Eric B. & Rakim Biography

This Queens, New York, USA-based rap duo comprised Eric Barrier (Elmhurst, New York, USA) and William ‘Rakim’ Griffin (b. William Griffin Jnr., Long Island, New York, USA), using additional musicians such as Sefton the Terminator and Chad Jackson as required. Rakim was the lyricist, Eric B the DJ, or, as Rakim himself put it in ‘I Ain’t No Joke’: ‘I hold the microphone like a grudge, Eric B hold the record so the needle don’t budge’. They met in 1985 when Eric was working for the New York radio station WBLS and was looking for the city’s top MC. They started working together before emerging with the demo, ‘Eric B. Is President’. Released as a single on an obscure Harlem independent, Zakia Records, in the summer of 1986, it eventually led to a contract with 4th & Broadway. Their long-playing debut was preceded by a stand-out single of the same name, ‘Paid In Full’, which inspired over 30 remixes. When the album arrived it caused immediate waves. Representatives of James Brown and Bobby Byrd took legal action over the sampling of those artists’ works. Conversely, they helped to galvanize Brown’s career as a legion of rap imitators drew on his back catalogue in search of samples. They also originated the similarly coveted ‘Pump Up The Volume’ sample.

As well as Eric B putting the funk back into rap music, Rakim was responsible for introducing a more relaxed, intuitive delivery that was distinctly separate from the machismo of Run-DMC and LL Cool J, and was probably the biggest single influence on 90s hip-hop artists such as Wu-Tang Clan, Nas and Dr. Dre. The duo hit the UK charts in 1987 with ‘Paid In Full (The Coldcut Remix)’, though they themselves hated the version. Later hits included ‘Move The Crowd’, ‘I Know You Got Soul’, ‘Follow The Leader’, ‘The Microphone’, and 1989’s US Top 10 collaboration with Jody Watley, ‘Friends’. Label moves may have diminished their probable impact, though the duo themselves never went out of their way to cross over into the mainstream. Instead, each of their albums offered a significant musical development on the last, Rakim’s raps growing in maturity without sacrificing impact. The split came in the early 90s, with Rakim staying with MCA to deliver solo material like ‘Heat It Up’, produced by new co-conspirator Madness 4 Real, and included on the soundtrack to the Mario van Peebles movie, Gunmen.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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