The Payback is the 40th studio album by American musician James Brown. The album was released in December 1973, by Polydor Records. It was originally scheduled to become the soundtrack for the blaxploitation film Hell Up in Harlem, but was rejected by the film's producers, who dismissed it as "the same old James Brown stuff." (A widely repeated story—including by Brown himself—that director Larry Cohen rejected the music as "not funky enough" is denied by Cohen.) It went to #1 on the Soul Albums chart for two weeks and cracked the Pop Albums chart in the Top 40. It was Brown's only studio album to be certified gold.
The Payback is considered a high point in Brown's recording career, and is now regarded by critics as a landmark funk album. Its revenge-themed title track, a #1 R&B hit, is one of his most famous songs and an especially prolific source of samples for record producers. Musically the album is largely cyclic grooves and jamming, but it also features departures into a softer soul-based sound on tracks like "Doing the Best I Can" and "Forever Suffering".