Eric B. & Rakim Changed The Game 30 Years Ago With Paid In Full

On this day in 1987 perhaps the most groundbreaking record in Hip-Hop history, Paid in Full, was released by Eric B. & Rakim on 4th and B’way Records. The album would peak at 58 on the Billboard 200 chart, producing five singles that are still among the most celebrated rap songs of all time: Eric B. is President, I Ain’t No Joke, I Know You Got Soul, Move the Crowd, and the album’s title cut Paid in Full.

Eric B. & Rakim – Eric B. Is President (Original 12″ Version)

Eric B. & Rakim – Eric B. Is President (Original 12″ Version) First single from this classic Hip-Hop duo released in 1986.

Then, as is still the case today, it’s very rare for a rap album to release five singles.

Most Hip-Hop fans who grew up in that era can still recite the aforementioned songs verbatim.  Now that’s what you call influence. Filled with funky samples from the ’70s, James Brown in particular, scratching and breakbeats that would literally have the crowd moving to the beat, “Paid in Full” would change the game.

Eric B. & Rakim – I Ain’t No Joke

Music video by Eric B. & Rakim performing I Ain’t No Joke. (C) 1987 The Island Def Jam Music Group

Although the beats were like sweets to a pudgy kid with rotten teeth, it was Rakim’s flow that was the catalyst for their ascension. His cadence was so steady, his ability to ride the rhythm was legendary and his ability to place a rhyme within a rhyme elevated the game of lyricism and emceeing like no other artist before or since.

Before Rakim, the overwhelming majority of rappers were very simplistic with their flow, not unlike a Dr. Suess riddle. For completely changing lyricism via his writing style, some consider Rakim as one of the greatest writers the genre has ever seen.

Eric B. & Rakim – I Know You Got Soul ( 1987 )

Eric B. & Rakim ” I Know You Got Soul ” LP : Paid In Full ( 1987 ) 4TH B’Way TM / Island Records

Today, when you hear old school heads wax and wane about not being able to hear or understand the often inaudible flows of some modern day popular rappers, it is Rakim who they’re comparing the latter generation to. In that regard, most will always come up short.

Not only could Rakim rock the mic without peer, but his varied subject matter drew fans from across the social spectrum.  Laced with 120 lessons of the Five Percent Nation, party cuts, and street knowledge, Paid in Full would simmer and smolder on Soundscan for nearly a decade before being granted a platinum plaque in 1995.

Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full

Music video by Eric B. & Rakim performing Paid In Full. (C) 1987 UMG Recordings, Inc.

To top it all off, “Paid in Full” was listed among Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums of all time list.


1. “I Ain’t No Joke” 3:54
2. “Eric B. Is on the Cut” 3:48
3. “My Melody” 6:46
4. “I Know You Got Soul” 4:46
5. “Move the Crowd” 3:49
6. “Paid in Full” 3:50
7. “As the Rhyme Goes On” 4:00
8. “Chinese Arithmetic” 4:07
9. “Eric B. Is President” 6:20
10. “Extended Beat”
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