Eric B and Rakim, the pioneers from the golden age of hip-hop entered the house of blues “paid in full” style.
“It was dope just seeing the legends come up onstage and do what they’ve been doing for 40 years,” said 26-year-old aspiring rapper Asante Prince.
The rap legends were decked out in leather Gucci jackets and sweat suits paying homage to hip-hop culture they spawned in the late 1980’s. The band seemed to bring together the most positive aspects of Hip Hop.
“It was all different races, and also all different age groups,” said Prince.
The show also featured an artist painting abstract portraits of the duo onstage. At one they even invited a young B-boy break-dancer nicknamed “Moose” from the crowd up onstage. After the song the young hip-hop dancer mentioned that he came with his mother and Grandmother.
Rakim expressed his appreciation for the crowd and how he wanted to give that love back saying, “The older I get, and the harder is for me to let go”.
“It was all the elements, complete all love and unity, its good and it was refreshing to hear,” said Prince.
Rakim’s lyrics opened a new era of rap apart from the party songs and dance scene of the late 70’s. He joined the few original hip-hop artists that gained critical acclaim for conscious lyrics exposing the realities of living in the inner city. His lyrics have never been misogynistic or glorifying gang violence. Their hit “Paid in Full” which Rolling Stone magazine named the tenth greatest hip-hop song of all time. The song alludes to some of Rakim’s past brushes with gang life ”I use to be a stick up kid, so I’d think of all the devious things I did. But Rakim then owns his past and evolves “But now I learn to earn because I’m righteous”. The complex stories woven into his lyrics gained the band respect among both critics and street hustlers.
An older fan named Courtney said “Oh my god, this is my childhood. New york in the building!” I noticed a calming sentimental vibe in the room as fans reminisced on the early days when hip-hop was less commercial and the music brought many cultures together. “There were a couple songs that they didn’t even have to rap, they could just play the instrumental and the audience would rap for them” said Prince.
Rakim’s stoic delivery mixed with focused vocabulary influenced many rappers like MOS–DEF, Nas and Wu-Tang Klan. He bridged the gap from the old school rap of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to Notorious B.I.G and 50 Cent.
Eric B’s diverse samples brought together the horns of old John Coltrane Jazz with the funk rhythms James Brown. Rakim’s poetic style fused perfectly with Eric B’s musical palette allowing the duo to paint a picture that brought together the house of blues crowd as if transfixed watching a musical mixture of Pulp Fiction and Goodfellas.
“They’ve got such a big contribution to the culture from the golden era of hip-hop that’s really what I wanted to see because I know they were one of the Godfathers” added Prince.
Like those cinematic artists on the big screen, Eric B and Rakim’s musical chemistry also deserves the term “classic”.