Eric B. & Rakim’s Follow The Leader vs. EPMD’s Unfinished Business. What’s Better?

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One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?

“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.

Starting things off, sophomore albums can cement or shroud legacy. In the late 1980s, the iconic emerging artists did not accomplish their legendary stature by one-and-done releases. Instead, it was strings of consecutive greatness that blazed the trail for 30-year careers and counting. With mutual ties to Long Island, New York, self-contained production, and inner-turmoil, Eric B. & Rakim and EPMD share plenty of commonalities. In 1988 and 1989, both entities made incredible music, that influenced and challenged peers. Follow The Leader and Unfinished Business may live in the mainstream shadows of their respective catalogs, but do not bow in the least. Dense rhymes and boombox-friendly beats square off against easygoing charisma, laid-back verses and melodic track construction. What is the greater sum of its parts? Click on one, then click vote.

Voting For This Poll Has Closed. Visit the “Finding The GOAT” page for current ballots.

Follow The Leader by Eric B. & Rakim

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Eric B. & Rakim bulldozed the Hip-Hop landscape care of their 1987 debut, Paid In Full. Advanced e-m-c-e-e‘ing, and quintessential boom-bap scratching and production made a kick-in-the-door introduction. Living up to the anticipation of a sequel was no easy task, but 1988’s Follow The Leader faked no jacks in attempting to raise the bar—for themselves, as well as a culture taking notes.

In the midst of one of Hip-Hop’s benchmark years, this pair of New Yorkers (Queens and Long Island, respectively) produced a statement album, from title to content. Rakim’s elevated rhyme structure reached new ground on “Microphone Fiend,” a song about the craft of rapping that breaks the role down to a scientific level. Follow-up “Lyrics Of Fury” did the same, as Rakim commanded audience far beyond those seeking rap-about-Rap. Rakim’s ability to conversationally deliver complex rhymes with tremendous depth advanced the whole art-form. The group additionally stepped forward in their song arrangement and sound. The title song made the sonic leap with an eruptive charge of low-end bass, as “No Competition” assembled a detailed rhythm to show that Rakim essentially spit at simple 4-4 beats. Rakim exuded an enhanced confidence. No longer concerned with mere getting-to-know-you pleasantries, his raps owned a sense of dominance, as Eric B.’s scratches were malicious, and in-your-face. Eleven tracks deep in its original format, Follow The Leader—like so many follow-up’s, shows a group in the midst of a creative growth spurt. Two sure-handed Rap leaders made an album that snarled at its peers—without naming names. The fact that F.T.L.‘s title remains uncontested in the annals of time and perception speaks to its everlasting impact.

Tracks to consider:

Album Number: 2
Released: July 25, 1988
Label: Uni/MCA Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #22 (certified gold, September 1988)
Song Guests: Stevie “Blass” Griffin (instruments)
Song Producers: (self), Patrick Adams, 45 King (uncredited).

Unfinished Business by EPMD

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They say most new businesses fail within two years. After their grand opening, EPMD’s biz had fast become an institution. Unfinished Business followed up 1988’s Strictly Business, reminding the masses that Erick “E-Double” Sermon and Parrish “PMD” Smith were not playing. Album number two maintained the flow of a strong professional (and personal) bond between the two MC/producers. No longer rookies, the Brentwood, Long Island pair seemed to own their newfound status as giants. Cool and confident, the battery showed a ton of range. “Get The Bozack” bum-rushed the scene with an arrogant message to peers, with a ton of charm and whimsical rhyme schemes. Throughout the LP, it is the synergy that made EPMD so captivating. Like the mass-innovators five years early, E and P recognized that working in tandem would project a fuller listening experience. “Knick Knack Patty Wack” would be 1989’s equivalent to “Peter Piper,” as “So Wat Cha Sayin’?” built upon an old rhyme routine with an energy and grit totally different than the pioneering MC acts.

Although elite MCs in charisma and quotability, production truly may be EPMD’s superlative. While Dr. Dre is often credited with injecting melody in Rap music, Erick and Parrish were doing it as well. “Please Listen To My Demo” is indicative of this quality, placed on album that featured drum programming and sample sources that sound far more contemporary than when released. The duo’s sound library stood superior to so many peers. The aquatic Funk of “Strictly Snappin’ Necks,” the pounding percussion of “Jane II,” and the layering of “It Wasn’t Me, It Was The Fame” rewarded the risks. Complete with their lethal mixmaster addition care of DJ Scratch, EPMD’s late 1980s presence was a rare intersection of arguably Rap’s best group, with its best producers. Completely independent, at a distance from Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens’ stronghold, Unfinished Business boomed—as the two brothers in fisherman’s hats courageously stepped into the Rap shark tank.

Tracks to consider:

Album Number: 2
Released: July 18, 1989
Label: Fresh/Sleeping Bag Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #53 (certified gold, October 1989)
Song Guests: K-Solo, DJ Scratch
Song Producers: (self), Frank B.

So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.

Related: What’s the Greatest Hip-Hop Album of All-Time? You Decide. Finding the GOAT: Album Begins.