10 Essential New York Artists: #3 Rakim
The News: Rakim has been celebrating the 30th anniversary of Paid In Full by performing the album in its entirety. The enduring power of the album was remarked upon with some love in the New York Times recently.
So I collect my cash then slide, I got my back, my gun’s on my side… It shouldn’t have to be like that, I guess it ain’t where you’re from it’s where you’re at – Eric B & Rakim from In The Ghetto off Paid In Full
As Rakim said late night backstage at BB Kings last summer, Paid In Full was the album that gave people their first impression of him as an artist. When the debut from Eric B & Rakim came out in the summer of 1987, it made enough of an impression that on consecutive nights in the summer of 2016, fans packed a sweaty BB Kings Club in Times Square to capacity to hear him perform it in its entirety. Some of them were waving vinyl copies of it in hoping for a moment with the man who has earned the most honorable of handles, The God MC.
One can’t overstate the impact of the album and the artist who grew up in Suffolk County on Long Island. It was an evolutionary step for hip hop that, like the debut albums by fellow New Yorkers The Velvet Underground and The Ramones, made more of an impact with future artists than the general public. That’s not to say it wasn’t commercially successful; it was but in a modest way. As Rakim himself pointed out in our conversation, he was underground. Artists who may have eclipsed him in terms of record sales or radio play, Biggie and Tupac and Eminem and Jay Z among them, have pointed to Rakim as a point of departure.
In the bonus vid below, Rakim speaks further about his lyrical content on Paid In Full and elsewhere as well as his relationship to jazz…
Go to #4 artist Living Colour