This week, Eric B. and Rakim fans got the reunion they were looking for. The duo presented a show last year at the Apollo Theater that celebrated the 30th anniversary of their album Paid In Full, but so many other artists shared the stage – virtually a dozen, including Fat Joe, EPMD, and Al B. Sure – that Eric and The God Ra hardly had any time to present their own classics.
But last night (April 9), the game-changing duo kept the stage all to themselves—for the most part—as The Technique Tour touched down at New York’s Irving Plaza.
The show started with a movie screen descending down to the stage, depicting a montage of photos and videos of Eric B. & Rakim in their prime. Recalling the truck jewelry and custom-made Dapper Dan suits, these guys were fashion icons as well as music trailblazers. Pictures were also displayed of the duo with street kings like the original 50 Cent, as well as rap royalty like LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane and KRS-One. They were certified in every way.
Eric B. first took the stage in a Gucci suit, the beige patterns pairing perfectly with his navy blue pants, and his name written in big letters across his back. Rakim followed in a leather Gucci jacket and delivered “Don’t Sweat the Technique” and “I Got Soul.”
Midway through their set, Eric B. & Rakim announced they were bringing out a special guest. Many fans were aware that both Nas and N.O.R.E. were backstage, but neither of the Queens hip-hop staples stepped out in front of the crowd. Instead, it was famed actress Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City who recently announced she was running for Governor of New York. The music stopped for her to sneak in a campaign speech.
Among the ways she promised to improve the state if elected were putting an end to cash bail, holding racist police officers accountable for their atrocities, and making enhancements to the New York City subways. But after a few minutes, the crowd started to get antsy and became audible with their wishes for the concert to commence again. On the ropes, the crafty Nixon won the audience over by expressing her desire to legalize marijuana in New York.
Afterward, The God continued. “The Ghetto,” “Move The Crowd” and “Mahogany” all were delivered with smooth precision.
When Eric B. threw on “The R,” it looked like Rakim was taken aback. “No more surprises,” he would say later with a light chuckle. But of course, “What’s On Your Mind”—one of their signature cuts and Eric’s favorite song from the duo’s catalog—was right in the comfort zone.
“Eric B. is President” is another classic from the 80s crack era in the Big Apple—not because of its lyrical content, but because it was such an exhilarating hip-hop blockbuster. The song was the anthem to the streets and its many hustlers.
“I’m gonna Wop to this,” Rakim said when the record came on. “We was doing ‘The Wop’ to this.” But after the song ended, he joked about it being close to his bedtime. It was 11:42 pm.
“I’m getting up there man,” said The God, now 50 years old. “I still feel young. I got my swagger.”
The duo unleashed “I Ain’t No Joke” next and the music touched your soul so hard, you could clearly see in your mind Flava Flav dancing from the video.
When the menacing opening notes of “Let The Rhythm Hit Em” came on, Rakim told the audience, “All I need is a tommy gun and I feel at home.”
“Know The Ledge” from the movie Juice was the follow-up, with Rakim furiously dropping cinematic verbal rapid fire. “If I get revenge, then they Rest In Peace / Somebody’s got to suffer, I just might spare one / And give a brother a fair one / Stay alert and on P’s / And I do work with these, like Hercules / Switch to southpaw, split your right jaw / Cause I don’t like y’all, I’m hype when night fall.”
The finale? Obvious to any Eric B. And Rakim fan. The record that solidified them as instant legends: “Paid in Full.”
“Thinkin of a master plan,” the crowd started yelling, drowning out Rakim. “‘Cause ain’t nothin’ but sweat inside my hand / So I dig into my pocket, all my money is spent / So I dig deeper but still comin up with lint /So I start my mission- leave my residence/ Thinkin how could I get some dead presidents.”