Click to return to Dave’s Music Database home page.

Released: July 7, 1987

Rating: 4.600 (average of 5 ratings)

Genre: rap

Quotable: “Essential listening for anyone even remotely interested in the basic musical foundations of hip-hop.” – Steve Huey, All Music Guide

Album Tracks:

  1. I Ain’t No Joke
  2. Eric B. Is on the Cut
  3. My Melody
  4. I Know You Got Soul
  5. Move the Crowd
  6. Paid in Full
  7. As the Rhyme Goes On
  8. Chinese Arithmetic
  9. Eric B. Is President
  10. Extended Beat

Sales (in millions):

sales in U.S. only 1.0
sales in U.K. only - estimated --
sales in all of Europe as determined by IFPI – click here to go to their site. --
sales worldwide - estimated 1.0


peak on U.S. Billboard album chart 58
peak on U.K. album chart --

Singles/Hit Songs:

  • Eric B. Is President (10/4/86) #48 RB
  • I Know You Got Soul (5/30/87) #64 RB, #13 UK
  • I Ain’t No Joke (10/3/87) #38 RB
  • Paid in Full (11/7/87) #65 RB, #15 UK
  • Move the Crowd (2/20/88) #53 UK


Rated one of the top 1000 albums of all time by Dave’s Music Database. Click to learn more. Spin Magazine’s 100 Greatest Albums One of Time Magazine’s All-TIME 100 Albums.

Paid in Full
Eric B. & Rakim
Paid in Full is considered “one of the most influential rap albums of all time;” SH in fact, MTV ranked it #1 in its countdown of the greatest hip-hop albums. WK Indeed, it is “a benchmark album of golden age hip hop” WK and “continues to grow in stature as the record that ushered in hip-hop’s modern era.” SH Eric B. and Rakim “changed the sound, flow, and potential of hip-hop.” TL

The album really “marked the beginning of heavy sampling in hip hop records” WK with “gritty, heavy, and dark beats.” WK “As a disc jockey, Eric B. had reinstated the art of live turntable mixing. His soul-filled sampling became influential in future hip hop production.” WK

“Over Eric B’s pulsing, minimalist tracks…Rakim constructed icy, menacing rhymes of steel.” TL “If Rakim is still the greatest MC of all time, as many argue, this album is the evidence.” TL “The stripped-down production might seem a little bare to modern ears, but Rakim’s technique on the mic still sounds utterly contemporary, even state-of-the-art – and that from a record released…just one year after Run-D.M.C. hit the mainstream.” SH He “set a higher standard of lyricism in the genre and served as a template for future rappers” WK by essentially inventing “modern lyrical technique…with his complex internal rhymes, literate imagery, velvet-smooth flow, and unpredictable, off-the-beat rhythms.” SH In regards to the latter, “his relaxed delivery resulted from his jazz influences; he had played the saxophone and was a John Coltrane fan.” WK “His free-rhythm style…[has] earned comparisons to Thelonious Monk.” WK

For such a groundbreaking album, it was made quickly. The pair met in 1985 when Eric B. was seeking out a rapper “to complement his turntable work at the WBLS radio station in New York City. After Rakim responded to Eric B.’s search for ‘New York’s top MC’, Rakim's friend and roommate Marley Marl allowed him to use his home studio. The first track they recorded – Eric B. Is President – was released as a single on the independent Zakia Records in 1986.” WK The duo were later signed to Island Records after Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons heard the song. Then, in early 1987, they started recording their debut album. WK “Rakim wrote his songs in approximately one hour while listening to the beat. He then recorded his vocals in the booth by reading his lyrics from a paper.” WK “In a 2008 interview with AllHipHop, Eric B. stated, ‘[T]o sit here and say we put together this calculated album to be a great album would be a lie. We were just doing records that felt good.’” WK

“The key cuts here are some of the most legendary rap singles ever released.” SH The aforementioned “Eric B. Is President” was called “the most danceable hip-hop recording” of 1986 by PopMatters’ Mark Anthony Neal WK and The New York Times Toure called it “a rap classic.” WK The song also “sparked debate on the legality of unauthorized sampling when James Brown sued to prevent the duo’s use of his music.” WK

Elsewhere, “I Ain’t No Joke [is] a stunning display of lyrical virtuosity” SH which has been called one of the album’s “monumental singles.” WK I Know You Got Soul “popularized James Brown samples in hip hop songs” WK and was memorably sampled itself with M/A/R/R/S’ song “Pump Up the Volume.” WK

“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.” TL

The latter song “planted the seeds of hip-hop’s material obsessions over a monumental beat” SH while ‘I Know You Got Soul’ “single-handedly kicked off hip-hop’s infatuation with James Brown samples.” SH “There are also three DJ showcases for Eric B., who like Rakim was among the technical leaders in his field.” SH

“If sampling is the sincerest form of admiration in hip-hop, Paid in Full is positively worshipped. Just to name a few: Rakim’s tossed-off ‘pump up the volume,’ from ‘I Know You Got Soul,’ became the basis for M/A/R/R/S’ groundbreaking dance track; Eminem, a devoted Rakim student, lifted lines from As the Rhyme Goes On for the chorus of his own ‘The Way I Am’; and the percussion track of ‘Paid in Full’ has been sampled so many times it's almost impossible to believe it had a point of origin.” SH

This “relentless debut” TL “is essential listening for anyone even remotely interested in the basic musical foundations of hip-hop – this is the form in its purest essence.” SH

Review Source(s):

Eric B. Is President (live on Yo! MTV Raps)

I Know You Got Soul

I Ain’t No Joke

Paid in Full

Move the Crowd

Click on box above to check out the DMDB on Facebook.

Last updated January 28, 2011.