This debut album, basically a collection of early singles ("Eric B. Is President," "I Know You Got Soul," the title track), is the motherlode of late-'80s New York rap--assured, serious, and hugely influential. Rakim, a rapper's rapper, is the Chow Yun-Fat of hip-hop: cool as steel, absolutely calm, absolutely deadly. His verbal wit and rhythmic gift go hand-in-hand. He flows like a waterfall, playing around the beat, leaping from one ingenious phrase to another, letting the words do all the work. And Eric B.? He comes up with some straightforward but effective backing tracks (he favors James Brown grooves), scratches on a couple of block-rocking instrumentals, and makes room for the master to do his thing.