Eric B & Rakim's 1987 debut, Paid in Full, is an undisputable masterpiece. It is, more or less, where the Golden Age of hip-hop begins. The album is a perfect example of what elevated the genre to what many believe was its pinnacle in the late '80s and early '90s. It has that stunning mixture of funk, jazz, and soul samples with boom-bap drums and lyrics that mattered.
Like the Golden Age itself, Eric B & Rakim's era was brief. The Long Island duo formed in 1986, they were quickly recognized as one of the best DJ/MC teams in all of hip-hop, and the two split in 1993 after releasing just four albums—as the Golden Age was coming to an end.
Eric B & Rakim's influence never waned. They sold millions of albums and inspired generations of hip-hop artists that followed. Millions still stream their songs year after year, but they stayed apart for more than a quarter century. Earlier this year, they finally announced their first tour since 1992.
What was remarkable about their performance at House of Blues was just how effortlessly the legendary duo picked up where they left off decades ago. They handled high expectations with aplomb, strutting on to the stage after the crowd full of middle-aged men had been standing around for an hour due to "technical difficulties." They opened with "Don't Sweat the Technique," the title track from their final album, and instantly had the fans eating out of their hands.
Fueled by nostalgia in a sea of cellphones, this show was a walk in the park for the hip-hop duo. From their classic debut, "My Melody" and "I Know You Got Soul" were warmly received by the crowd. Then Rakim announced he was ready to take a break and invited Willie D—Houston's own representative from hip-hop's Golden Age—to the stage for a run through the Geto Boys' 1991 classic track, "Mind Playing Tricks on Me."
The crowd continued to sing along to tracks like "Move the Crowd" and "Microphone Fiend" from the first two albums, but seemed to be losing interest during lesser-known cuts like "The R" and "Punisher." After about an hour, they closed the show with "Paid in Full," of course, and Rakim barely started rapping before holding the mike out to the crowd, who yelled every single word.
After a 26-year hiatus, it really did seem like Eric B & Rakim hadn't lost a step. They effortlessly took the crowd back to the Golden Age.
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