What Happened To Eric B After Splitting From Rakim?

Eric B. & Rakim broke the hip-hop mold in 1986 with the release of their debut single, "Eric B. Is President." With DJ Eric B.'s minimal but creative production bringing a new sense of unpredictability to the beats and Rakim's complex rhyme schemes taking hip-hop lyricism to greater heights than ever before, the single was received by hip-hop heads as an instant classic and set the stage for the genre's Golden Age.

After "Eric B. Is President" got the attention of the rap world, the duo was quickly signed to 4th and B'way Records, through which they released their critically acclaimed debut album, 1987's "Paid in Full." AllMusic describes the album as one of the genre's all-time most influential releases, with Eric B. & Rakim spawning a generation of imitators in their wake. In the years that followed, Eric B. & Rakim recorded and released a total of four studio albums — each of which was met with positive reviews and good commercial sales, cementing their place at hip-hop's top table. However, the pair unexpectedly split in 1994, parting ways as a result of a disagreement over Eric B.'s actions, which had a seismic effect on his music career for decades after.

The break-up of Eric B. & Rakim

Eric B. & Rakim were at the top of their game by the mid-1990s, with their impact on hip-hop culture seemingly already secured. So why then did they break up?

In the main, the answer — as it often does — comes down to money. As Rakim explained to AllHipHop.com during a 2008 interview, the duo felt that, after delivering their record label four highly rated and commercially successful studio albums, they were in a position to ask for more money. The problem was that they were under contract to deliver three more albums for the label. To get to the end of their contract quickly, Eric B. hatched a plan: each half of the duo should record a solo effort each — Eric B. first, then Rakim. But though Eric B. apparently got the opportunity to record his solo album and took it, when it came to "sign off" on letting his partner on the mic do the same thing, he refused. Rakim believes that, at the time, Eric B. must have been anxious that Rakim would leave the duo to become a solo artist from then on.

Eric B.'s version of events is slightly simpler and more emotional (via the Chicago Tribune): "To me, it wasn't business. It's like any relationship. Before we're musicians and a group, we're family. Sometimes family just gets tired of each other and you just need a mental break to do whatever you want ... I wanted to do other things."

Solo work, and an unexpected reunion

So did Eric B. do what he wanted to without the legendary Rakim? Well, in a way, yes. In 1995, he released his self-titled solo album, though it made little impact, and he didn't try his hand at a solo release again until 2008. Instead, Eric B. decided to retreat from the limelight, becoming a producer for other artists as a part of Street Life Records, according to the Los Angeles Times. But he also chose to diversify. As he had revealed in a press release in the early days of his collaboration with Rakim, Eric B. has other talents apart from music and even believed he was destined for a basketball scholarship at one time. After attempting to go solo, the DJ got involved in movie production and event organization, helping to plan the Miami "The Source" awards, according to an extended Unkut interview. Eric B. also reveals that he set up a series of restaurants throughout the United States, all operated by friends and younger members of the family.

Even as late as 2019, Eric B was still broadening his horizons, beginning a new career in acting with a recurring role as police officer Mike Gee in the CBS drama series "Blue Bloods."

The Return of Eric B. & Rakim

It was back in the day when Eric B. & Rakim first shared their love of being "Paid in Full," and, 30 years after their debut studio album changed the sound of hip-hop forever, the duo decided to revisit the record to get paid once more and bask in the longevity of the Golden Age's all-time classic records.

As reported in Rolling Stone, in October 2016, the duo's representative, Louis "Uncle Louie" Gregory, teased that Eric B. & Rakim were back. He revealed that their debut album's anniversary the following year would be marked by a reunion tour in which "Paid in Full" would be performed live in its entirety, as well as a project to remaster and rerelease their four studio albums. Although the great comeback wasn't quite as impactful as Uncle Louis might have said, they performed a reunion show before a rapturous crowd at Harlem's Apollo Theater, which enjoyed considerable press coverage. Since then, the duo has performed sporadically in venues around the world, while the music they made back in the day has continued to age well and find new audiences.