ERIC B. & RAKIM GROUP BIOGRAPHY:
The now legendary MC known as Rakim (pronounced Rah-Kem) was born William Michael Griffin Jr. on January 28th 1968, in Long Island, New York, USA. He stayed and grew up in Long Island, New York and this is where he developed much of his rap talent. Rakim was also the nephew of R&B; star Ruth Brown who had a string of hits in the 1950s, true to the musical influence present in his family Rakim became involved in the New York hip hop scene at a very young age. At the age of 16 he became a member of The Nation of Gods and Earths (commonly known as the Five-Percent Nation of Islam), taking on the name Rakim Allah, in 1984.
In 1985, he met Queens DJ Eric B., whose intricately constructed sounds made an excellent match for Rakim's reveloutionary presence on the mic, which was smooth, seemingly effortless, and used remarkably complex rhyming schemes involving internal rhymes and sophisticated metaphors.
Although he never became a household name outside of Hip Hop circles, Rakim is almost universally acknowledged as one of the greatest MCs of all time. It isn't necessarily the substance of what he says that's helped him win numerous polls among rap fans in the know; the majority of his lyrics concern his own skills and his Islamic faith, instead it is the way he says it, and this is where Rakim is virtually unparalleled, even to this day. His flow is smooth and effortless with jazz rhythms that makes it sound as though he's not even breaking a sweat. Rakim raised the bar for MC technique higher than it had ever been, helping to pioneer the use of internal rhymes -- rhymes that occurred in the middle of lines rather than just at the end. Many MCs of Rakim's time developed their technique through 'off the top of the head' freestyle battles, were as Rakim was among the first to demonstrate the possibilities of sitting down and writing intricately crafted lyrics.
It is the general opinion within Hip Hop that almost all modern MCs have in some way been influenced by Rakim's rhyming technique. And his partner, Eric B.'s use of a Bobby Byrd sample in "I Know You Got Soul", introduced what would be a period of extensive use of old R&B; and soul music used as background music for hip hop songs.
After meeting in '85, Eric B. and Rakim began recording together and 1986 saw the release of their debut single, "Eric B. Is President," from Zakia Records in Harlem, New York City. The track saw Eric B. & Rakim become a sensation in the hip-hop community, and their reputation only kept on growing as they issued the now classic tracks "I Ain't No Joke" and also "Paid in Full". Their first full-length album was 1987's "Paid in Full" and was a definite hit by hip hop's standards at the time, and has since gone Platinum. The album is entirely produced by Eric B. & Rakim, except the tracks "My Melody" and "Eric B. Is President" which are produced by Marley Marl. Paid In Full features no guest rapping or singing, and was well received upon release and has since become a classic hip-hop album. According to All Music Guide, it is "One of the most influential rap albums of all time".
While not a genre-creator, the album nevertheless introduced new conventions that redefined hip hop music while it was still in its infancy. The album Ranked #19 in Rolling Stone's "50 Coolest Records", was included in Vibe's "100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century", and was ranked as the greatest hip hop album of all time by MTV. In 1998, the album was selected as one of The Source Magazine's 100 Best Rap Albums and in 2003 was ranked #227 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The album has recieved the top rating from The Source magazine with 5mics, and a 5 out of 5 satr rating from All Music Guide too.
Paid In Full's lyrical content and delivery is looked upon as legendary and untouchable; Rakim's ability to flow smoothly and powerfully at the same time was supplemented by Eric B.'s revolutionary sampling, as well as his jazz and soul oriented beats. Rakim's use of elaborate metaphors, double puns, and paradoxes, embedded in his rhymes have been copied and used by a vast number of MC's since the release of this album. Prior to Paid in Full, most hip-hop records consisted of stereotypical plain beats with little or no focus on the lyrics, as most were to assist beats meant for clubs.
The Coldcut "Seven Minutes Of Madness" remix of "Paid In Full" is considered a milestone in hip hop, remixes and sample based music and is arguably the groups most recognized hit. Despite its world wide success which led to the track entering many overseas top ten music charts, the duo claimed not to like the remix during its release.
