July 26, 2022

Eric B. & Rakim "Follow The Leader" (July 26, 1988)

There's a scene in Spike Lee's latest movie, School Daze, in which a group of college girls are planning their next party. "And none of that awful rap music," declares their leader. "But I like Run DMC," pleads one, subconsciously acknowledging their status as crossover artists supreme. She might just as easily have said Eric B & Rakim. Eric B & Rakim are the Run DMC of their day, the ghetto upstarts turned table rousers, overdressed in customized track suits. On a scale of bragging as art form they rate a unanimous nine out of ten, bejewelling themselves both physically and lyrically with an ornate series of chains, rings and rhymes. Follow The Leader, a recent Sounds single of the week, stands out on its own. A bedevilling combination of The Twilight Zone and just about every insidious '70s bassline that you can't quite shake off. It's brutally impersonal, a vacant lot of sound that is as disturbing as Rakim's menacing rapping. In short, a hard act to follow. That said, Rakim's still up top -- still out on a limb, getting paid and generally setting the trends. The unique, flowing dynamics of his rap only serve to show us just how far behind the rest of the nation's rappers are lagging. In a world where rap goes in cycles, Rakim is the cyclist supreme, easing his way up the hills the others are still stumbling on. The rest of the album is equally exhilarating -- Eric B primes his music with hip House-ish basslines, musical gelignite in his capable hands, while Rakim just chills you to the core with his calculated responses. Along with Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions, Eric B & Rakim are at the forefront of rap's continued musical rebellion. There are no tricks, no powerplays or revolutionary uprising, just a series of irrepressible, unstoppable dance explosions. Bomb the bass and get it on. - Sounds, 1988. Where does it rank in their catalog?

"...Easing his way up the hills the others are still stumbling on." Well said.