Eric B. & Rakim’s Paid In Full vs. Run-D.M.C.’s Raising Hell. Which Is Better?

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.

In the realm of pre-1988 Hip-Hop albums, Eric B. & Rakim’s Paid In Full and Run-D.M.C.’s Raising Hell are undisputed master works. The two groups emerged less than 30 miles apart, and took Rap music by storm. For Eric Barrier and Ra’, their debut was a flashy examination of lush lifestyles, coupled with dense lyricism and futuristic beats. Run, D.M.C., and Jam Master Jay waxed a popped-blue collar aesthetic in their approach—talking about everyday themes with exceptional deliveries, scratching, and woofer-wobbling boom-bap. These platinum-plus works generated interest from the Rock & Roll community, as well as the Dance Pop world for their far-reaching musicality, and grabbing vocals. Revered as classics almost 30 years later, these albums battle it out just like they would in an ’87 Rap debate. So, “which one you got?” 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


Raising Hell by Run-D.M.C.

For as much as Run-D.M.C. raised the stakes on excitement and immediate star power care of their 1984 self-titled debut, third album Raising Hell seems to mean way more. On ’85’s King Of Rock, Run, D.M.C. and Jam Master Jay seemingly slumped compared to their breakout energy, originality, and grit on their debut LP. Raising Hell firmly re-established them as a force with which to be reckoned. The triple-platinum ’86 LP recaptured the magic and paved new road for the Hollis, Queens trio. Opening with “Peter Piper,” it was abundantly clear that J.M.J.’s role within the group had risen (even if he was omitted from the cover). In a genre that had moved extensively from DJ to MC in the spotlight, Jason Mizell balanced the billing. The title track, while not a hit, signified Run-D.M.C. getting it all the way right.

As Rap’s rhyme book was advancing, Run-D.M.C. was still capable of making the mundane feel big. “My Adidas” may be the most important merging of fashion and Hip-Hop, ever. Before it cleared a path for Kanye, Jay Z, and Dre, it started as a dope song that audiences related to. “It’s Tricky” pepped up the Run-D.M.C. flow for a song about navigating life, the industry, and stardom. As the trio touted history-driven “Proud To Be Black,” they also found the way to earn Rap greater musical legitimacy. Dusting off a decade-old Aerosmith hit, the two MCs and scratch-happy DJ used the burgeoning high production music video to make figurative “Dad” understand this thing called Rap. Rick Rubin kept Steven Tyler and Joe Perry’s most necessary and grabby elements, while integrating cuttin’ and rhymin’ like guitars and downbeats. By no means did King Of Rock put Run-D.M.C. “under.” However, this gritty third album earned the Queens kings a heavenly spot in Hip-Hop history, redirecting their career and extending their game-changing impact.

Album Number: 3
Released: May 27, 1986
Label: Profile Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #3 (certified gold, July 1986; certified platinum, July 1986; certified 3x platinum, April 1987)
Song Guests: Aerosmith (Steven Tyler & Joe Perry)
Song Producers: (self), Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons

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

Related: Ambrosia For Heads’ Finding The GOAT: The Albums