observations, reviews and ramblings about Hip-Hop culture, sports, politics and the industry and life in general.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I nominated my intern for President

Old School review as seen on the Brooklyn Bodega,
reprinted courtesy of his Lordship

Eric B and Rakim
“Paid In Full”
By Lord Fauntleroy

We had an editorial meeting last week about these classic reviews. Which albums are we picking? Why? We decided we wanted to focus on albums that you should have in your collection, but avoid a condescending music snob tone.
I remember when I took a history of jazz class in boarding school one of the few Black girls on campus accused me of being into that ‘white music.’ Sounds even sillier 10 years later. I don’t want that to happen to Hip-Hop. We have to make sure the right story is told.

In that same Jazz class Mr. Ainspac taught us that the first album in your jazz collection should be Miles Davis “Kind Of Blue.” The lesson went that Miles was a genius who represented the past, present, and future of jazz. And “Kind Of Blue” was a one of a kind album that illustrated the pure genius of the raspy voiced man from Kansas City.

In Hip-Hop Rakim is Miles Davis and “Paid In Full” is “Kind of Blue.”

Rakim is on everyone’s top 5 but rarely gets the #1 spot over Tupac or Biggie. Who is better is an arbitrary point better left for the crew to debate while playing Playstation over some intoxicating chemicals. What is not debatable is that Rakim changed the game and this album is what did it. Hip-Hop was different before The R. As the great Luvbug Starski stated in many cases Hip-Hop was still disco and R&B’s awkward child. You thought Puffy and Mases’s shiny suits were bad, go ahead and Google Afrika Bambattaa and the Soulsonic Force. Native American head dresses, Viking helmets and platform shoes.

That all began to change in the summer of ’86 when among other things Eric B and Rakim dropped “Eric B is President.” “I came in the door/ I said it before…” is perhaps the most recognizable opening line in Hip-Hop. The B-side to that first twelve inch was “My Melody” and was equally monumental. There was nowhere you could go in New York that summer without hearing one of the Marley Marl produced songs. (Sort of like today and “Chicken Noodle Soup”).

It took the duo a year to work out a deal with Harlem based Zakia Records and the slightly larger 4th and Broadway Records for distribution. The year lay off had people fiending for the god. Hence the line “It’s been a long time, sorry I left you” from You Know I Got Soul. And with that line Rakim brought the revolution. From “I Ain’t No Joke” where Ra declared “write a rhyme in graffiti and/every show you see me in/ deep concentration because I am no comedian,” the role of the MC changed. Similar to Miles Davis, Rakim was not here to entertain. Not here to smile or dance. Rakim was simply here to let you experience the full weight of his talent. The importance of this change cannot be underestimated. Rakim was about his craft and not about showmanship. His dedication to the art and culture of Hip-Hop inspired millions. As opposed to the sophomoric Fresh Prince Rakim was a pure writer, the MC’s MC.

Rakim was also the first MC to wear his affiliation with the Nation of the Gods and Earths aka the 5 Percent Nation on his sleeve. “Paid In Full” is filled with Supreme Mathematics lessons and the community development aspect of the Nation seemingly drove every lyric. Now the 5 Percent lexicon is so ubiquitous you don’t even realize it.

Before I go too far Paid In Full’s beats cannot be overlooked. The entire album was composed and produced by the legendary Marley Marl who in 1987 was at the top of his game. In the same time frame he was working on Kool G Rap and DJ Polo’s Road To The Riches and was in the middle of the BDP conflict. The two were introduced by Kool G Rap who urged to work with the young kid from Long Island with the hot demo. Marley’s use of James Brown samples also opened the flood gates to producers from Nostrand Ave to Crenshaw Blvd. Additionally this was one of the album’s that introduced the concept of sampling and looping to a large audience. In an interview on Prince Paul’s “Ill Out Show” Juice Crew member Masta Ace remarked that working with Marley during this time was an artistic stretch. People just were not sampling records yet. James Brown and his publishing company should be very thankful.

From “Move The Crowd” to the weak link “Chinese Arithmetic” this must be the cornerstone of any collection. I mean even the artwork is fresh. Dapper Dan Gucci jackets. Fat gold ropes (where do you think Pharell got the idea), tri-level parts in the hair all the way down to the fat money stacks in Eric and Ra’s hands. So fresh.

All hail the god.


Blogger ian said...

Speak on it, son. Not to sound like the proverbial old man who says everything was better back in the day but sometimes these younger dunnies forget and need a gentle reminder like this about what's REALLY good. GREAT post, Wes.

September 27, 2006 1:03 AM

Blogger Swifty said...

Thanks man. And thanks for supporting the blog.

You know, I thought you were the Ian we used to work with.

September 27, 2006 9:57 AM

Blogger ian said...

Er... I am the Ian you used to work with, LOL.

October 04, 2006 3:28 PM

Anonymous burger said...

One of my favorite records "Taking off my coat, clearing my throat" I owned 2 cassettes and 2 cd's, still drop a couple of songs when I DJ...

October 05, 2006 3:21 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought it was "It's been a long time, I shouldn't left you."

And I belive Marley just produced My Melody/Eric B. is President, not the entire album.

The J

October 05, 2006 1:47 PM

Blogger Swifty said...

You know, I have heard different stories about that.

Be good to talk someone who was there. Get it first hand.

Something ain't right cuz no one but Eric and Ra get production credit. Maybe Marley just helped and didn't do enough to get full credit or partial credit. And people like me latch on to it because it makes for a better story.

October 05, 2006 1:53 PM

Blogger Swifty said...

and J you are right on the quote. Thanks for catching that.

not sure where i got that from

October 05, 2006 1:55 PM


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