This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #398: Paid in Full by Eric B. and Rakim.
“Paid in Full” by Eric B. and Rakim was one of the very first big Hip Hop hits in the 1980s once GrandMater Flash, Afrika Bambaataa and Run-DMC had laid the cultural foundation for this genre. Eric B. was a DJ in New York, Rakim was a young rapper in search of a partner. Together, they recorded some early demos which came to the attention of a man named Russell Simmons. Russell Simmons was head of the fledgling Hip Hop Production Company, “Def Jam Records”. *Simmons is, also, the brother of Joseph Simmons who, as you may remember, was “Reverend Run” from Run-DMC. Simmons signed Eric B. and Rakim to a contract and, from their debut album, “Paid in Full” was released.
“Paid in Full” was one of the first Hip Hop songs that expanded its lyrical message beyond being a mirror to events and emotions present from the local community. Hip Hop was born on street corners and local venues and often spoke to conditions found there. “Paid in Full” paid homage to that, to a point but, it also helped establish an internal dialogue that moved the narrator away from the streets into a fictionalized future. Some point to “Pain in Full” as the beginning of the Hip Hop “Thug Life” culture and, as such, it is a song that holds tremendous importance in the history of Hip Hop.
But, a funny thing happened on the way to “Paid in Full” being released. There are, actually, two versions of it. The first version is the one recorded by Eric B. and Rakim at Def Jam Studios. The second version is a remix by an English DJ-duo called Coldcut. The original version debuted to moderately-successful album sales but, the remix went straight to #1. If you have ever heard a song exhorting you to “Pump Up The Volume! Pump Up The Volume!” then, you have heard the remix of “Paid in Full” (whether you realized that this is what it was or not). The Coldcut remix is credited with being one of the very first mega-successful attempts at remixing an existing song. In the remix, Coldcut used a myriad of sampled voices including everyone from actor Humphrey Bogart, to TV announcer Don Pardo, to an Israeli singer named Ofra Haza. They sampled a variety of beats and brass instruments; looping and extending and repeating them as needed. The remix of “Paid in Full” is called “Seven Minutes of Madness” but, in reality, it is seven minutes of creative excellence. When asked to describe the process by which they were able to blend spoken words and beats and Rakim’s rapping so seamlessly, Coldcut replied that it was the ability to experiment with sounds from songs as they played in Clubs and in their own homes. It reminds me of the importance of “Play” for children and how so much of their creativity is derived from imaginative play.
Anyway, even if Hip Hop isn’t your thing, I am betting that you may have heard snippets of the remix of “Paid in Full” at one time or another. Regardless as to whether you have heard it or not, the song is well worth a listen. The mash-up of sounds is so well done and the message of Rakim’s rapping is such an important cultural touchstone in Hip Hop history. So, prepare to become the cool kid in your circle and have a listen to one of the most influential Hip Hop songs of all time, “Paid in Full” by Eric B. and Rakim, remixed by Coldcut. Enjoy.
A link to the music video for Paid in Full by Eric B. and Rakim, remixed by Coldcut, can be found here.
Eric B. and Rakim have a website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.
Thanks to KEXP for supporting important artists and the music they make. A link to their website can be found here.