Digital Humanities Fantasy #1: The Afterlife of Eric B. and Rakim’s classic Paid in Full

Eric B. and Rakim's Paid in Full (1987)

First off, since this is my first installment of what I hope will be many “Digital Humanities Fantasies,” let’s rewind a sec. What are the digital humanities (and why do I fantasize about them)? While it’s a contested term, many agree that the digital humanities denotes “a nexus of fields within which scholars use computing technologies to investigate the kinds of questions that are traditional to the humanities” (Forster), and also includes new media studies (that is, the study of the new media environment like the blogosphere, twittersphere, wikis etc.) and also a field with which I’m particularly invested, new media pedagogy. (This treatment is not exhaustive; also see CUNY’s Defining the Digital Humanities and Svensson’s “The Landscape of Digital Humanities” in DHQ.)

So why am I fantasizing about the digital humanities? Well, besides because I’m a big dork, I’m fantasizing about this new field of study because I’m excited by the way new media models allow us to share and create information as citizens, students and teachers. In the field of hiphop studies in particular, I’m convinced that hiphop, as a fundamentally new-media art form whose origins and reinventions are rooted in technological progress and whose style and meaning are fundamentally referential and intertextual,¬† that hiphop studies is, in some sense, an important subcategory of the digital humanities. Which brings me to Eric B. and Rakim’s Paid in Full.

The fantasy is this: I wish I had the skills to use computational technology to chart musical and textual references to Paid in Full by subsequent recording artists. They are many and myriad, and I want to go to there.

Eric B. and Rakim’s track “I Know You Got Soul” has obvious references by folks at the POLES of the hiphop-R&B spectrum: Mos Def in his “Love” (Black on Both Sides, 1999) , and Aaliya + Timbaland on their “Try Again” (Romeo Must Die Soundtrack, 2000).


With that kind of spread, you know there have to be more. Have y’all noticed any?

Holla back!

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