Paid In Full: The Real Story

Thinkin' of a master plan..... Many rappers developed their technique through improvisation, Rakim is/was one of the first to demonstrate a writerly style, along with pioneering the use of internal rhyme. Rakim aka William Michael Griffin Jr aka 1/2 of Hip Hop's most influential duo, Eric B. & Rakim, was born in Wyandanch, New York on January 28, 1968. With a musically inclined background, his aunt was Ruth Brown, an American R&B singer and actress.
Rakim became involved in the Hip Hop scene when he was fresh out of high school. Right after he responded to Eric B.'s search for "New York's Top MC", his friend and roommate, Marley Marl, allowed him to use his home studio.

The first track they recorded Eric B. Is President, which was released as a single on the independent Zakia Records in 1986. At the time Rakim was  on his way to college, but he decided to bypass institutional teachings to pursue his career with his partner in crime, Eric B.  Here is one ironic fact, Rakim wasn't even the name he started out with. In fact, he was called Kid Wizard before he was introduced to the Nation of Islam in 1986 and joined The Nation of Gods and Earths (also known as the 5 Percent Nation). As Rakim gained supreme knowledge and wisdom, he took on the name Rakim Allah.

After Rush Management/ Def Jam Recordings' CEO, Russell Simmons heard the cut, the duo were signed and began recording Paid In Full in Manhattan's Power Play Studios in early 1987.  A couple months afterwards, the duo released their debut album on the Island-subsidiary label 4th & B'way Records.  The album peaked at #58 on the Billboard 200 Chart and produced five singles: Eric B. Is President, I Ain't No JokeI Know You Got SoulMove the Crowd, and the cover song Paid in Full.

Following Up Paid In FullFollow the Leader was the duo's second studio album released July 25, 1988 on MCA-subsidiary label Uni Records. The album was produced, arranged, and composed by the duo, with additional contributions from Rakim's brother Stevie Blass Griffin.  This album performed better on music charts than Eric B. & Rakim's debut album and reached #22 on the U.S. Billboard Pop Albums Chart. It made certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipments in excess of 500,000 copies in the United States was well received by critics and has since been recognized by music writers as one of the most groundbreaking and influential hip hop albums of all time. This masterpiece saw Rakim at his most lyrically fierce, issuing deft and def threats on such tracks as Microphone Fiend, Lyrics of Fury, and the nearly felonious No Competition. The release marked the high point in the collaboration between the two and prefaced the long slide they experienced in the 90s.

Eric B & Rakim's third album, Let the Rhythm Hit ’Em released in 1990 demonstrated how the group's sound develops further, with Rakim adopting a deeper, more aggressive tone of voice, and more mature and serious subject matters. The production work on this classic ranged from smoother soulful tracks such as In the Ghetto to the hard-edge assault of the title track Let the Rhythm Hit ’Em.  The album is one of a few that have received a "five-mic" rating when it was reviewed in The Source during this timeframe. In 1998, this album was selected as one of the 100th Best Rap Albums in The Source Magazine. The back cover features a dedication to the memories of Rakim's father William and producer Paul C., who had worked on many of the album's tracks before his murder in July 1989. Due to this tragedy, his protégé Large Professor chose to finish and complete the project.

The fourth album from Eric B. & Rakim, Don't Sweat the Technique was released in 1992 which would be their last album together.  Singles such as Casualties of War contains some of Rakim's most political lyrics.

Know the Ledge first appeared in the film Juice under the title "Juice (Know the Ledge)". Shortly after this matter, Eric B. refused to sign the label's release contract, for he knew that Rakim would dropped from the duo. This traumatic event in Hip Hop led to a long and messy court battle involving the two musicians and their former label MCA Records which led to the duo splitting apart completely.

From 1995 through 1996, Rakim ventured off solo and recorded several demos/songs by himself, then he eventually returned to recording The 18th Letter in 1997, which included collabs with DJ Premier and Pete Rock. This release was split into two versions: The first disc included an Eric B. & Rakim Greatest Hits Disc titled The Book of Life. This album was certified gold.

In 1999, Rakim released The Master, which received very good reviews but not like when the duo were in their prime. In 2000, Rakim signed to Aftermath Entertainment and started working on an album tentatively titled Oh, My God. The album underwent numerous changes in artistic direction and personnel and was delayed several times. While working on the album, Rakim made guest appearances on numerous Aftermath projects with Truth Hurts, Jay-Z, and Eminem.

After Rakim left Aftermath Entertainment in 2003, he stated that the reason he departed the label was because of creative differences with Dr. Dre. Rakim metaphorical emphasized how Dr. Dre wanted him to write about killing someone, while Rakim wanted to write about the resurrection of someone. Shortly Afterwards, Rakim signed with DreamWorks Records but the label closed its doors shortly after that which caused him to retreat to his Connecticut estate to work leisurely on music. By not releasing an album since '99, he decided to go on tour in favor of infrequent gigs. Rakim was able to retain the tracks he had made with Dr. Dre, so he announced that he would drop a new studio album, The Seventh Seal in 2006. That album was delayed into 2009 and instead, he followed up with a live album titled The Archive: Live, Lost & Found, in 2008.

The Seventh Seal was finally released on November 17, 2009, after several delays on Rakim's own Ra Records, TVM, and SMC Recordings but it was distributed through Fontana/ Universal Music Group.

Considered a comeback album after a ten-year gap between releases, the album features the two singles: Holy Are You, which was released on July 14, 2009, and Walk These Streets which was released on October 7, 2009. This album featured production from several renowned hip hop artists, including Nottz, Needlz, Jake One, and Nick Wiz. The album sold 12,000 copies in the United States by November 22, 2009, according to SoundScan.

In 2011, Rakim went in and moved the crowd with Paid In Full in its entirety while being backed by The Roots at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City, in honor of the album's 25th anniversary.

In 2012, Rakim announced that both him and Eric B. will be releasing a 25th Anniversary Edition of their 1987 classic album Paid in Full, which will also contain new tracks recorded by Eric B. & Rakim, by the end of this year.  Rakim also announced he would release a new solo album around the same time period. To keep Hip-Hop alive, he also performed at the annual Roots' Picnic in Philadelphia this past June.  Reports from The Detroit Free Press stated that he announced he was in the studio with Pharrell Williams working on the new album set to be released in 2013 also saying the first single will be released before the end of the year. 

In conclusion, some say "Rakim's rhyming deviated from the simple rhyme patterns of early 80's Hip Hop but his free-rhythm style ignored bar lines and had earned comparisons to the musical genus, Thelonious Monk.  Rakim's calm and relaxed delivery resulted from his jazz influences, which he had played the saxophone and was a huge John Coltrane fan.  His subject matter often covered his own rapping skills and lyrical superiority over other rappers.

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