Eric B. Defends His Legacy & Claims His Credit In History (Audio)
Eric B. may be one of the most misunderstood figures in Hip-Hop. An Elmhurst Queens, New York native, Eric Barrier formed one of the genre’s most technically advanced groups in Eric B. & Rakim. Furthermore, the DJ/producer established a brand in Rap music that not only pivoted towards the materialism of the 1990s through clothes, cars, and jewelry, the group also proved the lifestyle to be a reality through reported strong seven-figure years earnings during the 1980s.
Since moving beyond the music industry in what he calls “the division” of Eric B. & Rakim 19 years ago (1997), Eric B. has worked in television production, including shows such as Baywatch, he has met with two U.S. Presidents, and he worked extensively in professional boxing.
Admitting that he rarely does interviews, Eric B. recently appeared on The Combat Jack Show. There, he defended his legacy as a producer against reports by the likes of Marley Marl, regarding early Eric B. & Rakim hit records. Further, Eric (who was joined by 30-year-friend Freddie Foxxx a/k/a/ Bumpy Knuckles) recalled the meteoric 1986 rise of the duo, their Paid In Full Posse street ties, and the duo’s eventual but often-misconstrued fallout. There are many sides to a story, and this a fresh and deeply extensive understanding from a primary source, and one of Hip-Hop’s game-changers.
(15:00) After describing his middle-class New York City upbringing, early aspirations to be a dentist, and his days doing WBLS radio street team, Eric B. gets to the music. Eric (and Freddie Foxxx) discuss “Eric B. Is President.” Foxxx debunks a widely-circulated rumor that he simply skipped a scheduled recording session for the would-be hit. Instead, the prolific MC (known both as “Freddie C.” and “Freddie Kruger” at the time) explains that he had a previously booked rehearsal with his then-group Supreme Force. Out of loyalty, the eventual major label artist would not break his word to his group. Eric B. thus called upon another Long Island, New Yorker in Rakim. “What’s bad about it, is I promised my dudes that I’d do a song with them,” explains Foxxx, who recorded several singles on Nia Records with his crew. “So that’s the reason I wasn’t [at the studio session]. I wanted to keep my obligation to my crew. It wasn’t that I didn’t show up because I was irresponsible, I just wanted to keep my obligations. It wanted to be loyal to my team. He went and he met Rakim after that.” Eric B. would go on to produce Freddie Foxxx’s 1989 MCA Records debut, Freddie Foxxx Is Here.
Eric jumps into explain the earliest recordings and securing a deal for Eric B. & Rakim. “Rakim already had ‘My Melody’ [recorded as a longer verse on an amateur made cassette tape]. We had those tapes…it was probably 35 or 40 minutes long. It was this long rap that he had put together.” It is here that Eric vehemently defends his role in the hit, against claims by Marley Marl (among others) that he did not produce it. “It’s so funny, that I look on the Internet and see Marley Marl [taking credit for producing ‘Eric B. Is President’]. He is totally right that he is the engineer who made the record. It’s so funny. When I got the [samples], Rakim’s brother Stevie Blass worked at a pirate record plant [in New York]. I’ll never forget: I’m in Rakim’s basement; it’s me, Rakim, and Stevie Blass. They’re drinking Ballantine Ale. I said, ‘This is the beat I’m gonna use: ‘[Funky] President’ [by James Brown] and then I’m gonna take a [Fonda Rae] bassline and put it on top of it.’ Rakim spit the beer all over his mother’s basement, laughing—thought [it was a bad idea]. It was my own interpretation of Fonda Rae’s ‘Over Like A Fat Rat.’ I love Stevie Blass to today, he said, ‘Eric, don’t listen to this dude. All his does is write rhymes in a book. Eric, I’m a trained musician, I taught myself. Eric, don’t abandon the plan.'” Stevie Blass would eventually be a guest on Paid In Full. “This is how ‘Paid In Full’ came [to be the title of our album]: I said, ‘Aiight Ra’, I want you to laugh like that when you get paid in full.'”
