I Ain't No Joke

Album: Paid In Full (1986)

Songfacts®:

  • Rakim kept a stern demeanor, rarely smiling. When Eric B. & Rakim performed on Soul Train in 1987, host Don Cornelius said, "You don't smile much." His reply: "I ain't no joke."

    Eric B. explained: "Our image is a strong, positive image."
  • "I Ain't No Joke" was the second single for Eric B. & Rakim, following "Eric B. Is President." It helped establish Rakim as one of the top MCs in the game, with inventive writing and an exceptionally tight flow. This track finds him bragging, but in a style we hadn't heard before and with no shortcuts - Rakim didn't add any filler.
  • We counted 650 words in this song, and none of them are swears. This was intentional, as Rakim felt he could make his point without profanity.
  • The horn riff is a sample of James Brown's 1972 track "Pass The Peas," which shows up on many early hip-hop tracks, including "Pass The Plugs" by De La Soul and "One In A Million" by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth.
  • The music video was directed by the British writer Vivien Goldman and features an early appearance by Flavor Flav of Public Enemy. According to Goldman, she picked him out of the crowd and asked him to do some spotlight dancing for the clip.
  • This soundtracks one of the many Michael Jordan montages in the 2020 ESPN miniseries The Last Dance. This particular montage is from early in Jordan's NBA career (around the time the song was released) before he won his first championship. "I Ain't No Joke" also shows up in these movies:

    Set It Off (1996)
    The Wash (2001)
    Shaft (2019)

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