On July 25, 1988 Eric B. & Rakim follwed up their groundbreaking debut album with "Follow the Leader". Like their debut LP it spawned no major hits at the time of its release, but is now generally recognised as one of the most groundbreaking and influential hip-hop albums of all time. Today, the most well-known song from the album is probably "Microphone Fiend", in which Rakim raps a portrait about his growth and addiction to hip-hop. In 1998 the album was rightfully selected as one of The Source Magazine's 100 Best Rap Albums, and All Music Guide gave it a full 5 star rating.
Both these albums, "Paid in Full" "Follow The Leader", are still regarded as all-time hip-hop classics; Rakim's work set out a blueprint for other, similarly progressive-minded MCs to follow, and helped ensure that even after the rise of other fertile scenes around the country, East Coast rap would maintain a reputation as the center of innovative lyrical technique.
In 1989 the pair teamed up with singer Jody Watley for the Billboard pop top ten hit "Friends" which was featured on Watley's Larger Than Life album. This saw one of the first collaborations of pop and hip hop artists.
Eric B. & Rakim released their third album "Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em" in mid 1990 from MCA Records. The duo develop their sound even further on thus set, with Rakim adopting a deeper, more aggressive tone of voice & more mature serious subject matter. Musically, the production ranges from smoother soulful track's such as "In the Ghetto" to the hard-edge assault of the title track "Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em". Despite the fact that it doesn't boast singles as popular as the duo's previous albums ("Paid in Full" & "Follow the Leader") it still is considered by many to be their most coherent album. Rumors persist that most of the album was ghost-produced by the late Paul C & a young Large Professor, and the album is dedicated to the memory of Paul C & also Rakim's father with the back cover containing photos of both. The album is one of few that has received a "5 Mic" rating when originally reviewed in the Source Magazine. In 1998, the album was selected as one of The Source Magazine's 100 Best Rap Albums.
Eric B. & Rakim then dropped their forth, and final album "Don't Sweat the Technique" on June 22nd 1992. The album builds on the sounds of 1990's Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em, with Rakim sounding more aggressive than ever, on top of Eric B.'s jazzy, soulful production. The title track was a minor radio hit. The single "Know The Ledge" was also the theme song to the urban feature film, JUICE, a film which featured fellow rap artist Tupac Shakur (2pac) in a lead role. The song was among their most popular hits. "Casualties of War" was also released as a single and contains some of Rakim's most political lyrics yet. But, during the recording of the "Don't Sweat the Technique" album both Eric B. and Rakim expressed an interest in creating solo albums.
Unfortunately, Eric B. & Rakim's legacy as a duo stopped at four albums. Both expressed interests in solo careers but Eric B. was fearful of being abandoned by his partner when their contract was up and refused to sign a release. That led to their breakup in 1992 and Rakim spent a lot of time in the courts in a long and messy court battle, handling a legal fallout between himself, his ex-partner Eric B., and their ex-label, MCA (Music Corporation of America). Due to this legal wrangling over royalties and contracts, Rakim did not release a solo album for another five years.
Eric B. however didnt let the trouble in the courts hold him back an he even tried his hand at rapping in 1995 and released a self-titled album which was co-written with Freddie Foxxx. In 1996, Eric B. was picked to head Suge Knight's Death Row East label, an extension of Death Row Records.
Rakim's only solo output for a number of years was with the track "Heat It Up," featured on the 1993 soundtrack to the Mario Van Peebles film Gunmen. A reshuffling at his label MCA effectively shut down production on Rakim's solo debut, after he'd recorded some preliminary demos.
Rakim returned to mic in 1997 and released his first solo album "The 18th Letter" on November 4, 1997 from his new home at Universal Records. The album sees Rakim working with a range of '90s best producers, including Pete Rock and DJ Premier, who provided him with the jazzy backing tracks that Eric B. used to complement Rakim's rhymes and flow in the past. Despite his 5 year "absance" from the Hip Hop scene Rakim was never for one moment forgotten, and the album was a surprise commercial success reaching a #1 spot on the US Rap charts, was certified Gold, and was praised by critics. A deluxe version of The 18th Letter was sold with an album named The Book of Life. The Book of Life is an Eric B. & Rakim greatest hits collection.
