The duo of Eric B. on the turntables and Rakim on the microphone changed the sound, flow, and potential of hip-hop. If Rakim is still the greatest MC of all time, as many argue, this album is the evidence. The group ran off a string of hit singles in the mid-Eighties, and then gathered them up on its relentless debut album Paid in Full. Over Eric B’s pulsing, minimalist tracks — which introduced James Brown samples to hip-hop, a radical maneuver — Rakim constructed icy, menacing rhymes of steel. “I Know You Got Soul,” “Move the Crowd,” and the title track revealed layers of complexity far beyond previous rap records. Where most old-school MCs yelled or declaimed, Rakim barely rose above a whisper — and his words hit all the louder.
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