To say Eric B. and Rakim were just pioneers on their second album Follow The Leader, would be unjust and would not represent what their true contributions hold. Both were at their prime in the revolutionary way they completely altered the story of Hip Hop. Eric B. served as more than a typical DJ who would scratch and use break beats to create platforms for lyrical content. He was able to utilize live instrumentation (they incorporated musician Steve Blass Griffin (Rakim’s brother)) with samples that blended into showpieces that were as unconventional as the gold that glistened on his neck. And Rakim’s knack for creating lyrical monopolies allowed him to use words as weapons and write the manual that prospective emcees would come to live and die by.
- Follow The Leader
- Microphone Fiend
- Lyrics Of Fury
- Eric B. Never Scared
- Just A Beat
- Put Your Hands Together
- To The Listeners
- No Competition
- The R
- Musical Massacre
- Beats For The Listeners
Hip Hop had not witnessed such aggressive sleigh bells with a pestilent beat that set the tone for lyrical supremacy like “Microphone Fiend.” Eric B. constructed a foundation that was exciting and had a bravado that equally matched Rakim’s intimidating lyrics. Rakim revealed his addiction to Hip Hop and the microphone that made for a scintillating story of a true emcee. Not only did he turn the microphone into a lyrical sword, he elaborately boasted about his ability with a vocabulary that was as intelligent as it was forceful.
On the elusive “Lyrics of Fury,” Rakim entered the minds of his adversaries with verses that would create paranoia for any emcee that did not match his finesse. It is almost unreal to witness the breath control Rakim had while he traveled through bar after bar of metaphorical dominance. And Eric B.’s sharp ear allowed him full reign to include more than the typical sounds that were staples for eighties Hip Hop. He incorporated James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” as the premise to match the momentum of a musical massacre that was submerged in conceit and skill while conquering the production boards.
The title track might have also added to the heightened fear that Rakim released on other emcees. The beat alone had an intensity that could have given anyone goose bumps even if they were in Las Vegas at the peak of summer while the verses gave a clear indication that no one could match the radiance of Rakim.
There were no parts of the album that left heads disappointed in which skipping songs became routine. Other solid tracks like “The R” and “Put Your Hands Together” maintained the balance between lyrics and production that made the album classic from beginning to end. Although most do not mention “No Competition” or “Musical Massacre” as their favorites, they still held their own against the other giants on the album that would normally serve as the only decent tracks that most emcees would bank on.
There have not been a lot of rap albums that were parallel in their production and lyrical offerings but Follow The Leader achieved this feat with two of the best behind the boards and the mic. The album was full of authentic samples from the Eagles, Bob Marley to the Blackbyrds and maintained hard hitting beats that Eric B. knew had to be up to par with his partner’s talent. Rakim brought forth his internal rhyming talent that abolished earlier rhyme schemes that made their second effort balanced and satisfying to the Hip Hop soul.
Follow The Leader has become a go to manual for inspiration, tips and memories for emcees, heads and those who do not quite understand this paradox we call Hip Hop. Ultimately what allowed this pairing to create a remarkable album was their vision and ability to broaden the culture to greater pastures alongside their massive egos. Eric B. and Rakim were smart enough to know their limitations and depth and did not apologize for it but rather boasted about it. Instead of trying to wear an infinite amount of hats that would have been saturation at its best, they focused on their area of expertise and mastered the art of Hip Hop like no other.