Review Summary: Follow The Leader is Eric B's LSD Baby, but that doesn't stop Rakim's continual mic rocking.
Eric B. & Rakim: Their name rings bells in the ears of hip hop fans across the globe. Who are they? Only the most influential, greatest rap duo of them all, is the response fans will give you. Eric B.’s beats are banging, Rakim is (used to be) one of the best MC’s to ever touch the microphone, truly a beast of a duo. Paid In Full
is everyone’s favorite records, and many rappers even today quote every little line written from that album. With that in mind, it becomes a much fresher and thus much harder to review such an album as Follow The Leader
, Paid In Full
’s younger, crazier brother that was ignored in comparison to his older brother, and yet puts his young siblings to shame. To put it simply, Follow The Leader
is a much different record than Paid In Full
, but it isn’t fair to say that Paid In Full
is entirely the better album.
Follow The Leader
, in comparison to Paid In Full
, is much more weird, eccentric, and at times, quirky in the sound of its production. Paid In Full
, as sonically pleasing as it is, seems quite normal in comparison to Follow The Leader
, which takes its samples from a large diversity of places, whether it’s James Brown, The Eagles, or even someone as obscure as percussionist Coke Escovedo. This works both towards and against Follow The Leader
. The title track illustrates the perfection of Eric B’s experimentation, the blurry bass and old school drums fuse and transcend merely old school rap, rather, “Follow the Leader” is something threatening to your safety. “Lyrics of Fury” takes influence of the rock of Run D.M.C., and makes it something different, with down-toned guitar riffing, submersed atmospheres, and digitalized, distorted vocals. The beats are almost uniformly sparse and diverse, ranging from the James Brown-influenced funk of “Microphone Fiend”, the African drums and unique jazz tendencies of “No Competition”, and the cartoonish bounce of “To the Listeners”.
But if Follow The Leader
is a brother to Paid In Full
, what do they even have in common at all? Between them, it at first seems like nothing, but then it becomes clear because they are completely the same person when it comes to looks. And Rakim, is the sweet looks, as his style remains all too intact in Paid In Full
. His flow becomes more hungry on the opening tracks, but it becomes clear that he is the same MC he ever was. Follow The Leader
is full of quotables, particularly from its title track (“Follow me into a solo, get in the flow/you could picture like a photo”), that show that Rakim is a perfectly well-rounded MC, mixing simple yet clever punchlines with wondrous imagery; but most of the time giving us a clear-headed image of an MC who just wants to rip the microphone like a phone book.
Other than a couple of foolish mistakes (an instrumental of the “To The Listeners”? really?) and the lackluster Eric B. solo trip “Eric B. Never Scared”, a pretentious anthem to himself that elapses on itself and never seems to dig itself out of the hole, Follow The Leader
is a successful experiment. Even the most experimental tracks have a certain bounce and groove only Eric B. could provide, and Rakim, as usual, rips it up with his ever punchy and consistent flow and to-the-point lyrics. Follow The Leader
isn’t quite it’s perfect older brother, but it’s achievement in the fact that Eric B. & Rakim managed to follow up their classic debut with an album almost as good. An excellent record indeed.