By EW Staff
November 12, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST
Public Enemy: Michael Ochs Archive

Eric B. & Rakim’s Paid in Full made hip-hop a true art form, doing for rap what Bob Dylan did for rock in the mid-’60s. ”Paid in Full marked the point when hip-hop grew out of its infancy,” says Dana Smart, who coproduced the recent two-disc deluxe reissue of the CD. Eric B.’s James Brown-driven beats are devastatingly funky, but it?s Rakim’s commanding vocals that make this a classic. Considered by many to be the greatest rapper of all time, he brought technical intricacy, cinematic details, and poetic metaphors to a genre previously ruled by A-B-A-B patterns and simplistic party rhymes. Seventeen years later, the album still sounds astonishing.