Eric, who cites Doug E. Fresh as his musical mentor, continues, “I went to Marley’s house, ’cause he was the engineer […] I paid Marley to [engineer] because I didn’t know how to work the equipment, but I had the ideas. I knew exactly what I wanted done. I gave him the [sample] records, I said, ‘This is what I want done,’ and he said, ‘Yo, that’s a great idea.'” Eric B. equates his role in production to that of Quincy Jones, who commissioned other musicians to play on his award-winning productions. “It’s so funny. These guys tell these stories because I don’t do interviews. It’s so important, now, to just tell the truth. If you want to leave me out of history, that’s fine, because I didn’t get in business to be a star; I got in this business to get out of the street. […] But when people tell lies, and perpetuate these lies [over credit, it becomes perceived as fact]. Come on; Marley has no publishing, no nothing on the record. So you want to tell me that Marley was just scared of me so he gave me [credit]? Come on, man. He knows what it is.” Later in the discussion, Eric B. points to disputes over origin of ideas that include Juice Crew members. “It’s the same argument that Big Daddy Kane had with [Marley Marl], and that same argument that Biz Markie had with him. It’s the same argument.” Combat Jack agrees that Kane has certified those claims in his own show appearance. Meanwhile, Eric B. reveals that is in fact another Juice Crew alum, MC Shan, who worked with him to mix some of the early Eric B. & Rakim recordings, as Marley reportedly did not initially believe in the strength in Rakim’s slow flow. The Queens, New York producer legend allegedly urged Eric to shop the finished beat to Tuff City Records, home to Spoonie Gee, 45 King, and others.
Eric B. also stands by his production based on the success of his group, as compared to solo material. “Me and Rakim worked together as a team [and are credited as such]. That’s why, if you look at all the [solo] records that he’s done since then, you don’t get that same feel.”
(46:00) Although Eric B. & Rakim’s discography spans back to 1986, Eric B. gives tremendous credit to an MC who would make his music debut in 1991. “I’ll never forget, Nas was in the studio working. He was a young kid—just like Rakim [was]—young, thirsty, and he was spittin’ fire. He will not take credit for it, and I always remind him… I remember he was in the studio and we were gonna work with him. Rakim called me one day and was like, ‘Yo E, man, we gotta get back to our day-job. Forget all them kids in the studio, we gotta get back to our day-job.’ These guys were really right on our heels—the Nas’s and the guys coming up. So we had to go into the studio and separate ourselves on the next level.” Citing Special Ed too, Eric B. alludes that this enhanced style of music deeply informed the direction of the group’s later albums, presumably Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em and Don’t Sweat The Technique. “That’s what we did. I always say this to Nas, but he’s the reason we took it [the next level]. It’s no disrespect to EPMD, but Eric B. & Rakim could’ve just been EPMD. There’s nothing wrong with that. But Nas pushed us to [go beyond what we had done before.]”
(57:00) The discussion moves to Eric B.’s opinion of Rush Management, Russell Simmons, and a young Lyor Cohen. The DJ/producer recalls his first ever car being a Rolls Royce (he would also buy one for his father) due to the commercial success of the group. He explains how the earning power of the group led him to be an advocate for Beastie Boys and Public Enemy at the management company and Def Jam Records. Eric explains the contrast of Follow The Leader to Paid In Full. He explains why the group was not big on collaborations, and confirms that they turned down Self Destruction involvement, which led “Stop The Violence.” “Of course. We didn’t fit in.” He also dismisses any excitement surrounding 1990’s Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em being the first Source magazine 5-Mic review. “We didn’t pay it any attention.” Eric continued, “The people at the record company were excited; we weren’t excited.” He says the group was more focused at the time of trying to match the sales of friend MC Hammer.
