The golden age of hip-hop produced the most technical rappers of the genre. There was a formula to lyric writing that involved breaking words apart to manipulate syllables to properly rhyme with the rest of the lyrics. This technique was called multisyllabic rhyming, and it changed the face of hip-hop.
The end product mixed beautifully with a stacked beat usually produced from samples of old funk records, and drum and bass loops. A hip-hop duo by the name of Eric B. and Rakim perfected this style of rhyming in the late ‘80s.
Eric Barrier was the DJ while William Michael Griggin Jr., or MC Rakim as he’s commonly known, took on rapping duties. The DJ-MC combination was influential in the early stages of hip-hop and many groups like DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were influenced by this style.
When Eric B. and Rakim came out with 1986 hit single “Eric B. is President,” their flow set them apart from other hip-hop groups on the radio at the time. Unlike Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys, Rakim’s lyrical flow was a slower, calmer sound, held together with a tighter groove that kept the song going between verses. Eric B. produced some of the most unforgettable hooks with his turntables. The duo had managed to produce the ultimate balance between DJ and MC.
Their first single received little airplay at the time, but it was the b-side — the other song released with a single — that made Eric B. and Rakim legends of hip-hop. The name of the song was simply titled “My Melody.” The title gives an inside look into the sound of the duo. In this context, the word “melody” describes the consistency of Rakim’s rhymes. Each line rhymes nicely with the next to form a cohesive verse with an extensive vocabulary. “My Melody” has become one of the most heavily sampled tracks for later hip-hop songs since its inception, and with lines like, “[‘Cause] my strategy has to be tragedy, catastrophe / And after this you’ll call me, ‘Your Majesty,’” Rakim was destined for greatness.
“My Melody” and “Eric B. is President” were featured on their debut album, “Paid in Full,” which was released in 1987. The album is widely considered to be a landmark hip-hop record. It has influenced some of today’s heavyweights of hip-hop, including Jay-Z and Nas. It peaked at No. 58 on the Billboard 200 and was eventually certified platinum by the RIAA. “Paid in Full” also produced five singles for radio play.
Their second record, “Follow the Leader,” was released in 1988 and was well-received with tracks “Lyrics of Fury” and “Microphone Fiend.” While all of their albums have amazing lyrical content and production, none of their other releases could meet the bar that was set by “Paid in Full.”
Eric B. and Rakim made a total of four records, two of which were certified gold, before splitting up in 1992 to pursue solo projects. Since their split, Rakim has found some success in a solo career. He has put out three records, the most recent being in 2009. Eric B. released one solo record in 1995 and has since left the music business. In 2011, the duo was nominated to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for 2012 but they did not make the cut.