On this day, July 26, in hip-hop history...

Geffen Records
Geffen Records

1988: Eric B. & Rakim solidify their greatness with Follow the Leader, an 11-track LP that typified boom bap excellence.

A follow-up to the duo’s seminal 1987 debut (Paid in Full), Follow the Leader featured an expanded sonic palette from Eric B. and heavier doses of Rakim’s well-honed lyricism. Both qualities are typified by “Microphone Fiend,” a track that finds the Rakim Allah constructing an extended metaphor about his addiction to the microphone. With the height of the crack epidemic serving as the backdrop, comparing himself to a drug addict helped make for an emphatic tune.

“But back to the problem, I got a habit/You can't solve it, silly rabbit/The prescription is a hypertone that's thorough when/I fiend for a microphone like heroin/Soon as the bass kicks, I need a fix/Gimme a stage and a mic and a mix,” spits the rap legend, cruising over a dope sample from Average White Band’s “School Boy Crush.” You can give credit to Eric B. for the dope flip!

As a project densely packed with interesting beats and some of the very best displays of technical rap wizardry hip-hop had seen to that point, Follow the Leader was always going to be successful. Upon its release, critics praised Rakim's deft craftsmanship and Eric B.'s willingness to expand his sound.

Commercially speaking, Follow the Leader more than held its own Although the project didn’t reach the commercial highs of Paid in Full, it was certified gold just a few months after its release. With a combination of strong sales and universal acclaim, Follow the Leader remains one of the most beloved rap albums in history.

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