Two years later, on November 30, 1999, Rakim released his second solo album "The Master" from Universal Records. The album was considerably less successful than its predecessor, failing to crack the Top 50 on Billboard's album chart and receiving mixed reviews, a great set according to some, yet in the eyes of others, it wasn't "reinventing the wheel" the way his early work had. When compared to his previous albums with ex-partner Eric B., the production of the songs is less coarse and more refined. This is an album where Rakim establishes his lyrical ability and his love for women in songs such as "Finest Ones" and "I'll Be There."
Seeking to rectify the peoples view of his "The Master" album, Rakim signed with Dr. Dre's Aftermath label in 2001, and the two began recording his new album early the next year, tentatively titled "Oh My God". In the meantime, to help heighten anticipation for the album, featuring rhymes and beats from two undisputed Hip Hop legends, Rakim guested on the single "Addictive" by female R&B; singer and Aftermath labelmate Truth Hurts. "Addictive" hit the Top Ten in the summer of 2002, the first time Rakim had been in the Top Ten since he and Eric B. appeared on Jody Watley's "Friends" in 1989.
"Oh My God" underwent numerous changes in artistic direction and personnel and was delayed several times. Rakim continued to make guest appearances on numerous Aftermath projects including the Dr. Dre produced "The Watcher Part 2" by Jay-Z, and Eminem's 8 Mile soundtrack. However Rakim hit another set back in July 2003 as the Aftermath website announced that Rakim and Dr. Dre had parted ways due to creative differences, and as a result "Oh, My God" was indefinitely shelved. Rakim signed with DreamWorks Records shortly afterward, but he hit stumbling blocks again as the label closed its doors shortly after he signed.
In 2003 Eric B. alleged that himself and Rakim had not been paid in full for their work on the "Paid in Full" album, and launched a lawsuit against Island Def Jam Music Group, Lyor Cohen, and Russell Simmons to recover the funds.
On April 27, 2004, Rakim was arrested regarding an outstanding paternity matter from 2001. The emcee said he was unaware of the warrant, but he agreed to pay $2,000 in child support for his 14-year-old son. He was released the next day but because of the warrant, that night's Wu-Tang Clan performance (opening for Ghostface Killah) at the Roseland Ballroom was canceled.
Rakim claimed to be working on a new album in 2004 but as of 2007, it has not been released. Recent rumors have claimed that he is planning to sign to Talib Kweli's label, and the rumours were further fueled by the pairs collaboration for the track "Getting Up Anthem Part 1". While nothing came of the rumors, Rakim has since stated he is still considering the label as distribution. Rakim is currently working on a new album, titled The Seventh Seal based on the passage in the Book of Revelation. According to Rakim, he is taking the seventh seal and "making it relevant to hip hop and life itself". As of now, no official news on what label is handling the distribution for the album. While performing at Stubb's BBQ, Austin, TX on March 17, 2007, Rakim announced that "The Seventh Seal" would be released July 7, 2007. Although the album has not been release as of the end of 2007.
Meanwhile Eric B is now the proud owner of 47 restaurants residing throughout the U.S. including New York, New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, California, Texas, and Washington DC. Residing in a 57,000 sq. ft. palatial manor, Eric has become the idological musician turned entrepreneur and has truly taken his hit song "Eric B. is President" to fruition. With a car collection boasting no less than seven Rolls Royce vehicles, including the famed Rolls Royce which featured in Paid in Full, aswell as a Rolls Royce Phantom, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Aston Martin, and many other sought after cars and trucks.
Eric and his home were recently featured on hit TV show "MTV Cribs". His home with a staff roster of 14 grounds keepers, chefs, maids, and security staff, was influenced by oriental design. In 2007 Eric was honored by George W. Bush, the President of the United States, with an invitation to the White House where he met President himself, the First Lady, and other dignitaries.
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