“Paid in Full” is a song by American hip hop duo Eric B. & Rakim. Written and produced by group members Eric Barrier and Rakim Allah, the song was released as the fifth single from the duo’s debut studio album Paid in Full. “Paid in Full” became one of the group’s most successful singles, owing heavily to a popular remix of the song by English dance music duo Coldcut.
In 1985, Eric B. launched a search for a rapper to complement his turntable work at the WBLS radio station in New York City. Rakim responded to his search, and the two later began to record tracks together in the home studio of one of Rakim’s close friends, Marley Marl. After Def Jam Recordings founder Russell Simmons heard the duo’s debut single “Eric B. Is President”, he signed them to Island Records and began recording their debut studio album in early 1987, alternating between Marley Marl’s home studio and Manhattan’s Power Play Studios. The resulting album, Paid in Full, was released in July 1987.
English dance music duo Coldcut were commissioned to produce a remix of the song to be included on the “Paid in Full” single, with the result being given the subtitle “Seven Minutes of Madness”. When “Paid in Full” was eventually released as the album’s fifth and final single, it became a hit in American clubs. It experienced much more commercial success overseas, however, thanks largely to the Coldcut remix. “Seven Minutes of Madness” became one of the first commercially successful remixes, becoming a top fifteen hit in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coldcut were paid 700 pounds for their remix work. Despite its success, Eric B. dismissed the remix as “girly disco music”; Rakim, however, called it the best remix he had ever heard. Along with the track, “Move the Crowd”, “Paid in Full” peaked at #3 on the US Hot Dance Club Play chart.
Like much of the duo’s input, “Paid in Full” – produced by Eric B. & Rakim themselves – utilizes several sampled elements. To construct the song’s drum track, Eric B. looped a portion from “Ashley’s Roachclip”, a 1974 song by funk group The Soul Searchers. The bassline was sampled from “Don’t Look Any Further” by singers Dennis Edwards and Siedah Garrett. Towards the end of the track, Eric B. also repeatedly scratches the line “This stuff is really fresh!” from “Change the Beat”, a much-sampled record by hip hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy.
Coldcut’s remix of “Paid in Full” has been described as a selective remix – one which adds or subtracts material from the original composition. Coldcut incorporated several new elements in producing their remix, including the addition of various vocal samples. The most prominent of these samples was the voice of Israeli singer Ofra Haza, taken from her recording of “Im Nin’alu”. Jonathan More of Coldcut had previously played the Haza record in clubs and found that when he lowered its pitch, it synced perfectly with the “Ashley’s Roachclip” drum sample. The success of the remix helped thrust Haza into the public eye. “Im Nin’alu” was remixed and released as a single in its own right, and sales of Haza’s 1984 album Yemenite Songs increased dramatically. Haza only took issue to the fact that she was not informed of the sample. Another notable element of the Coldcut remix is its opening vocal sample, “This is a journey into sound!” – the voice of British actor Geoffrey Sumner. “Now wait a minute, you better talk to my mother” comes from Humphrey Bogart and the 1946 classic film The Big Sleep. The lines “Pump up the volume” and “Dance to the record” are sampled from Eric B. & Rakim’s own song “I Know You Got Soul”, also from Paid in Full. Other sample sources present in the remix include an anonymous James Brown, Don Pardo, the Peech Boys and the Salsoul Orchestra.The song is believed to be the first hip hop record which layers singing over a drumbeat.