Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Eric B & Rakim - Don't Sweat The Technique 2xLP


UMG/Geffen (2017, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for 25+ years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

Eric B & Rakim are one of those revered hip hop artists from the early 90s.  I remember from reading The Source at the time that Rakim was always lauded as one of the top 2 or 3 MCs on the planet back in those days.  My first exposure to them was the title track from the Juice soundtrack "Juice (Know The Ledge)."  After buying said soundtrack I was primed and ready for the song "Don't Sweat The Technique" to be released as a single.  That's the one that prompted me to buy the full album on CD in 1992.

While maybe a slightly unpopular opinion, it has always been my favorite Eric B & Rakim release.  Others sing the praises of Paid In Full and how ahead of the curve it was and others will die on the hill of saying Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em is the best.  But for me, Don't Sweat The Technique is where the beats and production finally caught up to Rakim's lyrics.

Sure the record isn't perfect and in fact starts off with my least favorite song "What's On Your Mind."  It's kind of a slow, sappy track that doesn't showcase Rakim or the group's production chops all that well.  It sounds like a grab at some sort of crossover that never panned out.  But once you get past that, the album is hit after hit.  "Pass The Hand Grenade" and "Casualties of War" are a one-two shot of fierce beats and imagery and are some of the real standouts.  But just as strong are "The Punisher" and "Kick Along."

Though, to this day, my very favorites are "Know The Ledge" and the title track "Don't Sweat The Technique."  All these years later it's striking how perfect these two songs are.  It's kind of funny how they are buried at the back end of the album and it makes me wonder if the fact they had both been out before the album itself led to their placement.  Sequencing aside, this is such a great album.  Eventually I will likely need to add some of the other Eric B & Rakim albums to the vinyl collection, but it was important to me to make sure I added this one first.  It will always be my favorite of theirs.

Eric B & Rakim - Don't Sweat The Technique (Full album playlist):

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