Eric B. & Rakim’s Paid In Full vs. Outkast’s Aquemini. Which Is Better?

Last September, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: what is the greatest Rap Album Of All-Time? “Finding The GOAT Album” has considered more than 120 albums from the 80s, 90s and 2000s (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. Now that you and your vote have decided the Sweet 16 bracket, things have gotten really interesting.

In terms of iconic Hip-Hop duo’s, Eric B. & Rakim and Outkast are two of the greatest. These 1980s and 1990s respective pairings each have one album (of multiple) remaining in the bracket. Paid In Full elevated the lyricism and production of the genre in 1987, as well as what MCs spoke about, and how they dressed. Eleven years later, Aquemini did the same—with its own advancements in rhyme delivery, back-to-the-future production, and the pioneering style. These are two forward-thinking albums that exemplified the creativity in the art-form. Both LPs have defeated some hefty competition to get this far, and this showdown will likely draw lots of votes and even more discussion. Only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click (Click one then click “vote”).


Paid In Full by Eric B. & Rakim

In mid-1987, Eric B. & Rakim changed the Hip-Hop landscape seismically through their Paid In Full debut. In an era when single syllabic rhymes in 4-4 time were still commonplace, Rakim stepped forth with a complex, but seemingly effortless flow. The Long Island, New York MC took on topics from his DJ, to his financial status, to his skyrocketing career, and made instant-certified dope. Calm and seemingly unaffected, Rakim was an entirely different MC than Run-D.M.C, Boogie Down Productions, or LL Cool J. However, he packed the same A-level of confidence. Meanwhile, DJ Eric B. (with reported help from Ra’ and Marley Marl) laced an album that took ’60s and ’70s records and seamlessly wove them against Rakim’s rhymes. “I Know You Got You Soul” pipe-lined the excitement of James Brown into the late ’80s, with a raw freshness. “I Ain’t No Joke” combined hard, panned drums with horn riffs—bridged together with scratching. Although the duo was using emerging technology, their organic rawness made the universe their studio.

While Eric B. & Rakim knew how to travel backwards musically, they were also trailblazing. “Paid In Full” used drums as effectively as any song in its day, while Rakim took listeners on a journey, accented by effects under Eric. “My Melody” relied on synth-and-scratch in a way that bridged the gap between Hip-Hop, Pop, and New Wave. An eventual platinum album, this 10-track effort was a capsule of soulful Hip-Hop for 1987. Moreover, this LP all but closed the book on new MCs using simple rhymes and metronome flows. As LL Cool J, KRS-One, Kool Moe Dee, Run, DMC, and others wielded supreme status as MCs, Rakim instantly threw his hat in the ring. “Eric is president,” but Ra’ stood tall as crowd commander-in-chief.

Album Number: 1
Released: August 25, 1987
Label: 4th & B’way/Island Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #58 (certified gold, December 1987, certified platinum, July 1995)
Song Guests: N/A
Song Producers: (self), Marley Marl


Aquemini by OutKast

OutKast (as they were still stylized at the time) carried an infallible reputation into their third album. For a group that had helped make the South a destination for lyric-seekers in the 1990s, Big Boi and Andre 3000 appeared to be marginalized from the emerging mainstream movements of No Limit, So So Def, and Cash Money. However, with Aquemini, they sought little outside support—especially from those “face down in the mainstream.” Instead, the pair kept the circle tight, and welcomed a bevy of session players into the Bobby Brown’s Bosstown Studios—which during the LP would become their privately-owned Stankonia. Upon exiting the lab, Outkast had another galactic gestalt of message-Funk stuffed with rhythms and flows that could not be replicated. Moreover, ‘Kast put their finest “F.U.B.U.” feet forward in this LP’s singles. “Rosa Parks” took the Civil Rights Movement’s inciting incident and illustrated how “the back of the bus” was actually where those in power wish to be. The fast-paced single broke from the a la carte offerings of the previous two albums, but maintained the confident, socially-applicable premise, and brilliant Rap commentary. Follow-up single (and next track on the album) “Skew It On The Bar-B” welcomed Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon for an effort that made a Dominique Wilkins-era dunk contest out of flow and cadence. In an era of catch-phrase-driven, unapologetically dumbed-down Rap, Big and ‘Dre were fearlessly inventive. In slang, style, and presentation, this duo had Hip-Hop’s original tenants in mind.

At a time when Rap albums were seemingly seeking judgement based on video singles alone, Aquemini demanded to be looked at as a total sum of its parts. Deep cuts like “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” stretched a brassy groove, with razor sharp rhymes about reality, and lifestyle shifts. On the album closer, “Chonky Fire,” guitars charged a sinister Stankonia seance—complete with an effortlessly human chorus to match the message. In Outkast’s final effort with Organized Noize and Mr. DJ taking on heavy production duties, Aquemini may be the group’s best marriage of rhymes and beats. Big Boi was a lyrical Barry Sanders, bolting up the field with his nimble flow and trademark cadence. Andre 3000 stuck-and-moved with imagery, wisdom, and lines that prove to be Rap-relevant 17 years later. No longer was ‘Kast playing with a geographic inferiority complex. By the third album, these two impresarios knew they were at the top of the skill totem pole. With that confidence and creativity, Aquemini laid out the zodiac to determine what was best for Hip-Hop’s future, and how shiny suits, Italian roadsters, and tanks were merely distractions.

Album Number: 3
Released: September 29, 1998
Label: LaFace Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #2 (certified gold, November 1998; certified platinum, November 1998; certified 2x platinum, July 1999)
Song Guests: Raekwon, George Clinton, Erykah Badu, Big Gipp, Cee-Lo, Khujo, T-Mo, Joi, Sleepy Brown, Cool Breeze, Witchdoctor, Big Rube, Mr. DJ, The Four Phonics, Lil Will, Delvida Flaherty, Supa Nate, 4.0, CJ Jones, Jamahr Williams, Whild Peach, The South Central Chamber Orchestra, Marvin “Chanz” Parkman, Victor Alexander, Omar Phillips, Darian Emory, LaMarquis Mark Jefferson, Skinny Miracles, Kenneth Wright, Craig Love, Tomi Martin, Martin Terry, Jim Sitterly, Jermaine Smith, Debra Killings, Jim Smith
Song Producers: (self), Organized Noize, Mr. DJ