.
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
    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

    “American Girl”

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

    It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com