As one half of the duo Eric B & Rakim, Eric B is a legendary producer and DJ who emerged on the New York hip-hop scene in the mid-1980s. Before long, he and his partner in crime were at the top of the charts, and many cite Rakim as the first MC to break out of the rigid mould that hip-hop had with regard to rhyme schemes.
Eric B produced catchy beats with fantastic production and, in 1987, released a classic in Paid In Full. The album’s lead single of the same name was produced by the beatmaker (real name Eric Barrier) and included several obscure samples, including Israeli singer Ofra Haza’s vocals from her track ‘Im Nin’alu’.
Barrier made waves with his production style and, along with the likes of Rick Rubin and Man Parrish, encouraged hip-hop producers to widen their search for unique and compelling music to sample. In a 2009 interview with Unkut, Eric B explained how he got into the DJing game and revealed his first major break
Detailing his first music-orientated job, the Queens native explained, “I started working for WBLS, for the radio station. I got my first street team and the first mobile DJ to go out and play at different events for the radio station. That’s how I really got started, professionally. I used to do the same thing and be around the way in the parks, and they’d let me play music, but when I really took the show on the road was when I worked for the radio station and started playing in different cities and different neighbourhoods. That’s how I met Rakim – playing in Long Island.”
In a 2020 interview with Chuck D, Rakim (real name William Griffin) admitted he was actually focusing on American Football before he met Eric B. However, Barrier knew his talent and, after recording, sought out a deal. In his conversation with Unkut, Barrier recalled, “As soon as we finished the record, the next week went out to the labels and made a deal with an independent label named Zakia. It was in Harlem, a guy owned it. His name was Robert Hill. [We] went and made the deal and put the single out, and the record just caught on. It just started getting’ bigger and bigger!”
Since ‘Paid In Full’ first gained traction Eric B and Rakim have been household names in hip-hop ad have seen a lot of talent come and go. However, in an interview with MSG Networks, the DJ-Producer revealed who his favourite rapper was, stating, “I guess I’m biased so I think….you know I was laughing at Nas and his brother ’cause his brother always says ‘Nas is the greatest’ so I think Rakim is the greatest of all time.”
He continued, “Working with him personally and understanding the struggle of where he came from and where he is now mentally, we started out with nothing and turned into an organisation. This is a million-dollar corporation that we have. To be able to make millions of dollars a year, and it’s 30 years later! We make more money now than we did when we was on fire!”