On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!
Eric B. & Rakim – Follow the Leader (1988)
” Follow the Leader” is a song by American hip hop duo Eric B. & Rakim. It was written by group members Eric Barrier and Rakim Allah and released as the first single from their second studio album of the same name.
We’re staying in the US but moving from Massachusetts to Long Island, New York and it feels like the right time to delve back into the world of hip hop. Eric B. & Rakim were a hip hop duo that first formed in 1986. Eric B was the DJ of the duo while Rakim took on the role of MC, a partnership common in hip hop but few did it better than this pair in the 1980s. We join them in 1988 with the release of their second album – Follow the Leader – and 1001 Songs have gone with the title track.
Follow the Leader saw Eric B. & Rakim push their style into more complex territory in both lyrical output and sound. Rather than a standard rap about the duo and their life on the streets, the song instead describes a form of space voyage beyond the earth and way out into the distant galaxy. The lyrics are vast and explore other themes such as identity and background, life’s journey and the desire to move ever forward. The duo invite us to join them on the voyage, leave the trappings of earth behind, follow the leader and forge a new history going forth.
Eric B. & Rakim were one of the most influential hip hop acts in the 1980s. This second album and title track in particular demonstrated the evolution they were going through after the relative simplicity of their debut. Lyrically there is a lot to get your teeth into here and my simple ramblings above don’t really do the track justice. It’s much more complex than I suggest here. Disputes with the record label and one another led to them splitting up in 1993 but they did reform in 2016 to once again tour.
Favourite songs so far: