The Odyssey is a strange, adventurous tale of a grown man trying to get home after fighting in a war. He’s on that long journey home, and it’s filled with traps and pitfalls. He’s cursed to wander. He’s always getting carried out to sea, always having close calls. Huge chunks of boulders rock his boat. He angers people he shouldn’t. There’s troublemakers in his crew. Treachery. His men are turned into pigs and then are turned back into younger, more handsome men. He’s always trying to rescue somebody. He’s a travelin’ man, but he’s making a lot of stops.
He’s stranded on a desert island. He finds deserted caves, and he hides in them. He meets giants that say, “I’ll eat you last.” And he escapes from giants. He’s trying to get back home, but he’s tossed and turned by the winds. Restless winds, chilly winds, unfriendly winds. He travels far, and then he gets blown back.
He’s always being warned of things to come. Touching things he’s told not to. There’s two roads to take, and they’re both bad. Both hazardous. On one you could drown and on the other you could starve. He goes into the narrow straits with foaming whirlpools that swallow him. Meets six-headed monsters with sharp fangs. Thunderbolts strike at him. Overhanging branches that he makes a leap to reach for to save himself from a raging river. Goddesses and gods protect him, but some others want to kill him. He changes identities. He’s exhausted. He falls asleep, and he’s woken up by the sound of laughter. He tells his story to strangers. He’s been gone twenty years. He was carried off somewhere and left there. Drugs have been dropped into his wine. It’s been a hard road to travel.
In a lot of ways, some of these same things have happened to you. You too have had drugs dropped into your wine. You too have shared a bed with the wrong woman. You too have been spellbound by magical voices, sweet voices with strange melodies. You too have come so far and have been so far blown back. And you’ve had close calls as well. You have angered people you should not have. And you too have rambled this country all around. And you’ve also felt that ill wind, the one that blows you no good. And that’s still not all of it.
Bob Dylan, excerpted from his Nobel Acceptance Lecture
On this day in music history: July 26, 1986 - “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Peter Gabriel, it is the biggest hit for the British singer and songwriter. Influenced by 60’s soul music, especially the Memphis soul sound pioneered by Stax Records, Gabriel hires the Memphis Horns (Andrew Love and Wayne Jackson) to play on the track, as well as features former Ikette P.P. Arnold, Dee Lewis and Coral Gordon on background vocals. Other musicians including Tony Levin (bass), Manu Katche (drums), and David Rhodes (guitar) also play on the track. The songs highly innovative and award winning music video directed by Stephen R. Johnson (“Pee Wee’s Playhouse”) also features contributions from the Aardman Animation Studio (“Wallace & Gromit”) and the Brothers Quay. Filmed using a stop motion technique in which Gabriel’s movements and lip synch are filmed one frame at at a time while lying on his back, under a sheet of plate glass for up to sixteen hours a day for eight days. The process is painstaking and slow, and the clip takes over a month to complete. Released as the first single from Gabriel’s fifth studio album “So” in April of 1986, “Sledgehammer” becomes an immediate hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on May 10, 1986, it climbs to the top of the chart eleven weeks later. The video for “Sledgehammer” wins an unprecedented nine MTV VMA awards (still the record holder for the most wins in a single year), and by 2011 becomes the most played clip in the history of the channel.
The bell above the glass door jingled when you walked into the record store. A song with a familiar catchy melody and prominent beat echoed through the store whilst you admired the decor.
The store was dimly lit other than the white fairy lights hanging off the walls, running along the shelves that held various albums and records. There were also a few neon signs that outlined the shapes of guitars, treble clefs and base clefs. The choice of decor was very hipster and Tumblr like, it leaving a sort of sweet taste in your mouth.
You walked over to the vinyls that were collecting dust in the corner and begin to flick through them, hoping to find another sad album to engulf yourself in.
Today had been a dismal day. The day had been cold and the weather had been disgusting, it didn’t give you a good vibe to say the least. The rain continuously poured down from the dark clouds above the city, making you feel even more miserable. Thunderstorms always occurred in the city of Columbus, Ohio and when they did, you couldn’t help but to feel down. However, when these grim days closed in on you, you took out your umbrella and went to your happy place. The record store.
