.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/943f5e7a96fe371f212b59a51a0284a133fc863d.jpg Follow The Leader

Eric B. & Rakim

Follow The Leader

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 3 0
October 20, 1988

On 'Follow the Leader,' Eric B. and Rakim's second album, Rakim (a.k.a. William Griffin) spends too much time trashing other rappers and reasserting his supremacy in the genre. Still, he has a point. Set to a menacing bass throb, spooky special effects and Rakim's rush of rhymes, the title track more than lives up to the high standard set by "Paid in Full," the duo's powerful '87 single. Like "Paid in Full," "Follow the Leader" doesn't leap off the turntable; it builds like a slow burn, powered by Rakim's simmering, lower-register vocals.

Although little else on Follow the Leader matches its hypnotic title track, the album supports Rakim's high view of himself and DJ Eric B. (né Eric Barrier). Rakim, an uncommonly subtle rapper, is capable of a relentless barrage of caustic lines ("I sit back and observe the whole scene/Then nonchalantly tell you what it mean to me") and chilling imagery ("The stage is a cage/The mike is a third rail"). With the help of backup musician Stevie Blass Griffin, Eric B. constructs inventive backing tracks that incorporate funk guitar ("Microphone Fiend"), walls of noise ("Lyrics of Fury"), exotic percussion tracks, synthesizers and saxes. And his switch-blade scratching ("Musical Massacre") will make your head spin.

If Follow the Leader lacks anything, it's lyrical content. With rappers becoming increasingly outspoken (Public Enemy), literate (Boogie Down Productions) and just plain funny (the charming, if lightweight, D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince), Rakim's simple boasts — "No Competition," "Put Your Hands Together," "The R" — get a little wearying. But as he raps in "Follow the Leader," "There's one R in the alphabet/It's a one-letter word and it's about to get/More complicated from one rhyme to the next." If indeed this album is only the beginning, a little excessive bragging might be forgiven.

prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Try a Little Tenderness”

    Otis Redding | 1966

    This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com