Craft a record iconic enough and, no matter what you’ve sampled to make it, you’re destined to be sampled more yourself.
It helps if you’ve got Rakim’s voice, of course. When he and Eric B went into Power Play Studios in New York in 1987 to record ‘I Ain’t No Joke’, their next move was highly anticipated due to the critical success of the duo’s first record, ‘Eric B. Is President’. Rakim was already seen as a masterful MC with a distinctive slow, baritone flow and seamless access to a rich vein of words not often heard in hip-hop.
People’s first exposure to this track was on the landmark ‘Paid in Full’ album, and it was clear this had the potential to jump off as a single. The repetitive, simply scratched sample of ‘Pass the Peas’ by the JB’s was an infectious ear worm that needed a truly strong MC to stand up to it. He did more than that – here Rakim spun timeless lyrics and lines that would go on to be sampled and referred to dozens of times down through hip-hop history. He took one of rap’s great instrumentals and wrestled it to the floor.
Of course, you can’t have Eric B & Rakim without Eric B. The DJ gets his time to shine on the flip, and while he isn’t a man renowned for his dexterity and turntablist skills, the track still knocks. Maybe it’s because Eric B has already realised what many would come to work out later: If you haven’t got Rakim on your record, at least scratch his vocals. This re-release comes with a brand new cover utilising some of Dan Lish’s trademark artwork.