You began to hum to the familiar song playing in the background and started tapping your foot. Before you knew it, the music took over and you closed your eyes, you were singing the lyrics. Oddly enough, the song that was playing suited the weather outside.
“Just a young gun with a quick fuse. I was uptight, wanna let loose. I was dreaming of bigger things, and wanna leave my own life behind.” You pulled your long dirty blonde hair out of your eyes and tucked it behind your ears, still grooving to the music.
“You’re a really good singer.“
Your eyes snapped open when you were pulled out of your trance by a voice, nearly jumping out of your skin as you spun around to where it came from.
A guy was leaned against the wall behind you, the fairy lights on the wall above him illuminated the yellow fringe poking out of the gap on his black backwards cap. He wore a black sweater with the sleeves rolled up his forearms, revealing a brightly coloured tattoo on his right arm.
"Wow. Uhm thanks? Yep, okay-” You stammered awkwardly scratching the back of your neck. Nobody had ever complimented your voice before and you weren’t quite sure how to tackle the situation.
The corner of his lip tugged upwards creating an innocent smirk which made your legs go weak, he then pushed himself off the wall and walked over to you. He dug through the cluster of records in the display in front of you and pulled one out.
“I think you’ll like this,” his hand grazes yours as he hands you a pink record reading Paramore: After Laughter. You were wide eyed at how easily he could pin point your music taste.
“Funny that, I really like Paramore. I’ve been a big fan since I was a teenager,” you chuckle shaking your head in disbelief over how much of an open book you are.
“It’s the best part of my job. Showing people new music or reconnecting with an artist. Music is just a really big part of my life and it’s really fulfilling sharing it with people.” For some reason his cheeks flushed red and he looked down at the ground sheepishly.
Something about this guy made your sorrow subside with a flash. He was still a stranger to you, but nobody could get you to smile this easily on a bad day. You’d usually link the record store with a sad feeling just because you only came on dreary days, however this boy was turning that feeling around.
There was a short silence between the both of you, but the music in the background helped fill it.
“What?” You ask raising an eyebrow. His sudden mood change puzzled you. Only a couple of minutes before this employee was courageous and fearless, now he was shy and quiet.
You watched him fumble with the branded lanyard around his neck. You tried to read the name tag that was on it, however he began to tap nervously it which blocked you from reading it.
“Do you mind if I show you one of my favourite artists?” He raised his head and looked at you with doe eyes. His sweet and shy puppy dog eyes made your heart pound and helped you answer.
“Sure, I’m always open for new music,” the boy turned around and began walking to the shelves on the other side of the store. You followed him whilst holding onto the vinyl tightly in your hand. He started rummaging through the pile of CD’s, narrowing his eyes in concentration.
You smiled to yourself as you took in his features. You felt your heart rate pick up when he pulled his bottom lip under his teeth, his jaw tensing slightly.
“Here we go,” he gives you the small black album with traces of red to your free hand. You flip the album to the front.
Twenty One Pilots: Blurryface
“Oh yeah, I’ve heard some of their stuff before,” you looked up at him and he had a sheepish smile on his face. “I like them,” you add after flipping over the album again, scanning over some of the song titles.
“Yeah, I like them too,” the boy’s grin basically brought you to your knees. His eyes crinkled at the sides and his brown eyes squinted.
“My name’s Josh my the way,” he bit his lip again.
“Josh. That really suits you,” you nodded your head in approval, a smile crawled onto your lips.
“That’s why my mum called me that!” Josh raised his hands and chuckled.
There’s that confidence.
“I come here a lot. But I haven’t see you working here before?” You questioned as you both walked to the front desk and he scanned your items.
“I just came off tou-” Josh paused and cleared his throat, leaving you feel perplexed and curious of what he was going to say.
“I just came back from doing some road tripping with my friend Tyler, and now I’m home,” he rephrased his sentence and forced a smile once he put the albums into the paper bag.
“That sounds like fun! Well, I better go because I’ve got some songs to listen to,” you raise the paper bag and giggle.
“Let me know what you think of the band I showed you. Enjoy!” Josh chuckled.
You bid Josh a farewell, then took out your umbrella and ventured back into the storm to your apartment.
