Rakim Ranks No.21 on XXL’s First 5 List

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  • 1. <em>Paid in Full</em> (1987)
    1. <em>Paid in Full</em> (1987)
    <b>Label:</b> 4th & B’way/Island<p><b>Release Date:</b> July 7, 1987</p><p>Clocking in at just over 45 minutes, <em>Paid In Full</em> was an exercise in both brevity (take note, current MCs) and excellence. Arguably the magnum opus of hip-hop’s Golden Age, young William Griffin and Eric Barrier combined to deliver a project that was menacing (“I Ain’t No Joke”), thrilling (“Eric B. Is President”) and enlightening (“I Know You Got Soul”). Gone were the influences that dominated rap music at the time, including start-and-stop rhyme patterns, shouted deliveries and rock and electronic production. The pair eschewed the trappings of the day to instead introduce the streez of tomorrow.</p>
  • 2. <em>Paid In Full</em> (1988)
    2. <em>Paid In Full</em> (1988)
    <b>Label:</b> MCA Records<p><b>Release Date:</b> July 25, 1988</p><p>Barely 12 months past before Rakim returned, re-charged with verbosity, as evident on the aptly titled “Microphone Fiend.” Paired with Eric B.’s maturing production, Rakim continued to display his flair for lyricism. But the Strong Island product stressed enunciation and emphasized phrases more throughout the pair’s sophomore effort, evincing an element that would influence a crop of MCs. Overall, this follow up was anything but second fiddle; in the years that passed since its release, critics have made claims that <em>Leader</em> is ahead of the pack.</p>
  • 3. <em>Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em</em> (1990)
    3. <em>Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em</em> (1990)
    <b>Label:</b> MCA Records<p><b>Release Date:</b> May 22, 1990</p><p>Eric B. and Rakim’s third effort features the pair effusing a darker sound and more mature subject matter. “Mahogany,” is a virtuoso story-telling track, meanwhile “In the Ghetto,”  finds Rakim spitting concrete-hard rhymes about his New York background and the title-track is pulsating and paranoid in production, as Ra fires off his measured rhymes. Although this album didn’t produce noteworthy standouts in the same vein as its predecessors, the body of work was hailed as a classic and noted for its supreme cohesion.</p>
  • 4. <em>Don't Sweat The Technique</em> (1992)
    4. <em>Don't Sweat The Technique</em> (1992)
    <b>Label:</b> MCA Records<p><b>Release Date:</b> June 23, 1992</p><p>The fourth and final Eric B. & Rakim project continued to build upon their proven formula: Eric B.’s funky production and Rakim’s weighty lyricism. This set featured the jazzy title track and the thrilling <em>Juice</em> soundtrack selection, “Know the Ledge,” but “Casualties of War” was a standout, as Ra exercised a more political voice. <em>Technique</em> received positive reviews, but some grumbled that the dynamic duo were losing their touch, as they stayed a tad too close to their tried-and-true process. Still, the LP is a fitting cap to one of the most successful partnerships in hip-hop history.</p>
  • 5. The 18th Letter (1997)
    5. The 18th Letter (1997)
    <b>Label:</b> Universal Records<p><b>Release Date:</b> November 4, 1997</p><p>Five years after parting ways with his production partner, Eric B., Rakim returned surrounded by a who’s who of underground talent, including DJ Premier, DJ Clark Kent and Pete Rock. Over their soundscapes, Ra sounded rejuvenated and his beyond-his-years rhymes were as fruitful as ever. “Guess Who’s Back,” the title track and “It’s Been a Long Time” were imbued with the rapper’s Five Percent Nation (now, Nation of Gods and Earths) lingo and teachings. Wily, crafty and respected as an MC, this set was widely acknowledged as a success and further cemented the rapper's place in the great MC pantheon of hip-hop. </p>

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  • MassAppeal

    there are no 20 mc’s/groups with a better first five…two classics, three great albums


      absolutely… something tells me this list is going to be pure heresy

  • mikeb50

    how can you have rakim at 21? this list is terrible. officer ricky ahead of mobb deep, rakim at 21, whats next?


    Rakim should easily be number one, but then again what would you expect when this whole article is based purely on someone’s opinion. Willin to bet Jay Z or wack ass Lil Wayne is number 1.

  • big z

    sorry to say this, friends
    fuck xxl for this bullshit

    you got no shame at all

    this aint no hip hop site no more

    r.i.p xxl !!!

  • http://twitter.com/thaNorthStarMN thaNorthStar.com

    18th letter was dope