4. Eric B & Rakim "Follow the Leader" (1988)
Producer: Eric B.
Album: Follow The Leader
Label: Uni/MCA Records
Paid In Full had been more a sequence of sterling singles than a proper album so 1988's Follow the Leader was Eric B. & Rakim's first opportunity to make their full-length statement. The opening title song is a demonstration of poise under fire. The beat is a hybrid of a few old jazz and funk samples but its raw burn more resembles acid house. Rakim, of course, reacts to this unconventional backdrop with stone-cold clarity: "Music mix, mellow maintains to make / Melodies for emcees, motivates the breaks / I'm everlasting, I can go on for days and days / With rhyme displays that engrave deep as x-rays." Here he proved himself a professional in the ancient mold: the rougher the conditions, the better he performed. —Sam Sweet