Eric B. & Rakim are widely regarded as one of the most influential hip-hop duos in history, with the celebrated group reigning during the Golden Age of rap. Both members originated from New York, with DJ Eric B. (born Eric Barrier) hailing from Elmhurst, Queens and lyricist Rakim (born William Michael Griffin Jr.) from Wyandanch, Long Island. The pair first met in 1985 when Eric B. was working as a DJ at New York City radio station WBLS. At the time, he was actively looking for an emcee to spit over his work on the turntables, with promoter Alvin Toney recommending he link with Rakim. From there, the rest was history, with the duo joining forces to release their collective first single “Eric B. Is President,” on the independent Harlem-based label Zakia Records in 1986.
With the breakout single crafted under Marley Marl’s expert tutelage, Eric B. & Rakim grabbed the attention of larger labels, going on to sign with the 4th & Broadway imprint for their debut studio album. Their 1987 full-length, Paid in Full, has since become a staple of any diehard hip-hop fan’s collection, with the album receiving high praise for its innovation. While Paid in Full went on to climb the charts, it was noted that the album marked the beginning of heavy sampling in hip-hop, as well as the beginning of sample clearance headaches. The group ran into legal trouble, with James Brown suing them over their unauthorized and uncredited sample use.
Eric B. & Rakim then signed with MCA for the release of their sophomore record, 1988’s Follow the Leader. The duo went on to release two more studio albums, Let the Rhythm Hit (1990), which landed the first perfect 5-mic score in the Source Magazine—and Don’t Sweat the Technique (1992) before disbanding to record solo material and being met with more legal woes. In 2011, Eric B. & Rakim were nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame for the revolutionary contributions to hip-hop, but were not officially inducted. The duo has recently announced that they will embark on a 2017 reunion tour, as well as planning to reissue the four landmark albums that make up their famed discography.