Since I started to add posts about the albums that are notably NOT in the 1001 Albums book, my list of exiled albums has grown and grown. But the one that really shocked me was this one.
“Paid in Full”, if I may be so bold, is one of the greatest, most influential hip hop albums ever.
Back when I was 12, I wasn’t into hip hop in the least. In fact the closest I got was The Fat Boys and The Beach Boys duetting on my mixtape next to the Gloria Estefan and Bon Jovi.
But then came Eric B and Rakim. Or more specifically, the Coldcut remix of “Paid in Full”, which I ended up playing the shit out of. Eric B described the remix as “Girly Disco Music”, but Rakim said it was the best remix he’d ever heard.
Still sounds awesome today.
Defining what hip hop is (or at least, what it was in 1987) is a tricky thing. It was still embryonic. We’d seen the post-funk/disco moves from the Sugarhill Gang, Afrika Bambataa and Grandmaster Flash. We’d hit political agit-rap from Public Enemy, and we’d the caustic raw power of Run DMC.
This though, this was something new. A pure focus on melody, rhyme and smart lyrics. And it’s oh so cool. Every line is tailored.
It’s also the album that kicked off the sampling wars, with James Brown threatening to sue for the use of his music on “Eric B is President”.
Eric B and Rakim launched five singles from the album, “Eric B is President”, “I Ain’t No Joke”, “Move the Crowd”, “I Know You Got Soul” (which showed up in MARRS’s “Pump Up The Volume”), and the title track “Paid in Full”.
Each of them stand out today as knockout tracks from rap’s golden age, but other songs, such as the turntable-busting “My Melody” are inventive, lyrical and most of all, exciting.
“Paid in Full” is an album that reveals new layers with every listen, even a third of a century later. You know they got soul.