At this point, it's almost cliche to talk about the way that Paid in Full completely changed rap music. Paid in Full put a permanent stamp on Hip-Hop, ushering in a directional shift in the genre, and raising the bar for what it was and could be.
Unlike so many things associated with Hip-Hop, Rakim and Eric B.'s influence on rap music isn't up for debate. Paid in Full's place is embedded in rap's DNA at this point, a starting and ending point for discussions about lyricism, content, and influence. We've gathered some of Hip-Hop's best to offer their thoughts on the way the album influenced them, and Hip-Hop at large.
"In terms of emceeing, Rakim? He's the Alpha and Omega. He's very much like a Richard Pryor, or like a J. Dilla in the sense that it's so hard to explain his importance to people who didn't know a world before him. Like, after 'Paid In Full' hit, it was just like, 'Bro, that's it.' Rakim was just a one-of-one. It's just how singular he was. That nasally voice, him using internal rhymes ... Like, a nigga rappin' for five minutes straight? Like what? He didn't really have hooks. Like, if you ask people to sing the hook of 'Paid in Full' they don't sing, 'Because I'm paid in full.' They don't say that, right? Niggas gonna run back the whole: 'Thinkin of a master plan...' Like, you knew the whole record. Whenever people talk about top five MCs or whatever, you know, you can debate it, you can argue it a lot of different ways. But for me, Rakim will always sit at number one. Without a Rakim, you don't get a Nas, you don't get a Jay, you don't get a Snoop. Before him, rappers had to be these big kind of personalities. And he was just like, "Fuck that shit. I'm giving you all these bars, and nigga that's it."
- Phonte of Little Brother
"'Paid in Full' allowed me to understand that the Hip-Hop culture was a true culture for the future. It aligned all of the knowledge we learned in the West End area of Atlanta. The sound of Intelligent Black youth."
- Ray Murray of Organized Noize
"Rakim made it okay to be way, way, way nicer than everybody else. Eric B. coming out of Elmhurst! Made us all proud! 'I Ain't No Joke' is as timeless a classic as there will ever be. Can't hear it without feeling cool. Impossible."
- Homeboy Sandman
"The hottest record of the summer '86 was 'Eric B. for President'/'My Melody' and also 'South Bronx.' Those records right there changed the whole everything ... The DJ played a new record by Eric B. and Rakim called 'I Know You Got Soul,' and me and Hank [Shock Lee] looked at each other ... The DJ played the shit like five times, and each time he played [it], I swear it got better and better. Me and Hank left like, 'That's the greatest record I've ever heard in my fucking life, man.'"
- Chuck D as told to Jay Quan
"I didn’t hear 'Paid In Full' until a couple of years after its release — I was seven when it came out. What I do remember as I began my journey into discovering music was that I had never heard anyone express themselves via rhymes like Rakim. The structure, the rhyme schemes, the clarity, and no profanity. Rakim helped usher Hip-Hop from party rocking to Hip-Hop with substance."
- Rapper Big Pooh of Little Brother