The Eric B and Rakim record they claim was “the backdrop” for a generation

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The Eric B and Rakim record they claim was "the backdrop" for a generation

Eric B and Rakim were a highly impactful duo who made waves in hip-hop during the late-1980s and early-1990s. The pairing’s 1987 debut album, Paid In Full, changed rap music’s sonics both lyrically and concerning production. 

The album’s fifth single and title track, ‘Paid In Full,’ is one of the most well-known songs that featured on the project. It is a fascinating track in terms of its composition. Produced by Eric B. & Rakim themselves, the track contains several samples. Still, the most famous and exciting sample is the duo’s use of the Israeli singer Ofra Haza’s vocals from her track ‘Im Nin’alu’.

Although ‘Paid In Full’ is the most well-known cut from the body of work, another groundbreaking song the LP boasted was ‘Eric B Is President’. The track was the lead single off Paid In Full and, according to the producer himself, was “the backdrop” for New York.

New York hip-hop in the 1980s was going through a sonic transformation, and influences from the West Coast were travelling across the US. However, ‘Eric B For President’ with its ‘Funky President’ sample revitalised the East Coast city. 

In a 2018 interview with Revolt TV, Eric B revealed that, initially, New Yorkers misunderstood the song’s title. Recalling this, the DJ and producer (real name Louis Barrier) reflected, “Everybody messed up the [name of the] record. The name of the record is ‘Eric B. is President.’ And Everybody was like, ‘Eric B. for President.'”

He continued, “That was the name of the record. Everybody was like, ‘Oh, ‘Eric B. for President.’ I used to tell people, ‘What record is that?’ I would say, ‘I don’t know what record that is.'”

The track was released in 1986 and was the duo’s debut single. It introduced them to the world and was the first chapter in their legacy. The song was produced especially for Rakim, whose lyricism was stellar. With legendary samples from James Brown, The Honey Drippers and The Mohawks, the duo ran the streets of New York after the release of ‘Eric B Is President’.

According to the producer and DJ extraordinaire, there wasn’t a young New Yorker alive who wasn’t blasting the track from their boombox or a hustler who wasn’t pumping it from their luxury car.

Recounting how it shook the city, Barrier remembered, “To ride through Harlem and hear it in the streets of Harlem [and] ride through Brooklyn, it’s playing in the streets of Brooklyn. It was just the backdrop of the late 80s into the early 90s. For us, we never took the time to sit back and watch our work. These people were just our friends, and enjoyed great music that we made. And we appreciated it.”

The track hit 48 on the US Billboard Hip-Hop Charts and set the blueprint for things to come for the iconic duo, who went onto lay the blueprints for the next generation of rappers.