You couldn’t get Josh’s contagious smile out of your mind. Something was different about this boy. Maybe it was the fact that his hair was a crazy colour and intrigued you, or maybe it was how easily he could read you. Whatever it was, you wanted to know him.
So you did.
You continued to go to the record store even on sunny days. You seemed to have replaced the once gloomy feeling you linked with the store, and replaced it with a happy feeling because of Josh.
That boy really meant the world to you, nobody could lift your spirits like he did. Little did you know, he felt the same way.
On this day in music history: July 26, 1975 - “One Of These Nights” by The Eagles hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 5 weeks. Produced by Bill Szymczyk, it is recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami, FL and The Record Plant in Los Angeles, CA from December 1974 - March 1975. Following the success of their previous release “On The Border”, the Eagles continue to move away from the country rock influences of their earlier work, toward a more hard rock and mainstream pop sound. Considered their breakthrough album, it firmly establish them as one of the top American bands of the time, spinning off three top five singles including “Lyin’ Eyes” (#2 Pop) (Grammy Winner for Best Pop Performance by a Group in 1976), “Take It To The Limit” (#4 Pop), and the chart topping title track. The album is the last to feature original founding member Bernie Leadon, who leaves the band following the tour in support of the record. Leadon’s place is taken by former James Gang guitarist Joe Walsh in late 1975. “One Of These Nights” is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
The Sound of Emancipation, Musician Magazine, 1997
You’ve said that Emancipation was created in a freer climate than that under which you recorded for Warner Bros. Yet there doesn’t seem to my ears to be a significantly “freer” sound on the new album than in your earlier work.
Well, when you’re in the creative process, the first thing you naturally think about is the “bombs,” the great ones that you’ve done before. You want to fill in the slots on your album with the songs that will make everyone the happiest: fans, musicians, writers, and so on. I used to try to fill those gaps first whenever I was trying something new, or wait to challenge myself to do another great one.
This means that you think about singles: time constraints, for example, and the subject matter. [For that reason] my original draft of “Let’s Go Crazy” was much different from the version that wound up being released. As I wrote it, “Let’s Go Crazy” was about God and the de-elevation of sin. But the problem was that religion as a subject is taboo in pop music. People think that the records they release have got to be hip, but what I need to do is to tell the truth.
So one element of creativity missing for you in the Warner years was that freedom to say what you wanted to say in your lyrics.
Right. I had to take some other songs, like “A Thousand Hugs and Kisses” and “She Gave Her Angels,” off the Warner albums because they were all about the same subject. But now I can write a song that says, “If u ask God 2 love u longer, every breath u take will make u stronger, keepin’ u happy and proud 2 call His name: Jesus” [from “The Holy River,” on Emancipation], and not have to worry about what Billboard magazine will say. Plus I’m not splitting the earnings up with anyone else except the people who deserve to have them. The people here in my studio will reap the benefits of how Emancipation does, not people in some office somewhere who didn’t contribute anything the music.
Now, the record industry can be a wonderful system, if you want to go that route. After all, some people don’t want the hassle of getting on the phone and talking to retailers about their own records; they want someone to do it for them. I’m just not one of those people.
So lyrically you’ve got more freedom than before. What about the music itself?
If you’re working in a happier atmosphere, you’ll hear things differently and play them differently. “Courtin’ Time” [from Emancipation] is different from “Had U,” from Chaos & Disorder. That whole album is loud and raucous, but it’s also dark and unhappy. Same with The Black Album.
Your drummer, Kirk A. Johnson, co-produced much of Emancipation.
That stems from his being a drum programmer. He’s good at using the computer to put a rhythm track together. I don’t like setting that kind of stuff up, because a lot of times the song will leave me while I’m doing it. But when Kirk and I work together, we can keep each other excited. I can do all the programming myself. 1999 is nothing but me running all the computers myself, which is why that album isn’t as varied as this one. Technology used to play a big part in my music; it only plays a very little part now.
