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Feb 10 2024

#RockHall2024 Nominee


During hip-hop’s golden age in the 1980s, Eric B. & Rakim expanded the genre with unprecedented levels of rhyming, word interplay, and soulful beats. While high-energy party anthems dominated the scene, Eric B. & Rakim brought a smoother, more poetic approach to the musical landscape. With their innovations, they earned the respect and admiration of peers and fans. As JAY-Z acknowledged in 2017, the duo’s lyric “constant elevation causes expansion” is a mantra that every artist should live by, and it sums up the massive legacy of Eric B. & Rakim’s work.


Hailing from Long Island, the duo arrived on the scene as teenagers influenced by both jazz greats and funk legends. Under the tutelage of rapper Marley Marl, they released “Eric B. Is President.” With Eric B. sampling the groove from James Brown’s “Funky President,” Rakim set poetry in motion, altering the focus of the rhyme to the middle of each line rather than the end – a technique known as internal rhyming. While many MCs were skilled improvisers, Rakim showed his contemporaries that hip-hop lyrics could also be written and carefully crafted poetry – ushering in a new era of stylized rhyme and inspiring generations of lyricists to follow.


The duo’s debut album Paid in Full allowed Eric B. to showcase his masterful percussive beats and effective use of samples. Having grown up listening to John Coltrane, Rakim admired the interplay between melodic instrumental lines and syncopated rhythms in jazz, and he brought this interwoven approach to hits like “I Know You Got Soul” and “My Melody,” creating conversations between his words and Eric B.’s beats. In contrast to their contemporaries, Eric B. & Rakim took a more minimalist approach to music, with their masterful production allowing space for complex and nuanced wordplay to shine.


During their six years together, the duo’s four heavily influential albums showed that hip-hop can be thoughtful, graceful, intentional, and convey a message. It is impossible to imagine artists like Eminem and Kendrick Lamar without the innovations of Eric B. & Rakim.


Complex wordplay, minimalist beats, and revolutionary hip-hop.

Selected discography:

“Eric B. Is President” (1986) “I Ain’t No Joke,” “My Melody,” “Paid in Full,” "I Know You Got Soul," Paid in Full (1987) “Follow the Leader,” “Microphone Fiend,” Follow the Leader (1988) “Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em,” Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em (1990) • “Don’t Sweat the Technique,” “Juice (Know the Ledge),” Don’t Sweat the Technique (1992)


Nominees: Eric B. & Rakim