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Eric B. & Rakim Biography

Home > Music > E > Eric B. & Rakim > Biography

Birth Place: Long Island New York
Years Active: 1985 – 1992
Genres: East Coast Hip Hop, Golden Age Hip Hop

Eric B. & Rakim were a hip-hop duo composed of DJ Eric Barrier (born November 8, 1965) and MC Rakim (born William Michael Griffin Jr. January 28, 1968). Hailing from Long Island, New York, the pair are generally considered by hip hop enthusiasts to be one of the most influential and innovative groups in the genre. During hip hop's “golden age” of the mid-1980s to the early 90s, the duo was almost universally regarded as the premier MC/DJ combo in hip hop.

Their debut album, “Paid in Full,” was released in July 1987, on the Island-subsidiary label 4th & B'way Records. The duo recorded the album at hip hop producer Marley Marl's home studio and Power Play Studios in New York City, following Rakim's response to Eric B.'s search for a rapper to complement his disc jockey work in 1985. The album peaked at #58 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and produced five singles, “Eric B. Is President,” “I Ain't No Joke,” “I Know You Got Soul,” “Move the Crowd” and “Paid in Full.” The album's heavy sampling by Eric B. became influential in hip hop production. The record has sold over a million copies and the RIAA certified it platinum in 1995.

Their second album, “Follow the Leader,” was released in July 1988 on MCA-subsidiary label Uni Records. The album was recorded at Power Play Studios in New York City and produced, arranged, and composed by the duo, with additional contributions from Eric B.'s brother Stevie Blass Griffin. The gold certified album reached #22 on the Billboard 200. On the mic, Rakim upped the ante lyrically once again, with the single “Microphone Fiend” becoming something of a signature song for the rapper. The title track and “Lyrics of Fury” were two of Rakim's most acclaimed lyrical performances.

1990’s “Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em,” once again achieved gold certification. Released by MCA, the production ranges from smoother soulful tracks such as “In the Ghetto” to the hard-edge assault of the title track “Let the Rhythm Hit ’Em.” Despite the fact that it doesn't boast singles as popular as the duo's previous albums it is considered by many to be the duo’s most coherent album.

Their final album as a duo, “Don’t Sweat the Technique,” was recorded and produced by Eric B. & Rakim at The Hit Factory in New York City. Released in 1992 by MCA, the album builds on the sounds of “Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em,” with Rakim sounding more aggressive on Eric B.'s jazzy, soulful production. The title track was a minor radio hit and “Casualties of War” also released as a single, contains some of Rakim's most political lyrics. “Know the Ledge” first appeared in the 1992 film “Juice” under the title “Juice (Know the Ledge).” The album charted at #22 on the Billboard 200.

The album wasn't supposed to be the last; but their contract with MCA was due to expire. During the recording of the album, both members expressed an interest in recording solo albums. However, Eric B. refused to sign the label's release contract, fearful that Rakim would abandon him. This led to a long and messy court battle involving the two musicians and their former label MCA Records. The legal wrangling eventually led to the duo dissolving completely with each going on to pursue solo careers.