The problem was that regardless of what I heard in my head, I’d work with the sounds I had in front of me. Actually, I seldom wrote at any instruments. But I’m definitely into letting sounds dictate…not the way I write a song, but the way I develop my ideas. “In This Bed” [from Emancipation] is experimental; as we were working on it, I put a guitar on the ground and just let it start feeding back. After a while I hit this button and let the feedback pattern repeat. Does this mean that instruments have a soul or a life of their own? Will they end up writing the song?
It’s like how Mayte and I got married, I took her to see the neighborhood where I was raised as a baby. When we got there, everything was gone: The house where I grew up, all the buildings, everything had been torn down, except this one tree that I used to climb on when I was a kid. That’s all that was left. So I went over to this tree, put my hand on it, and let the memory of that time flow back into me. If that’s what energy is all about, if this tree could remind me of something, even if it looks raggedy and old, that’s the most beautiful thing. The sounds in my music are chosen with a lot of love too, and always with the idea of which color goes with which other color.
How do you know whether to do the bass part in a song on synth or bass guitar?
I’ll listen to the kick drum. The bass guitar won’t go as deep as the synth, and the kick drum tells me how deep I have to go. My original drum machine, the Linn, had only one type of kick. I think I had the first Linn. I did “Private Joy” [from Controversy] with a prototype of that Linn.
Do you use the Roland TR-808, the rapper’s choice, for bass drum sounds?
Sure. I used that on “Da, Da, Da” [from Emancipation]. But I need to remind you that I’m not a rapper. I’ll do rhythmic speaking. “Style” [from Emancipation] calls for words to be spoken, but you can’t [vocally] riff on it. It’s like James Brown: he’ll talk his whole song, but he’s not a rapper either. There’s music behind my groove; it’s not just loops and sample.
On “Courtin’ Time” you drew a lot of big-band phrasing for your vocal parts; the whole thing comes from swing jazz. So why did you stick with a backbeat rhythm track, instead of loosen it up into more of a swing feel?
I wanted it to be a dance record. [Saxophonist] Eric Leeds played me this record, Duke Ellington Live at Newport, with that long saxophone solo [by Paul Gonsalves, on “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”]. He was telling me that one reason the solo went as long as it did was that this lady jumped up on a table and started dancing to the rhythm, so naturally nobody wanted to quit. That’s the vibe I’m trying to capture. I played “Courtin’ Time” with Eric once for twenty minutes, and he was wailin’ that whole time. That’s why even people who are into hip-hop still get “Courtin’ Time.”
Like “Courtin’ Time,” “The Holy River” stands out on Emancipation as a departure for you in terms of the rhythm.
Well, the melody came first on that one. Sometimes I’ll be walking around and I’ll hear the melody as if it were the first color in the painting. If you believe in the first color and trust it, you can build your song from there. Music is like the universe: Just look at how the planets, the air, and the light fit together. That’s one reason why Emancipation is so long – because of the sense of harmony that keeps it all together.
“Soul Sanctuary” is more of an orchestral experiment, with a mixture off what sounds like Mellotron string lines, harp, and marimba.
I’ll start a track like that piece by piece. I’ll have a color or a line in mind, and I’ll keep switching things around until I get what I’m hearing in my head. Then I’ll try to bring to Earth the color that wants to be with that first color. It’s like having a baby, knowing that this baby wants to be with you. You’re giving birth to the song.
Was that a real or a sampled harp on “Soul Sanctuary”?
That was a sampled harp. I wanted to be able to play it perfectly, and while I can play a few simple things on a real harp, the sample helped me get it the way I wanted it. Samples are good for music; you almost can’t compare “It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night,” the uptempo song from Sign o’ the Times, with “The Human Body” [from Emancipation] because of the difference that samples make.
Yet your songs don’t rely on samples in a structural sense. Unlike a lot of dance-oriented musicians, you use samples to adorn rather than to support a tune.
I am so glad you said that! I’ve heard a whole lot of musicians who have had a hit record and then come to Paisley Park to set up and jam with the New Power Generation. Now, I’m not a judge, but I know when I see someone jamming and when I see someone drownin’ [laughs]! I have to pull their plug and save some of their asses. Man, learn your instrument! Be a musician! You can’t call yourself a musician if you just take a sample and loop it. You can call yourself a thief, because all you’re doing is stealing somebody else’s groove. Just don’t call it music.
