*** 1/2ERIC B. & RAKIM. "Follow the Leader." Uni. They ain't no joke. Where L.L. Cool J's hard rhythms are reminiscent of the steel-edged braggadocio of James Brown and Run-D.M.C.'s stolid rhythms recall gospel's foursquare beat, Eric B. & Rakim reflect rap music's solid grounding in cool soul, the moody, sophisticated R&B of the early '70s--Donny Hathaway, Isaac Hayes and the JB's.
Rapper Rakim weaves a laid-back web of words, his whiskey-smooth tenor less noisy but more intense than the machine-gun mutterings you hear booming from beat boxes, his keen rhymes all the more devastating for being near-whispered where lesser rappers would shout. Deejay Eric B. is a master of chill, understated beats.