One of rap's most influential acts during the 1980s, Eric B & Rakim made the sampling of James Brown records the main source for hip-hop's sound during the late '80s and early '90s, beginning with their stellar debut, Paid in Full.

While Eric B dazzled listeners with his turntable techniques, Rakim pointed the way toward the easy-rollin' style of the '90s with his laidback raps, though forceful in content. Each of the duo's first three albums achieved gold status, and they even managed the Top Five R&B hit "Friends" in 1989.

While working as a mobile DJ for New York's WBLS during 1985, Eric Barrier met William Griffin, a top MC who had grown up on Long Island. The two began recording together and emerged with "Eric B Is President."

The single appeared in 1986 on Harlem's Zakia label, and became a street sensation. Signed to 4th & Broadway the following year, Eric B & Rakim released their debut album, Paid in Full.

The LP's success led to a contract with Uni/MCA in 1988, and their second album, Follow the Leader, was released that year. Two more albums followed, Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em (1990) and Don't Sweat the Technique (1992), after which the duo broke up. By the mid-'90s, Eric B. had emerged as a solo act on his own 95th Street label. ó John Bush

Review: Eric B. and Rakim - Follow the Leader - LP (MCA - 1988)

After coming out with one of the most impressive and successful debut albums in Hip-Hop history, Paid In Full, there had to be serious pressure on Eric B. and Rakim to beat the dreaded sophomore jinx with the release of their second LP. Not only did the duo beat the odds with Follow the Leader, they also expanded their range with dope original music and beats and also with precise lyrics delivered by Rakim that had many MCs and fans on his nut-sack. The atmospheric title track (with its menacing keyboard accompaniment) gave Rakim the room to spit imaginative lyrics that showcased his original approach to rocking the mic while taking the listener on a musical journey - an instant classic track.

But wait, the second track is just as dope, "Microphone Fiend." Over Average White Bandís funky "Schoolboy Crush" Rakim explains his addiction to kickiní lyrics that started at an early age: "íCause I grab the mic and try to say yes yíall/They try to take it, they say that Iím too small/Cool ícause I donít get upset/I kick a hole in the speaker, pull the plug, then I jet."

The rest of the LP is consistent with this level of achievement, if not as stunning, which means it still was way above most of the competition. The bottom line is that this team has secured a permanent place in rap history, and way after all the wannabe gangstas and marijuana bandwagon-jumpers have been forgotten, albums like this will still have heads bobbiní. Marc Thompson

Also: Erik B & Rakim


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