Foreign Gists

The story behind the ‘Paid In Full’ Eric B and Rakim sample


(Credit: Wikimedia/Hip Hop Hero)

Features

Rakim and Eric B are a legendary rap duo emerging on the New York hip hop scene in the mid-1980s before long, they were at the top of the charts, and many cite Rakim as the first MC to break out of the rigid mould that hip hop had with regard to rhyme schemes.

Rakim is said to be a lyrical pioneer, and when this track was released, it changed the course of lyricism in hip hop. Rakim was most definitely the first MC to break the mould of the basic rhyme scheme of hip hop in which everyone had to rhyme the last word of every sentence. With Rakim, it was more complex. The schemes intertwined different rhymes, and the rhyming sat in the pockets of the offbeat.

Not only that, but the songs he released were catchy, with amazing production matching the fantastic and ground-breaking lyricism he and Eric B brought to the table. They were undeniably talented, and most hip hop heads will cite ‘Paid In Full’ as the duo’s best song of all time.

The lead single from their 1987 album of the same name, ‘Paid In Full’ is a fascinating track with regard to its composition. Produced by Eric B. & Rakim themselves, the track contains several samples, but the most famous and interesting sample is the duo’s use of the Israeli singer Ofra Haza’s vocals from her track ‘Im Nin’alu’.

Although the music video for ‘Paid In Full’ features Arabic writing, Haza’s track is actually sung in Hebrew and is a 17th-century poem written by Rabbi Shalom Shabazi. Produced by Bezalel Aloni and Izhar Ashdot, the original 1984 single was recorded in Yemen. Remixed and remastered versions were released in 1988, 1997 and 2008.

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Haza is of Mizrahi-Jewish descent, who are the displaced Jews of Yemen. Haza She represented Israel in 1983’s Eurovision and finished second. From there, she launched her career and went on to release ‘Im Nin’alu’ in 1984.

The track charted in Israel, and multiple dance remixes were made, which charted in Europe. Haza’s original video was also reshot in a more professional MTV style and was extremely popular on the channel. The song has even been sampled by renowned Asian-Bass artist Panjabi MC and featured on his 2009 album Indian Timing.

How Erc B and Rakim ran across this sample is still unknown but it’s use is fascinating below you can hear the original and also the Eric B and Rakim version.