Artist Profile: Erik B & Rakim


Although they never had a mainstream hit, Eric B. and Rakim were almost universally recognized as the premier DJ/MC team in all of the hip-hop during rap’s golden age in the late 1980s. The duo’s chemistry is superb and they also represented each of their art in their respective skills. Rakim managed to top fan polls as the greatest MC of all time and he made his rhymes like beautiful poetry with complex rhymes and elaborate metaphors. While Eric B., on the other hand, was a hugely powerful beatmaker and DJ who made hard-hitting beats and rhymes. Together they made their own technique on the turntables and microphone which enabled them to make their marks in the 80s music scene. In this article, we are going to find out how this dynamic duo started. 

Life and Career

Eric Barrier or Eric B. was born in the East Elmhurst in Queens, New York. He played drums and trumpet when he was in high school but he slowly turned his attention into experimenting and playing with turntable before graduating high school. Eric B. began a career as a DJ for radio station WBLS in New York City. That time, Eric B. was looking for rappers to sing along to his beats. That’s where he met Alvin Toney who recommended a Long Island MC named Freddie Foxxx. But when Toney and Eric B. went to Foxxx’s home, he wasn’t there. That’s why Toney suggested another guy which happened to be William Griffin also known as Rakim. Griffin has been writing rhymes when he was just a teenager and his name Rakim was a result of his conversion to a religion called The Nation of Gods and Earths. 

Eric B. and Rakim started to collaborate and work on a record together with the help of Marley Marl who is also a DJ and a producer. The duo came out with their first single titled “Eric B. is President” in 1986. After that, they recorded their first album called “Pain in Full” at Power Play Studios in New York City. The album reached the 58th spot on the Billboard 200 chart. This album is considered to be one of the level albums of the peak popularity of hip-hop during the 1980s. The album was released in 1987 and it sold over a million copies. The album even became a certified platinum hit in 1995. On the peak of this album’s success, Eric B. and Rakim decided to sign a recording deal with MCA Records.

After the success of their debut album, Eric B. and Rakim decide to follow it up with their second album called “Follow the Leader.” The album’s title track and the song “Lyrics of Fury” was considered to be Rakim’s most commended lyrical performances ever.

In 1989, the duo collaborates with Jody Watley on her single titled “Friends” for her album “Larger Than Life.” The song managed to enter the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became one of the first iconic collaborations between dance-pop and hip-hop. 

In 1990, Eric B. and Rakim released their third album called “Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em.” Unfortunately, the album did not become commercially successful as compared to their first two albums. However, the hip-hop magazine The Source gave the album a five-star rating. The following year, the duo was featured on the soundtrack of the 1991 comedy film “House Party 2” with their song “What’s On Your Mind.” They also did the theme song for the film “Juice” which starred Tupac Shakur, Jermaine Hopkins, and Khalil Kain. Both of the songs they did were included in the duo’s last album together called “Don’t Sweat the Technique” which was released in 1992.

The album was not supposed to be their last album but their contract with MCA Records was about to expire. During the recording process of the album, Rakim and Eric B both expressed their thoughts on doing solo albums. However, this led to a court case between the duo and MCA records because Eric B. refused to sign MCA’s release contract because he was afraid that Rakim would abandon him once their contract with MCA was finished. All these legal wranglings eventually led to the duo’s complete disbandment and they decided that all the money they earned for their albums was to be split in half for the both of them. 

After the Break-Up and the Duo’s Legacy

Three years after their break up, Eric B. released a self-titled solo album under an independent recording label called 95th Street Recordings. On the other hand, Rakim released his album called “The 18th Letter” in 1997. By the 2000s, Eric B. started to pursue other business ventures outside of the music industry and Rakim signed with Dr. Dre’s label named Aftermath but he didn’t manage to materialize any album under the record label. And in 2009, Rakim released his album called “The Seventh Seal.”

Their songs were used in different video games such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Aggressive Inline. And in September 2011, it was announced that the duo was one of the fifteenth finalists to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

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