When iconic musicians embark upon reunion tours, often it's because they're broke. That's not the case for legendary hip-hop duo Eric B. & Rakim.
Their debut album, Paid In Full, released in 1987, is considered one of the most influential ever made in hip-hop or any genre. Its release began a six-year run with four albums that sold millions of copies. Eric B. & Rakim have always been revered for their business acumen as much as their music, and they still enjoy the benefits from the catalog they built.
Last July, they performed at the Apollo Theater to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their first album. This year, they’ve decided to reunite on a larger scale with The Technique tour. The celebration of Eric B. & Rakim’s legacy comes to The Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum on April 25. The bill will include opening performances by YoYo, Spinderella and Dallas artist Rakim Al-Jabbaar. The tour is about sharing the experience with friends and family, Eric B. says.
“Our friends are getting older. Our kids were babies at the time [early in his and Rakim’s careers]. Now they’re young adults, and they’re able to travel the world with us and have good time. It’s a family affair, and it’s about taking the entire team with us so they can see the things that we’ve seen,” he says.
The two have performed in Dallas several times over the years, but Eric B.’s connection extends beyond music. His sister lives here, and he visits often to see her and his good friend Deion Sanders, but this is the first time in 25 years Eric B. & Rakim have set out on a national tour.
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Time hasn't hurt their chemistry or made Eric B. rusty behind the turntables.
“Let me tell you something. I live in Vegas, and in my bedroom, the first thing you see is a turntable,” he says, laughing. "I always stay sharp. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid, so it’s nothing new.”
Getting back onstage with Rakim is "like riding a bike," Eric B. says. "We came up as kids. We’re family. We’re brothers. It’s like someone asking you how does it feel for your brother to be home. ... It feels good. [We] reconnect and get back onstage. There’s no struggle."
Rakim is a pure emcee who raised lyricism to new heights. Eric B.’s turntable prowess is formidable, but he's also respected in the industry a producer and engineer. Behind the scenes, his business savvy played a huge role in making sure "Paid In Full” was a way of life and not just the title of a song.
Eric B. enjoys his status as an elder statesman of hip-hop, and he’s been somewhat of a renaissance man after he and Rakim disbanded in 1992. He’s broken bread with Nelson Mandela and met with both George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. He’s worked in television production via All American Communications was working to form Death Row East with Tupac before his murder.
His primary passion outside music has been working as a professional boxing manager, consultant and president of World Championship Boxing. His clients have included Floyd Mayweather, Oliver McCall and Riddick Bowe. Eric B. says his relationship with Mike Tyson played a part in his transition from being a fan of the sport to working in the industry.
“Mike Tyson and I came up together in the streets, and being around people like him, I learned what goes on behind the scenes,” Eric B. says. “[I learned] from Don King, Bob Arum and being around all of these great boxing minds. I thought to myself, I could do this. When you’re around some of the greatest minds in boxing and you don’t take something from it, you’re a fool. I would just sit and listen to Don King talk all day, and everyone would be like, 'He talks too much.' I would tell them, 'No, there’s wisdom in these conversations.'”
Eric B. is honest about his ties to the streets in his youth, and he was friends with some of the most notorious New York crime figures of the '80s, including the original “50 Cent,” Kelvin Martin, and Harlem drug lord Alberto “Alpo” Martinez. He’s never gone into detail about anything he was involved in, but he credits his father with helping to change his mindset and pushing him to focus on his career.
He also shared details about a fight he was involved in that changed his outlook on reckless behavior.
“As a kid, you couldn’t tell me I couldn’t beat the world. I remember being young, stupid and just wanting to fight everybody.” Eric B. recalls. “What made me stop was one time this guy wasn’t bothering anybody, and I jump out and wanted to fight him because he was bigger than me, and I wanted to try out some new punches I learned. So I hit him, and I’ll never forget, he fell on top of me and he had a metal piece on his jacket and it cut me less than an inch from my eye. I could have put my eye out by being a bully and being stupid.
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"It gave me a life experience that I took with me and never forgot. I’ll never forget looking in the mirror and saying, 'Eric that was the dumbest shit in the world,' and from that day on, I never started another fight.”
The first round of shows for The Technique tour is a warm up.
“This is just our first go-round,” Eric B. says. “We’re going to play more intimate venues, reconnect with people, then come back probably September/October to play larger venues with an [expanded show].”
Eric B. & Rakim's The Technique tour comes to The Bomb Factory, 2713 Canton St., at 7 p.m. April 25. Tickets are $38-$163.