Eric B. & Rakim Gets Addicted To The Mic On Follow The Leader | Album Review

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How Classic? 4 of 6

After changing labels from 4th & B'way to Uni Records (a subsidiary of MCA) the duo went into the studio to record the follow up to their legendary debut at Power Play Records in New York City. The production for the album would be helped by both Rakim's brother who played various instruments as well as a “ghost producer” who provided two tracks. In 2007 45 King revealed that he was the producer behind the tracks and revealed that the Microphone Fiend beat was originally intended for Fab Freddy.



Once Eric B. & Rakim released Follow The Leader on July 26, 1988, it quickly went Gold on September 27, 1988. Although it is certified Gold it didn't reach the Platinum status of Paid In Full despite being their best charting album ever at #22.

The album kicks off with the futuristic title track which features a pulsating bass line and ambient sci-fi sounding samples as Rakim drops next-level lyrics like

This is a lifetime mission, vision a prison
Aight, listen
In this journey you're the journal, I'm the journalist
Am I eternal? Or an eternalist?
I'm about to flow long as I can possibly go
Keep you moving 'cause the crowd said so

The music video for Follow The Leader premiered on the very first episode on Yo! MTV Raps on August 6, 1988. It was described as the "first rap video epic and period piece of the new televised world of hip-hop", and the scenes in the video were inspired by the 1987 movie the Untouchables about the mafia during the 1920s and 30s.

Microphone Fiend is the next song on the menu and it's definitely one of Rakim's signature songs with many quotables within. The lyrics utilize drug-addiction metaphors to explain how Rakim became addicted to writing rhymes as a teenager

I was a fiend before I became a teen
I melted microphone instead of cones of ice cream
Music-orientated so when hip-hop was originated
Fitted like pieces of puzzles, complicated

And how he only became more skilled as he progressed, yet his addiction became more serious

The invincible microphone fiend Rakim
Spread the word, 'cause I'm in E-F-F-E-C-T
A smooth operator operating correctly
But back to the problem, I got a habit
You can't solve it, silly rabbit

As he became a professional he told us that he wouldn't stop

Ladies and gentleman, you're about to see
A pastime, hobby about to be
Taken to the maximum, I can't relax see, I'm
Hype as a hypochondriac 'cause the rap be one
Hell of an antidote, something you can't smoke
More than dope, you're trying to move away but you can't, you're broke

Once he established his reputation as the best he lets his competition know that

Any entertainer, I got a torture chamber
One on one and I'm the remainder
So close your eyes and hold your breath
AndI'mma hit ya with the blow of death
Before you go, you'll remember yaseen

The fiend of a microphone, I'm the microphone fiend

Rakim looking fly in the artwork for  Follow The Leader  CD inlay

Rakim looking fly in the artwork for Follow The Leader CD inlay

There are two DJ-only songs on Follow The Leader, or three if we include Beats For The Listeners which is basically the same as To The Listeners minus Rakim's lyrics. The other two DJ-songs undoubtedly lower the rating of the album a little which is unfortunate. It's not that they are bad, Eric B. Never Scared is pretty dope but not when it carries on for over five minutes. Luckily Just A Beat only lasts two minutes but it's not very exciting despite having some cool samples.

Luckily the album has other solid jams, despite some lulls like To The Listener and No Competition and the aforementioned instrumentals, tracks like the synthesizer-based The R and the heavy soul beat of Musical Massacre end the album strong. All in all this album was an improvement production wise over its predecessor Paid In Full. However FTL doesn't fix the flaws of the latter and doesn't feature as many signature songs. 

The back cover from  Follow The Leader  showing the tracklist and some more photos

The back cover from Follow The Leader showing the tracklist and some more photos

How Classic Is Follow The Leader?

CLASSIC: Follow The Leader, Microphone Fiend | GREAT: The R | GOOD: Lyrics Of Fury, Put Your Hands Together, Musical Massacre | OKAY: Eric B. Never Scared, Just A Beat, To The Listeners, No Competition
Alexander Ramalho