How can you tell when the song you’re working on has potential?
Well, see, I can’t say anything about that, because I hate criticizing music. If you judge something, maybe that means you get judged back someday. I wouldn’t tell you that some song you wrote isn’t any good. I wrote this song called “Make Your Mama Happy” that would probably frighten you. And this other song I wrote, “Sexual Suicide,” has this horn section that’s nothing but baritone saxes; it sounds like a truck coming at you. So who can say?
You don’t rate any of your songs as more noteworthy than others?
The thing is, everybody has an inner voice. Mayte and I are into this thing now of wondering whether we’re supposed to get up out of bed when we wake up. If you sleep past this point when you’re supposed to get up, then you’re groggy for the rest of the day. It’s the same thing with songs: Each song writes itself. It’s already perfect.
I remember when Miles Davis came to my house. As he was passing by my piano, he stopped and put his hands down on the keys and played these eight chords, one after the other. It was so beautiful; he sounded like Bill Evans or Lisa [Coleman], who also had this way of playing chords that were so perfect. I was wondering whether he was playing games with me, because he wasn’t supposed to be a keyboard player. And when he was finished, I couldn’t decide whether it was him or an angel putting his hands on the keys.
The point is that you recognized something in what Miles was doing, a kind of excellence that you might not hear in the work of other musicians.
For me, excellence comes from the fact that God loves me. But what is excellence? You’ve heard about these people who will bomb a building and kill all these people in God’s name. You could say that they did an excellent job at what they were trying to do, right? Now, when I look at my band, Dyson is a different kind of guitar player than Mike. She looks cool, she has that kind of punk attitude. But that’s her; that’s not Mike. Lisa was never an explosive keyboard player, but she was a master of color in her harmonies; I could sing off of what she had with straight soul. I don’t know if the people in the band I’m with now will go on to greatness on their own, but everything they do gives me something that I need right now.
You don’t differentiate between musicians either? You don’t point to this person as a better player than that person?
God gave us all gifts. If we accept that, we’ll all do the best that we can do. Miles took some soul-type players and put Keith Jarrett on top of that; it was magic. And Fishbone – are they good or not? The last time I saw Fishbone, the drummer played the whole gig facing the wall. But in that kind of craziness there was a certain kind of excellence too.
Still, you presumably audition musicians for your bands. That means you have to put them on some kind of scale to rate one as being better, or at least more appropriate to your needs, than another.
Well, “auditions” … The idea of a judge is in there somewhere, and I don’t want to be a judge anymore. A lot of people criticized the last band that Jimi [Hendrix] had, but they were able to start and stop at his will; they were right for him at the time. I’ve even hired dancers whose only job was to be there and make me feel good. See, anybody can play with me. I can play with any musician and make them sound good, and they can bring something to me. This hit me when I married Mayte and accepted my name for what it is.
With that, the Artist suddenly stood and stretched. “My band will me if I don’t get in there with them,” he announced, bringing the interview to an end. Within a week or two I had translated and transcribed my notes, then called Paisley Park to arrange for the follow-up Q-and-A. The Artist picked up the phone – “You’re not taping this, are you?” were his first words – and asked me to send the questions his way via fax. Within a day he had them, and a couple of days later his replies were in my hands. Here, as written, is the final round
What are the positive sides of music software? Could you cite examples were running a certain program yielded results that you could not have obtained otherwise?
The body of a human (when healthy) runs like a sequencer. It was obviously programmed a long time ago by an absolute genius. This was the notion behind the groove “Human Body” on Emancipation. Every track of the song is its own “cell,” so 2 speak, running in harmony with its “cellmates.” A living being of sorts is created every time computers are put 2 use this way. No other way yet discovered would be as rewarding.
You noted that one element of using music technology is that the instruments themselves might end up “writing the song.” While some artists seem to consider this a reason not to pursue sequencing and sampling, as if the products somehow shift control of the creative process away from the person, you take a more intriguing view, as if you have an almost organic partnership with the tool of your trade. How, then, do you get to know a new instrument?
Something very soul-like attracts me 2 some instruments moreso than others. It starts with the sound and then the shape. I dig instruments that appear as if the makers were in love with them.
