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Eric B of Eric B & Rakim on The Duo’s Impact on Hip Hop, Their Reunion, Acting & More

Eric B and Rakim
Photo Credit: Eric Barrier. Courtesy of More Media International

It’s hard to put the impact of Eric B & Rakim in perspective.  They weren’t the first rap duo, but they may have been the most important. In the nearly 40 years since their debut album, it’s hard to find an artist that has not been directly or indirectly influenced by their four classic albums. 

Their music, lyrics, concepts, fashion, and overall aesthetic has influenced Aesop Rock, A$AP Rocky (actually named after Rakim) and everybody in between. 

The duo did for Hip-Hop what the Nike Air Max 1 did for running shoes, Super Mario Brothers did for video games and Batman ‘89 did for comic book movies in that they took something that already existed and brought it to an entirely new level.  

The Pop-Break’s Angelo Gingerelli recently interviewed Eric B. about the group’s initial album run, his forays into acting and how it feels to be celebrated as one of the cornerstones of Hip-Hop culture as the duo prepares to perform at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ on Tuesday June 13 as part of the inaugural North 2 Shore Festival.

The Pop-Break: Eric B. & Rakim had one of the best four album runs in any genre of music. Did you guys know you were creating something special at the time and what’s your favorite project from that era?

Eric B.:  Probably the first one (1987’s Paid in Full), the first one is always the best. We never realized what impact we would make on people or the world, we did it because it felt great to do it.  

Photo Credit: Eric Barrier. Courtesy of More Media International

Those albums were so influential because they were so unique, did you ever deal with push-back from a record label that may have wanted more dance/club or radio friendly songs? 

Eric. B.: We were on an independent label (4th & B’Way) so, our label president was fine with whatever we did.  We pretty much did what we wanted to do and what felt good to us.  

One of the most well-known tracks from your catalog is “Know The Ledge” from the movie Juice and the song and video fit so perfectly with the movie.  Did you have access to the movie while you were creating the song? 

Eric B.: One thing about Rakim is that he’s a chameleon.  You can tell him the scenario and he can write to that.  He did the same thing on “Casualties of War.” He wants to paint a picture for the listener like Picasso.  

The Pop-Break: At the end of 1992 Eric B. & Rakim separated to pursue other projects.  What made you decide to separate and what did you do once you were operating without Rakim? 

Eric B.: There was never a rift, Rakim’s my brother.  We laugh everyday about that.  I wanted to go out and learn more about the business, so I got a job at All American Communications as a Vice President of Operations and worked on Baywatch, The Price Is Right and Jeopardy and learned a lot about the TV business. Then I got into boxing management and worked with Floyd Mayweather, Olliver McCall and Riddick Bowe. I really wanted to get more into the business side and Rakim stuck with the music.  

Now you guys are reunited and touring together, what brought you back together?

Eric B.: We’re family! Rakim has been doing music and I’m on my fifth season of Blue Bloods playing Lieutenant Mike Gee aka Donnie Walberg’s Boss (Fridays 10pm on CBS) and exploring the world.  Rap has set me up to do whatever I want to do, and that’s what I’ve been doing.  

2023 is being celebrated as the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop and you have been a part of a lot of the festivities, what have been some of the highlights?

Eric B.: Well, we’re going to make history on June 13th! New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is one of my good friends and he always brags about living next door to Bon Jovi, now I have one up on him, I’m playing The Stone Pony! 

Eric B. & Rakim have influenced countless artists.  Who do you like now?

Eric B.: You know what? I like them all man! Lil’ Durk, Lil’ Baby, I like all of them and think they all bring something different to the table. I just love music, if you listen to the new stuff these kids are really getting creative. My brothers in Brooklyn have found their own way and have their owns style now. So, there’s so many interesting things that are happening, I’m just happy that for the next fifty years they are going to take it from where we left off to the next plateau.  

And the women have really stepped up their game.  Back in the day there were only a few female MC’s and now we have a strong influx of women that are really dominating.  

The Pop-Break: What’s next for Eric B.?

Eric B.: I don’t know…I might be the mayor of New York City!  Rap music has afforded me the opportunity to do anything.

Rapid Fire Questions: 

  • Are you still in touch with Jody Watley? 

Yes, Jody is our friend.  We love Jody Watley.

NOTE: Check out 1989’s “Friends” for one of the first rap features on an R&B track. 

  • Favorite country to tour besides the US? 

Just about everywhere is great.  London might be one of the biggest markets for us.  

  • Do you still have the “Follow The Leader” jacket? 


  • If you could have worked with another MC besides Rakim, who would you chose? 

There are so many people that are like family.  From Big Daddy Kane to Freddy Foxx to Kool G Rap, I have the upper echelon of Hip-Hop as my family.  

  • If you got elected president what is the first thing you would do in office?  

First, I would call my mother and say “Mom! I made it!” 

Then I would try to improve our international ties and sit down with international leaders to stop fighting over foolishness and look at ways to improve the world. Everybody wants to flex, but I would try to come together with other world leaders, learn about each other’s culture and really have a conversation as people.  We were in Helsinki Finland, and nobody spoke a word of English, but everybody knew every word of every Eric B. & Rakim song! I’ve had so many people tell me that they learned English by listening to Eric B & Rakim records! 

Angelo Gingerelli wrote the long-running Pop-Break column “NJ Next” where he interviewed NJ’s most exciting Hip-Hop artists. The first cassette tape he ever owned (Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack Vol. 3) had a song by Eric B. & Rakim and you can hear “I Ain’t No Joke” in the background of his stand-up comedy special “Stuck in the Middle.”  

Eric B. & Rakim will perform at The Stone Pony as a part of the first-ever North 2 Shore Festival. Click here for tickets.

Angelo Gingerelli
Angelo Gingerellihttp://fifthroundmovement.com/
Angelo Gingerelli has been contributing to The Pop Break since 2015 and writing about pop culture since 2009. A Jersey shore native, Gingerelli is a writer, stand-up comic, hip-hop head, sneaker enthusiast, comic book fan, husband, father and supporter of the local arts scene. He likes debating the best rappers of all time, hates discussing why things were better in the “Good Ol’ Days” and loves beating The Pop Break staff at fantasy football. You can catch up with Angelo on Twitter/IG at https://twitter.com/Mr5thround, at his website www.FifthRoundMovement.com or interviewing rising stars in NJ’s Hip-Hop scene on “The A&R Podcast” (iTunes/SoundCloud).

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