Thinkin’ of a master plan / ‘Cuz 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
I used to roll up, this is a hold up, ain’t nuthin’ funny
Stop smiling, be still, don’t nuthin’ move but the money
But now I learned to earn ‘cuz I’m righteous / I feel great, so maybe I might just
Search for a nine to five, if I strive / Then maybe I’ll stay alive
So I walk up the street whistlin’ this / Feelin’ out of place ‘cuz, 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
‘Cuz I don’t like to dream about gettin’ paid / So I dig into the books of the rhymes that I made
So now to test to see if I got pull / Hit the studio, ‘cuz I’m paid in full
© Eric B. & Rakim, 1987
I know the rhyme that’s listed above by heart. Just like almost the entire Paid In Full album. A very influential album, which is 30 years old. Time for researching the album and its influence on hip-hop.
In the beginning
Eric B. and Rakim met in 1985. Eric B.’s friend Marley Marl let them use his home-studio. The first single Eric B. Is President (credited to Eric B. featuring Rakim) was released in 1986 by an independent label. Upon hearing the single, Def Jam’s Russell Simmons offered them a record-deal and Eric B. ∧ Rakim started recording their debut album early 1987. Rakim wrote his lyrics in about an hour, while listening to the beat. After writing them, they were recorded as Rakim read his lyrics from paper. In an interview on halftimeonline.net in 2006, Rakim said: “When I hear my first album today I hear myself reading my rhymes, but I’m my worst critic”. The album was finished within a week. The duo later remarked they worked in 48-hour shifts and recorded songs in one take as much as possible, to finish the album within budget.
The album marked the beginning of ‘heavy sampling’ in hip-hop. Their music was a combination of 1970’s funk music and electronic beats. Hip-hop would never be the same again. James Brown was a primary source for the samples. Eric B. mixed and scratched all of that using his turntables, creating a new sound, which turned out to be highly innovative and popular.
Was sampling a new thing in 1987? No, but the way Eric B. & Rakim did it most definitely was. Hip-hop was globally introduced in 1979 with the release of Rappers’ Delight. Sampling didn’t exist yet, not even as an idea. The song was based on elements that were ‘borrowed’ from Chic’s Good Times. But the original wasn’t used, it was imitated by session-musicians. On Afrika Bambaataa’s pioneering Planet Rock from 1982, the same trick was used, imitating the Kraftwerk songs Trans Europe Express and Numbers.
In 1986 three songs were (almost simultaneously) released that relied heavily on James Brown’s catalog. South Bronx by Boogie Down Productions used Funky Drummer, It’s A Demo by Kool G Rap and DJ Polo used Funky Drummer and Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine. Eric B. & Rakim’s Eric B. Is President used Brown’s Funky President (People It’s Bad). Contrary to the first hip-hop songs, the 1986 songs used actual pieces of music from the original recordings. Eric B. & Rakim are regarded as the founding fathers, partly because they followed up their single fairly quickly with the album Paid In Full, which contained a lot of samples, oftentimes several on each song.
Combined with the emergence of sampling, the denouncing of rap and hip-hop started, for that was not real music, was it? If they really had any kind of talent, couldn’t they write their own songs? Hip-hop was not understood and couldn’t be linked to the more traditional idea of people with guitars, drums and singing. Rap and hip-hop were dismissed as being a-musical (as would be the case with dance some years later).
Of course the reality was entirely different. Exactly because of using samples a lot of new music was made and old songs were again brought to the attention of the youth. Contrary to now, the choice for sampling James Brown was far from the logical step midway through the 1980’s:
Tell the truth, James Brown was old
‘Til Eric and Ra came out with “I Got Soul”
Rap brings back old R&B
And if we would not, people could’ve forgot
© Talkin All That Jazz, Stetsasonic, 1988
However, to the kids (and some ‘older’ ones with a youthful mindset) sampling was just as ordinary as breathing. Previously produced music turned into new musical directions. It also resulted in young people listening to ‘old’ music again, something James Brown was more than eager to accommodate, but it also applied to, for instance, Parliament/Funkadelic, Sly & the Family Stone and a lot of other, lesser known, funk and soul.
Eric B. & Rakim were regularly sampled themselves. The huge M/A/R/R/S hit Pump Up The Volume was, in part, built around a phrase of the rap of the genius I Know You Got Soul (which I know by heart also):
It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you / Without a strong rhyme to step to
Think of how many weak shows you slept through / Time’s up, I’m sorry I kept you
Thinking of this, you keep repeating, you miss / The rhymes from the microphone soloist
So you sit by the radio, hand on the dial, soon / As you hear it, pump up the volume
© Eric B. & Rakim, 1987
Paid In Full‘s beat has been sampled so many times that it seems inconceivable that this was put on record only in 1987 and not decades earlier.
By the way, Eric B. & Rakim are also regarded sampling’s founding fathers because of their sample choices. The samples are either full of soul or are soulfully integrated. Either way, a novelty also.
Next to sample use Paid In Full is also regarded a classic for Rakim’s rapping, who firstly applied ‘internal rhyme’ (rhyming within a single line or phrase of multiple lines) to rapping in hip-hop and raised the general level of lyricism and was an important example within hip-hop.