Some of your most memorable songs have been structurally pretty simple; if you write a lead sheet of, say, “We Gets Up” [from Emancipation], what you see is pretty much rooted on the I chord, with minimal melody. What, then, distinguishes a song that doesn’t rely on unusual chord changes or an extended melody?
One-key songs designed 2 put the participant in a trace are best filled up with sound provoked by the spirit more than, say, a structural melody that’s best complemented by color. This 2 me is the root of funk: the choices one makes.
You’ve had a number of customized guitar designs over the years, including the “white guitar” from Purple Rain; to what extent does playability factor into your design for these instruments?
I have compromised playability 4 the look of an instrument in many instances. Keyboards, though, have 2 have “the touch.” Everything is sort of patterned after the 1st violet piano I received as a gift in 1986. Chords are important. Every note in a chord is a singer 2 me. This approach gives music its life. 2 look at music this way is a reason 4 living, as far as I’m concerned.
You’re set up at Paisley Park for analog as well as digital recording. What are the pluses and minuses of the two technologies?
Warmth. Digital is faster. Analog…well, the kick drum on analog sounds like a fat dude getting stomped in the back with a timbaland! It’s all personal preference.
What approach do you take in rehearsing a new band?
Again, let everybody play their strengths. Because Rhonda’s so smart, 4 example, I tend 2 lean toward bassier grooves moreso than with my other bands. She has a nuclear future sure!
What are your thoughts about the state of songwriting today?
I will always respect people like Duke Ellington – someone who has their own style and just watches music change around them. Carlos Santana has more fans now than when he played Woodstock!
You’re preparing to tour. Do you find that you compete with the high standards you’ve set for yourself in past tours? What insights about performing can you share with artists who are working with limited budgets in relatively funky venues?
My own competition is myself in the past. “At war with himself.” Y'all said it 1st. 2 the new artists: Be wild and all else follows.
On this day in music history: July 26, 2000 - The P2P file sharing service Napster is ordered by a US federal judge to cease trading copyrighted music on their website within 48 hours. The music focused online website founded by Shawn Fanning, John Fanning and Sean Parker in 1999, is the subject of lawsuits of numerous recording artists like Metallica, Dr. Dre and various record labels when they find the sites millions of users illegally downloading mp3 digital files of their music. Metallica discover that a demo version of their song “I Disappear” (from the as yet to be released film “Mission Impossible 3”) is being freely circulated before the song is even released. Also the single “Music” by Madonna" is also leaked on to the website before its official release. Among the allegations leveled at Napster include That its users were directly violating the plaintiffs’ copyrights. That Napster was responsible for contributory infringement of the plaintiffs’ copyrights. And that Napster was responsible for vicarious infringement of the plaintiffs’ copyrights. Napster loses the case in District Court and is forced to close the website, though they file an appeal. In May of 2002, Napster announces that is selling its assets to the German media firm Bertlesmann for $85 million, then filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on June 3rd. An American bankruptcy court blocks the sale on September 3, 2002, forcing Napster into Chapter 7 status, making them liquidate their assets. Napster’s brand and logo trademarks are purchased in an auction by Roxio who rebrand their Pressplay paid music download service as “Napster 2.0”. Roxio sells Napster to Best Buy who in turn sell it to Rhapsody in 2011, who is the current owner of the company.
On this day in music history: July 27, 1972 - “All Directions”, the twelfth studio album by The Temptations is released. Produced by Norman Whitfield, it is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI and Hitsville USA West in Hollywood, CA from Early - Mid 1972. The group are initially resistant to recording the tracks “Run Charlie Run” (about the mass exodus of white families from major urban centers to the suburbs) and “Papa Was Rolling Stone”, feeling their sensitive subject matter and lyrics will turn some fans off. Lead singer Dennis Edwards especially object to the latter when the songs lyrics hit a little too close to home. However, the group relent and record the songs. “Papa Was Rolling Stone” hits number one on the Billboard Hot 100 (#2 R&B), winning three Grammy Awards including The Temptations second award for Best R&B Group Vocal Performance in 1973. “All Directions” spends one week at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, and peaks at number two on the Top 200.
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 outcharts 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. “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.