(1:02:00) Into the Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em era, Eric B. opens up about the growing rift between he and his partner. Notably, the producer lays some blame on Large Professor, who would gain pre-Main Source recognition for his work with the duo. “Large Professor was in the studio. There was a buncha guys that came around. Actually, the guys that caused division between me and Rakim—they were guys that caused division and couldn’t stay in they lane. I remember I was gonna knock Large Professor’s head off one day in the Apollo.” Explaining why he was angered at the Queens MC/producer, Eric maintains, “[He] just didn’t stay in his lane. [These guys] would tell Rakim little sneaky shit, ‘Yo Ra’, you need to put more drums [in the songs]. Eric [is doing the wrong production].'”
Eric B. points to one example of how those opinions hurt the group musically. “I remember I did a record in the studio and they went back, behind my back, and told Rakim, ‘Yo Ra’, that record is soft. You shouldn’t do it.’ The record turned out [to be done] by Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, it turned out to be ‘Summertime.’” He continues, “That’s the record I did. The engineer went up and played it for them.” Combat asks if that is why Will Smith apparently rapped like Rakim on the 1991 Jive Records platinum hit. Eric replies, “Yes, exactly.” Notably, Eric’s hands in the hit are not credited.
(1:07:00) There is then some discussion on the final Eric B. & Rakim album, 1992’s Don’t Sweat The Technique. Eric B. points to the fact that a young Wyclef Jean is playing bass in the title track music video. This is where the discussion bends to examine the “division” between MC and DJ.
Eric B. says, “I haven’t been around Rakim in 19 years, so what beef do we have? I didn’t take any money from, didn’t sleep with your wife, so what beef do we have? And we’re Muslims, so we’re not supposed to go to the mosque and say, ‘I been mad at my brother for 19 years.’ Over what?” Replying to a quote Combat Jack reads from Rakim on the group’s break-up, Eric dismisses, “I’ve never heard him say that myself.” Further, Eric points the split back to the Main Source front man and eventual mentor to Nas. “Like I told you before, Large Professor and those guys were trying to divide us.”
However, Eric also maintains that beef is bad for business, again pointing to EPMD. Barrier believes Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith’s on-again, off-again rifts have hurt the iconic Long Island group. “You’ve never seen me in an article knocking him or saying, ‘Ra’ doesn’t do this or doesn’t do that,’ ’cause I understand what it does to the legacy.”
Here are some additional discussion points that Heads may not want to miss:
(1:10:00) The discussion moves to highlight who was in the Paid In Full Posse. Eric B. discusses legendary street figures down with the clique, including the original 50 Cent, Supreme, as well as his interview companion, Freddie Foxxx. He discusses his relationship with storied figures such as Alpo Martinez and Haitian Jack. (1:18:00) Eric B. illustrates a powerful story of he and Supreme having a 1980s interaction with Gambino Family boss John Gotti and iconic henchman Sammy The Bull Gravano.
(1:20:00) Discussing sampling, and something reported by a member of the London press, Eric proclaims, “James Brown hated me til’ the day he died.” Apparently, the Godfather of Soul did not take kindly to the notion that Eric B. & Rakim had resurrected his career through sampling.
(1:28:00) Combat Jack asks Eric B. about the short-lived Death Row Records East off-shoot, his ties to Baywatch, and meeting both George Bushes. He makes some interesting points about President George W. Bush’s cabinet. The artist who grew up living blocks away from Louis Armstrong and Tom Seaver’s respective residences later reveals, “Eric Holder lived around the corner from me.”
(1:34:00) The DJ explains why Eric B. & Rakim will never be suited for inclusion in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Still, if inducted, he says that they had long ago planned to walk in backwards.
(1:38:00) The discussion ends with Eric B. discussing his 2010s life as a retired grandfather. He briefly touches upon his role in Nicki Minaj’s introduction to Cash Money Records, and how he stays connected to the music industry. He asserts LL Cool J’s greatness, and why Grandmaster Melle Mel is one of Hip-Hop’s first “deep” MCs.
This two-hour conversation is a definitive discussion with a Hip-Hop pioneer who shuns the spotlight, but appeared to set some records straight, and celebrate his hit records.