Eric B and Rakim‘s debut album, Paid in Full, was released on July 7, 1987, and is widely regarded as one of the most important hip-hop albums ever made.
Ranked on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, Paid in Full exhibits Rakim’s complex internal rhyme schemes and calm demeanour atop infectious James Brown samples. The MC’s style would prove to be game-changing.
In the mid-’80s the loud, boisterous vocal delivery pioneered by Run-D.M.C. — which favoured forceful, elongated syllable pronunciation — was the style du jour. However, the arrival of DJ Eric B and MC Rakim immediately changed everything on the hip-hop landscape, kicking off the genre’s golden age that built on the foundation of hip-hop’s pioneers with advanced sampling and lyrical techniques.
M/A/R/R/S was a one-off collaboration between members of A.R. Kane (Alex and Rudi Kane) and Colourbox (Martin and Steve Young), both veteran 4AD artists. They took their name from the four collaborator’s initials plus that of label boss Ivo Watts-Russell, who suggested they get together. Those four are the credited songwriters on the track.
This song is made up of about 250 samples. The line, “Pump Up The Volume” came from “I Know You Got Soul” by Eric B. & Rakim, which was released earlier in 1987. Other samples include Coldcut’s 1987 song “Say, Kids What Time Is This” and James Brown’s “Funky Drummer.” It also contains three seconds of Stock Aitken & Waterman’s song “Roadblock,” but the group didn’t get official clearance and Peter Waterman placed an injunction for five days while the copyright issues were worked out. This was the first ever #1 UK hit on an independent record label: 4AD. It also reached #1 in Holland and New Zealand.