While reading some stuff online about when hip hop meant something, i came across this post about the hip hop duo Rakim and the DJ Eric B. and i couldn’t agree more. Rakim is considered as one of the best lyricists in the hip hop industry and without doubt this title is rightfully his. His delivery and style were something new at the time since Rakim’s voice sounded deep and serious, creating thus a synergy with his lyrics which were down to business.
From the entire album there is one song specifically which stands out at the hip hop meant something category and that is “Paid In Full” which was released in 1987, at a time when hip hop was changing and becoming more concerned with the everyday street struggle and poverty of the marginalized black youth. Apart from MARRS’ “Pump up the Volume,” James Brown’s “Hot Pants,” Bob Smith’s “Howdy Doody’s Do’s and Don’ts,” and a Humphrey Bogart line (Wait a minute; you better talk to my mother), the song’s most notable samples-the “Train Sequence” (“This is a journey into sound”) from the LP A Journey Into Stereo Sound (1958) narrated by the British actor Geoffrey Sumner and “Im Nin’Alu” by Israeli singer Ofra Haza-give to their song an ethnic touch and connect two different eras and two different genres.
Lyrically “Paid In Full” points out the strive of a young black to make money fast with limited resources and the artist refers to the struggles of not having that luxury and lacking the basics of accomplishing his goal: “Feeling out of place ‘cause, man do I miss a pen and a paper, a stereo, a tape of, me and Eric B, and a nice big plate of fish, which is my favorite dish, but without no money it’s still a wish”. However he is not standing still and he has a plan to achieve his objective, a plan which requires him to go to the studio and keep recording music.
The song identifies with the difficulties of making money in the land of opportunities, especially when being a part of the black minority where education was not a choice. People had mouths to feed and as a result there had to be a way to make it happen. Some ways required criminal activity and i don’t blame them, since the only opportunities in the American ghettos was crime, but on the other hand hip hop meant something to them, since it gave them the opportunity to be heard and also provided them with a way out of the tough situations.