Understanding The Impact Of Paid In Full (1987)

Paid In Full - Inset

There aren’t too many people who would not deem Eric B. & Rakim‘s debut LP Paid In Full a classic album. In 1987, this album set the bar for what a good solid rap album should sound and look like. From the minimalist production to the complex rhymes, to the art direction, everything about Paid In Full is classic.

I could do a book on the impact of the lyrics and music of Paid In Full. Rakim recently wrote a book, Sweat The Technique which covers many of the writings and the process of coming up with Paid In Full.

Paid In Full - Album Cover
Paid In Full - Album Cover

There was something captivating about the small inset picture on the back cover. It’s the first album I remember seeing “the crew” on the back. [The cassette and CD cover was too small to see.] Eric B. and Rakim are surrounded by their boys, dripping in gold who wasn’t the music personnel. Growing up in NYC, there were only a few people who looked like this and they didn’t rap.

After Paid In Full, a few other albums from NYC had a crew shot. However, none were as iconic as Paid In Full. This image represented the most infamous hustlers, rappers & gangsters of the mid-1980s. Looking back, this inset made a statement. WHO MESSING WITH US?

There are no stories, myths, legends or folklore about Eric B. & Rakim ever getting robbed.

Back then I didn’t notice it, but that’s Kool G. Rap alongside Rakim. [Video wasn’t big back then and unless you were in the clubs, you didn’t know what rappers looked like for years. Years later I would learn the original 50 Cent is on the cover. He’s wearing the red Adidas suit.

[Note: Why do we call the original 50 Cent, the original 50 Cent? Shouldn’t we call the rapper 50 Cent the not-so-original 50 Cent?]

R.I.P. Rap

Rap passed away due to Covid-19. Aside from his all Fila outfit complete with matching Fila sneakers, and the traditional pager, he has the most jewelry on. This is important as Cormega summed it up best on Instagram, “During this era, you COULD NOT wear an abundance of jewelry in NY if you weren’t respected. Period.”


Here’s a post from Paula Perry


Here’s a picture of Rap in his later years and Eric B’s daughter, Erica. Sadly, Erica passed away this year as well.


Paid In Full Tracklisting

From Paid In Full To Stillmatic

Could Nas’ Stillmatic be homage to the Paid In Full inset cover? Let me know in the comments.

Paid In Full - Inset
Nas - Stillmatic (Album Cover)