Review – Erik B. & Rakim Threw it Back at the Gothic Theatre

It is impossible to imagine the Golden Age of hip hop without including Eric B. and Rakim. The duo — whose real names are Eric Barrier and William Michael Griffin Jr. — got their start in New York City in 1986 and are known for changing rap music for the better. Since the late 1980s, the twosome has been universally considered one of the greatest acts in hip hop, and several of their albums, such as Paid in Full and Don’t Sweat the Technique, remain on lists as some of the greatest albums of all time.

Tuesday night, the Gothic Theatre embraced the throwback team, showcasing their thick discography along with opening acts Jaz-O, Ichiban & DJ A What (in spirit) and more. The initial acts brought the year back from 2019 to the early ’90s, and even though the venue was slow to fill, the music stayed on track and created a good warm-up for the icons. 

The last opener, Jaz-O, brought skilled, fast raps over the beats, reminding the crowd of his influence over another great rapper, and more importantly, Beyonce’s husband, Jay-Z. Although the two had a longstanding feud, recent years have shown them getting along. To show their camaraderie, the musician even performed several tracks off of Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt, on which he is credited as Big Jaz. Halfway through the set, the crowd began to fill and the audience grew more hype to the music. After a Nipsey Hussle shout out, the rapper left the stage and allowed two DJs to take the spotlight.

After the warm-up slots had played their pieces, it was time for the epic stylings of Eric B. and Rakim to take over. Eric B. entered the room decked in a massive fur coat around 11 p.m. and posted up behind the DJ booth. After a small bout of technical difficulties, Rakim, otherwise known as one of the greatest rappers of all time, finally stepped out. “Move the Crowd” started the show and succeeded in living up to the track name. “As The Rhyme Goes On” and “My Melody” bumped the room in full excitement as a painter painted next to the singer. For a while, it was difficult to make out the picture, but eventually, it became obvious the painting was Nipsey Hussle.

The set then plowed into songs “I Ain’t No Joke” and “Don’t Sweat The Technique,” both of which gathered a lot of rap-a-longs from the audience. Rakim called out to cut the lights and declared the moment a dedication to life for his friend Nipsey Hussle. Eric B. scratched the records with simple ease as the rapper took his fans of over 30 years through the rest of their set.

Performances by veterans like Eric B. and Rakim show their audience what it was like to experience hip hop at its beginning and how it evolved to what it is today. Their classic songs depict a different world for their audience, which is integral to appreciating music as it evolves further. After a 26 year hiatus, the two have brought their show back better than ever and ’90s rap fans can only hope they continue to guide the light for future generations.

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