Eric B. & Rakim: Eric "Eric B." Barrier (turntables); William "Rakim" Griffin (rap vocals).
Producers: Eric B. & Rakim.
Compilation producers: Michael Rosenberg, Dana Smart.
Digitally remastered by Erick Labson (Universal Mastering Studios West, North Hollywood, California).
Photographer: Cesar Vera.
Eric B. & Rakim really didn't have crossover hits, but anybody that paid any attention to hip-hop in the late '80s didn't just know of them, they considered them one of the greatest outfits working. Even in the '90s, Rakim was considered one of the greatest MCs ever to hit the mic, and it's easy to see why -- great voice, unbelievable flow, cutting lyrics. Both Paid in Full and Follow the Leader are widely considered to be pinnacles of hip-hop's golden age, but they never had a full-fledged hits collection until 2001's 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection. Actually, that's not entirely true, since Rakim's solo debut, The 18th Letter, was initially released with a bonus disc containing the group's greatest hits. That collection is more comprehensive than this 11-track overview, but this still gets the job done effectively. Some might complain that "Paid in Full" is included in the British hit Coldcut remix instead of the original, but the basic lay of the land remains the same -- all the major songs (minus "My Melody") are here, and the results are pretty stunning. Both Eric B. and Rakim were visionaries, and while some of the productions may now sound a little dated, years after their initial release the urgency of the performances and freshness of the ideas have not been diluted. This record, as much as any other they released, vividly captures their brilliance. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine