Paid in Full: The Platinum Edition

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Only giving three and a half stars to anything associated with the seminal group Eric B. and Rakim could be considered downright hip-hop blasphemy -- especially when we're talking about the duo's groundbreaking debut, Paid in Full. But, as in life, nothing is perfect. This reissue includes the original 10-track CD as well as a second "remix" CD. By itself, Paid in Full is still a classic and stronger than just about any hip hop out now. Raspy voiced emcee Rakim shows his diversity by rapping about everything from tales of a reformed "stick up kid," Islamic-tinged Five Percenter ideologies and uptempo party jams like "I Know You Got Soul." A trendsetter by any means or measure, he proves that a foul mouth isn't prerequisite to being a dope MC and that one doesn't have to live a thug life to enjoy the finer things in life. Significantly, another thing that sets this CD apart from the majority of today's hip-hop music is the predominant presence of the DJ. DJ Eric B.'s name is even given first billing. While many of the finest hip-hop DJs have now been relegated to glorified DAT players (outside of the battle/competition scene), Eric B. integrates James Brown samples with skillful scratching and everyday sounds such as water drops.

Anyone who calls themselves a real hip-hop fan but doesn't own this LP is truly lacking. With rappers such as Nas, Kurupt and even Master P continually paying homage to this duo, the current generation of hip-hop fans needs to do likewise and remember the past heroes. Unfortunately, the second CD doesn't justify the cost of a double CD. Out of the ten "remixes," one is an a cappella mix and three others are essentially instrumentals of tracks from the album. Of the remaining six tracks, only "Seven Minutes of Music-Coldcut Remix of Paid in Full" stands out. And you can still find that on the Colors soundtrack in the discount section of your local music store! Old-school Eric B. and Rakim fans already own the decent stuff on here and newer fans would be better off buying the greatest hits CD or the original LPs.

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