In 1986, Rakim started to work with New York-based producer DJ Eric B. The duo — known as Eric B and Rakim — is widely regarded as among the most influential and groundbreaking of hip hop groups, due in no small part to Rakim’s technical abilities.
The duo’s first single, Eric B. Is President was a success and got the duo a contract with the fledgling Island Records sub-label 4th & B’way. The duo’s next single, the smash I Know You Got Soul, sparked early debate on the legality of unauthorized, uncredited sampling when James Brown sued to prevent the duo’s use of a fragment of his music. It also established Brown’s back catalog as a hip musical mining ground for a new generation of hip-hop programmers. Their first full album, Paid In Full, was released in 1987. causing a stir in the hip-hop music world due to its novel sound, approach, and subject matter.
Rakim pioneered a practice previously unknown to hip-hop called internal rhyming. Already an important aspect of traditional poetry, where rhymes could be found throughout the bar of a lyric which added to the rhythmic complexity of the song: “I keep the mic at Fahrenheit, freeze MCs, make ‘em colder/The listeners system is kicking like solar/As I memorize, advertise like a poet/Keep it goin’, when I’m flowin’ smooth enough, you know it’s rough.”
Rakim takes the stage at Spiritbar on Saturday, May 26. Ticket information is available through the Hume Hotel.