Label: Uni/MCA Records

The R's second microphone clinic with Eric B. in the cut may not have shattered hip-hop’s rulebook in quite the same way that its predecessor, Paid in Full, had just a year earlier. But it actually was more commercially successful—and good enough to be considered one of the best albums in a year (1988) that produced some of rap’s greatest LPs (PE’s It Takes a Nation of Millions...; NWA’s Straight Outta Compton; the Ultramagnetic MC’s Critical Beatdown; The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick, and the list goes on).

Anyone who questions how ahead of the game lyrically Rakim truly was should listen to the first verse of “Microphone Fiend” ASAP. The Suffolk County native invented hashtag rap two whole decades before Twitter even launched: “I was a fiend before I became a teen/Melting microphones instead of cones of ice cream/Music orientated so when hip-hop was originated/Fitted like pieces of puzzles... #Complicated.”