Eric B. & Rakim were an East Coast hip hop duo who popularised the jazz-influenced hip hop of the late 1980s. Despite spawning no major chart hits, the pair is generally considered to be one of the most influential and groundbreaking groups in the history of hip-hop, due to both Eric B.'s jazzy production and Rakim's revolutionary rapping style, which was smooth, seemingly effortless, and used remarkably complex rhyming schemes involving internal-rhymes and sophisticated metaphors. It is the general consensus that almost all modern MCs have been influenced in some way by Rakim's rapping technique. Eric B.'s use of a James Brown sample in "I Know You Got Soul" introduced the "godfather rap" period of extensive use of old R&B and soul music as background music for hip-hop songs.
Eric Barrier (Eric B.) and William Griffin (Rakim) began recording together in the middle of the decade with "Eric B. Is President" (1986 in music) from Zakia records in Harlem, New York City. Paid in Full and Follow the Leader were their full-length debuts and were hits by hip hop's standards at the time. Their last album together was Don't Sweat The Technique (1992 in music). During the recording of that album, both members of the duo expressed an interest in creating solo albums. However, Eric B. refused to sign the label's release contract, fearful that Rakim would abandon him. This led to a long and messy court battle involving the two musicians and their former label MCA. In 1989 the pair teamed up with singer Jody Watley for the Billboard pop top ten hit 'Friends' featured on Watley's Larger Than Life album this was one of the first collaborations of pop and hip hop artists.
Eric B. tried his hand at rapping in 1995 and released a self-titled album. The album was co-written with Freddie Foxxx, and was regarded with little interest by the music world. It is now out of print. In 1996 he was to head Suge Knight's Death Row East label (an extension of Death Row Records) that was suppose to sign acts such as Wu-Tang Clan but nothing ever came of it.
In the late 1990s, Rakim released two solo albums. The first, The 18th Letter, was a surprise commercial success and was generally praised by critics. His second album, The Master, was not as successful, and met with harsher critical opinion. In 2000, he signed with Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment, and the two began work on an album tentatively titled Oh My God. However, in July 2003, the Aftermath website announced that Rakim and Dr. Dre had parted ways due to creative differences.
In 2004 I Know You Got Soul appeared on popular videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, playing on Classic hip hop radio station Playback FM.