Eric B. & Rakim

Erik. B and & Rakim are widely credited as advancing hip-hop in ways that were still apparent decades after their break-up. Queens native Erik Barrier honed his turntable skills while working as a mobile DJ for a local radio station while still a teenager. It was during that job that he formed a partnership with Rakim, born William Griffin Jr, who took the name Rakim Allah after converting to Islam as a teenager. Their initial singles, “Erik B. Is President” and “My Melody” would both go on to appear on their debut album, 1987’s Paid In Full. The combination of Rakim’s poetic rhyme schemes and laid-back, jazz-inflected flow with Erik B’s heavy sampling of old soul records, particularly James Brown on “I Know You Got Soul”, set the template for hip-hop’s future. The 1988 follow-up Follow the Leader did better on the chart than their debut, and it solidified their status as the premiant hip-hop artists with songs like the title track and “Lyrics of Fury”. The cracked the pop charts for the first time as a featured artist on Jody Watley’s “Friends”, a number 9 hit in 1989. 1990’s Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em gave them their biggest charting single to that point with the title track hitting number 2 on the rap chart, and the title track from 1992’s Don’t Sweat the Technique topped it. With their contract up, and each considering solo projects, the duo split after just four LPs that all reached the top 10 of the R&B album chart. They reunited for the first time in 2017 in order to play a series of live dates.

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