & Rakim’s DSTT is kind of like Jordan when he left the Bulls and played his final two years as a Washington Wizard. It doesn’t have the same impact or magic as their earlier works, but it’s still better than 90% of what the rest of the league had to offer. Rakim was only 24 when DSTT was released, yet you can hear his maturation from Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em, as he balances his story telling and battle rhyme ability with more socially conscious concepts. It’s not a perfect album, but a large portion of the beats bang and of course the R doesn’t disappoint on the mic. Just don’t expect him to drop 60 on a nightly basis.