Paid In Full
As made clear in this article, Paid In Full is one of the most important and influential hip-hop/rap albums of all time (and consequently one of the most important albums of all time). The music is heavily rooted in funk. The album is extremely funky and it swings. A few of the most legendary rap singles ever are on this album, like Eric B. Is President, I Ain’t No Joke, I Know You Got Soul and Paid In Full.
The album was released on July 7th 1987 on Island Records sublabel 4th & B’way Records. What immediately stood out was the way Rakim rapped, which was completely different than the norm at the time. Rakim’s flow is unprecedented: relaxed, ingenious lyrics, complex rhymes, containing substance, as well as the tone and heaviness of his voice. Most of this was accredited to his jazz influences: he played saxophone and was a big John Coltrane admirer.
Despite Eric B. & Rakim having access to an excellent rapper, 3 songs on Paid In Full are instrumentals.
The album has quite a few highlights. It immediately starts off with I Ain’t No Joke. The song grabs you by the throat. Despite the mellow flow, Rakim has a presence comparable to Public Enemy’s Chuck D. I Know You Got Soul, the fourth song, is, as as I’m concerned, the highlight of the album, and an all-time hip-hop favorite. The song’s production is full, including a great deep bass (including a kick-drum you feel in your diaphragm ). The song popularized James Brown samples. One of the best songs of all-time. Paid in Full was another highlight; a revolutionary song. In a remix (by Coldcut) that came out later it became an even greater hit. Eric B. Is President, the first song Eric B. & Rakim ever released, prompted James Brown to file a lawsuit about the use of his music. Brown wasn’t particularly interested in the principals of the case, as he was more concerned with potential earnings he would miss.
Hip-hop’s golden era
Paid In Full was released at a time where hip-hop went through its golden era and is seen as “one of hip-hop’s perfect albums”. What is clear is that Paid in Full has proved to be a very influential album, within as well as outside of hip-hop. An essential album for music lovers.
In 2003 Rolling Stone magazine placed Paid In Full at number 228 of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. Blender magazine placed the album in “500 CDs You Must Own Before You Die”. At Time magazine it was part of their “All-TIME 100 albums”. Pitchfork placed Paid In Full at number 52 of their “Top 100 Albums of the 1980s”. Slant Magazine placed it at number 32 in a list of the same kind.
On July 11th 1995 the album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
No less than five singles were culled from this album, of which the third and fifth were the most successful:
- Eric B. Is President
- I Ain’t No Joke
- I Know You Got Soul
- Move The Crowd
- Paid In Full
The first single was released in 1986, all the others in 1987.
All songs are written and (officially) produced by Eric B. & Rakim. The next songs are contained on the album Paid In Full:
- I Ain’t No Joke
- Eric B. Is On The Cut
- My Melody
- I Know You Got Soul
- Move The Crowd
- Paid In Full
- As The Rhyme Goes On
- Chinese Arithmetic
- Eric B. Is President
- Extended Beat
|I Ain’t No Joke||Pass the Peas by The J.B.’s and Theme From the Planets by Dexter Wansel|
|Eric B. Is On The Cut||It’s Great to Be Here by The Jackson 5, I’d Think I’d Do It by Z.Z. Hill and Eric B. Is President by Eric B. & Rakim|
|My Melody||Scratchin’ by The Magic Disco Machine|
|I Know You Got Soul||I Know You Got Soul by Bobby Byrd, You’ll Like It Too by Funkadelic and Different Strokes by Syl Johnson|
|Move The Crowd||Hot Pants Road by The J.B.’s, Flight of the Newborn by Return to Forever and Eric B. Is President by Eric B. & Rakim|
|Paid In Full||Ashley’s Roachclip by The Soul Searchers, Don’t Look Any Further by Dennis Edwards feat. Siedah Garrett and Change the Beat (Female Version) by Beside|
|As The Rhyme Goes On||I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby by Barry White, Love’s Theme by Fausto Papetti, Hold It Now, Hit It by Beastie Boys and Funky President (People It’s Bad) by James Brown|
|Chinese Arithmetic||Flick of the Switch by AC/DC|
|Eric B. Is President||Can’t Get Away (Special Club “Dub” Mix) by Carol Williams|
Eric B. & Rakim received full production credits for Paid In Full, but Marley Marl claims he produced My Melody and Eric B. Is President. In 2003 Eric B. claimed that the duo wasn’t fully compensated for their work and sued the Def Jam Music Group.
Paid In Full‘s success led to a contract with MCA Records in 1988, on which successor Follow The Leader was released.
Paid in Full is essential for every music-lover and particularly for everyone who is, ever so slightly, interested in hip-hop.
What do you think of Paid In Full? Good also? Or can’t you see it? Too old (or too young)? What’s your stance on sampling? Let me know!
Eric B. & Rakim image: highsnobiety.com
AKAI S-612 image: synthmuseum.com
James Brown – Funky President (single) image: 45cat.com
Eric B. & Rakim in the studio image: thesource.com
Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full image: genius.com
Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full – LP cover backside image: happybirthdayvinyl.co.uk
Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full video image: youtube.com
Eric B. Featuring Rakim – Eric B. Is President image: electricrelaxation.com