In 1986, Rakim started to work with New York-based producer-DJ Eric B. The duo—known as Eric B & Rakim—is widely regarded as among the most influential and groundbreaking of hip-hop groups. 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. Their songs were the first to really impart hip-hop music lyrics with a serious poetic device sensibility. Eric B & Rakim went on to produce three more successful albums, all now considered hip hop standards. At that time, and still today, Eric B. & Rakim are almost universally recognized as the premier DJ/MC team in all of hip-hop. Not only was their chemistry superb, but individually, each represented the absolute state of the art in their respective skills.
The duo celebrated the 30th anniversary of their debut album, “Paid in Full’, with a headlining show at the Apollo Theater in New York City last July. “Paid in Full” reached the top ten of the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Album charts.