On this day in music history: July 26, 1988 – …

On this day in music history: July 26, 1988 – “Follow The Leader”, the second album by Eric B. & Rakim is released. Produced by Eric B. & Rakim, it is recorded at Power Play Studios in New York City from Early – Mid 1988. Though their debut album “Paid In Full” is a major success and puts them in the upper echelon of Hip Hop’s vanguard, Eric B. & Rakim part ways with their original label 4th & B’way/Island due to non-payment of royalties. They are offered a contract with MCA in early 1988, and are among the first artists on the newly revived Uni Records imprint. Having recorded their first album in only week’s worth of studio time, the duo decide to take more time and to go in a different direction from their previously minimalist approach. Besides producing the project themselves, assistance also comes from Rakim’s brother Stevie Blass Griffin as well as recording engineers Carlton Batts and Patrick Adams (Musique, Fonda Rae, Narada Michael Walden). DJ Mark The 45 King also creates beats for the album including the singles “The "R”“ (#79 R&B, #14 Rap) and "Microphone Fiend” (originally intended for Fab 5 Freddy), but is not credited for his contributions. The album’s release is led by the title track “Follow The Leader” (#16 R&B, #11 Club Play), featuring Rakim’s intense rhymes with a dark and dense track to match. It gives the Long Island, NY rap duo their biggest hit to date, with “Leader” it out charts its predecessor, becomes their most successful album on the US charts and quickly shifts over a half million copies. In time, it is regarded as another high watermark in Eric B. & Rakim’s catalog and as one of the top Hip Hop albums of the era. It is remastered and reissued on CD in 2005, with three additional bonus tracks added, including the original extended mixes of “The "R”“, "Microphone Fiend” and “Put Your Hands Together”. The album is also remastered and reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by 4 Men With Beards in 2009, making the title available in that format for the first time in nearly twenty years. The vinyl LP is also reissued as part of a box set of Eric B. & Rakim’s complete catalog, titled “The Complete Collection – 1987 – 1992” on July 13, 2018. Unlike previous vinyl releases which featured the nearly fifty minute long album on a single LP, the box set reissue is pressed as a double vinyl set for improved fidelity. “Follow The Leader” peaks at number seven on the Billboard R&B album chart, number twenty two on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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