EWA100 - #24. Eric B & Rakim - Paid in Full

24. Eric B & Rakim - Paid In Full (Zakia/4th & Broadway. 1987. From the LP Paid In Full)

Mike Dikk: I really wish someone else was writing this because I don’t think I’m going to do very good writing the introductory write up. I was really born a year too late for this. See, back in the '80s, you didn’t get to hear every record ever three weeks before it’s release date. In fact, sometime it would be entire YEARS before you heard some kind of seminal record in your specific genre of choice. Especially if you were ten and you didn’t have a job yet because you were too short to operate heavy machinery and your pre-pubescent penis was too small to become a proper gigolo. So I didn’t hear Eric B. & Rakim until well after Follow The Leader came out. Because of that, I really never listened to “Paid In Full” (the song or the record) until years later, and I’m sorry, but this stuff just doesn’t hold up as well as the stuff from Follow The Leader. The lyrics are there, but the beats aren’t as great.
It’s probably a given there would be a few Eric B & Rakim songs on here, but I was kind of surprised by this pick. I’m sure a lot more people aren’t, but out of the 5 or 6 absolute classic songs Eric B & Rakim put out, I’d rank this one the lowest. I guess if you were looking at this from a technical rap nerd perspective, it basically gave birth to the whole “I need to get money” mentality in rap music (supposedly, these are the words of others, not my own), and the drum loop is one of the most used in the history of rap music, but outside of that, there’s not much going on for me. I even like “Don’t Sweat The Technique” more than this song. I’m sure I’m committing Rap blasphemy for speaking ill will toward anything Rakim did on those first two records, but I felt I should be honest with you, the reader, since we’ve been on such a longwinded, drawn out tumultuous journey together. I really hope Raven has one of his trademark Wholesome Country Livin’ Nostalgia stories to make this write up seem like it’s worth a shit. I’m sorry.

Raven Mack: I think Mike is suffering from hipster nerd contrarian backlash, because it's standard hipster nerd nonsense to talk up the seven-and-a-half minute mega-remix of this song as the greatest old school shit ever. But here's the real talk from an expert whiteboy who owns the singles: the mega-mix is masturbatory bullshit that takes away from the simple greatness of the original version of normal length. This was standard procedure in that 1987 through 1990 timeframe to make a mega-mix of a song, and instead of today's gimmick of having five guest flavors of the month to rhyme over the beat, the old gimmick was to draw out the samples to a longer sample and to add quirky oddball vocal snippets from movies or campy old science records or news reports. Another good example of this is "Night of the Living Baseheads" remix by Public Enemy. Luckily for us all, Pete Rock came along to re-invent the remix.
The lyrical ridiculousness of Rakim, if you were to tell me to break it down to one verse as an example, it'd be this one. For real. Mike's right when he says Follow the Leader holds up better, because the beats are more attuned to the future of rap music. Still, the rhymes on Paid In Full changed the way motherfuckers even thought about writing rhymes. Rakim made shit obsolete. And whereas people had been storyteller rhymers before (Slick Rick for example), Rakim's story he's telling in "Paid In Full" is not so much a long drawn out story being explained step-by-step, but he's telling the story indirectly. You figure a lot of it out on your own, and he tightens up every fucking syllable to crispy thickness.
It's been a couple of painkiller prescriptions ago we made this list, but I remember being almost freaked out that this ended up this low. I pegged it to be an automatic top ten song when we started this project. Like I couldn't even imagine it not being a top ten song (outside of the hipster nerd contrarianism because too many dumbasses hype it up in normal full-of-shit dipshit fashion within earshot, which I've also experienced, and may be even adding to for some people) on any serious list.

Download: Eric B & Rakim - Paid in Full

(I'd like to note that by the time we got around to writing this, we had totally forgotten whether it was the original mix of this song that got nominated or the Remix. We have a feeling it was the remix but neither me or Raven are really thrilled with that version, so we are pretending it was the original mix that got the nod. So you get an mp3 of the original mix, but the video for the remix. We are sorry for any confusion or depression this will cause you.)