Eric B. & Rakim: How One Dad’s .38 Special Course Corrected Their Career

In an interview with AllHipHop, the legendary DJ talks about their second Rock Hall nomination, the secret to their longevity and that time his father whipped out a .38 Special to scare them into taking their career seriously. 

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame unveiled its list of 2024 nominees on Saturday (February 10)—and Eric B. & Rakim are among the elite 15 artists The storied Hip-Hop duo—comprised of Eric “Eric B.” Barrier and William “Rakim” Griffin—has released four studio albums, including their platinum-selling debut, Paid In Full. Released in 1987, the project spawned the classics “Eric B. Is President,” “I Ain’t No Joke,” “I Know You Got Soul” and, of course, the title track.

Lyrically, Rakim has been exalted to the “God MC” and cited by numerous rappers as their biggest influence. His simple rhyming style paired with tongue-twisting metaphors puts him in rap’s upper echelon of MCs. On the production side, Eric B. has solidified his reputation as one of the culture’s innovators, known for his heavy sampling and astute ear.

In an interview with AllHipHop, Eric B. talked about their second Rock Hall nomination, the secret to their longevity and that time his father whipped out a .38 Special to scare them into taking their career seriously.

AllHipHop: Congratulations on the nomination. 

Eric B: Maybe it’ll happen this time.

AllHipHop: I know! I was gonna say, this is the second time. So how are you feeling this year?

Eric B: I feel great about it. Let me tell you, anytime anybody nominates you or thinks about you, you should feel great.

AllHipHop: So just the nomination itself is a big honor for you. 

Eric B: Exactly. It is.

AllHipHop: Let’s say you do get inducted, what would that mean to you?

Eric B: I think it’s a long time coming. We’re all righteous guys and girls, so it’s on God’s time, not our time. I’d be just as appreciative if I won it the first time, so it’s great.

AllHipHop: Do you think the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is doing a good job of including hip hop, or do you think they could do more?

Eric B: Everybody can poke holes at somebody else’s operation, and I would never do that. They have their own process. I would never throw rocks at the Hall. This is their institution, they built it, so they do it their way and respect the process.

AllHipHop: You always come across as very respectful. What do you think is the secret to your longevity? Because a lot of Hip-Hop artists these days, it’s kind of like a revolving door. And here you guys are, it’s almost 40 years later. 

Eric B: Because you know what? You know why we did it? We did it because it felt good. We didn’t get in this business to be stars. We got in this business to get out of the streets of New York and make our parents proud of us.

AllHipHop: Do you still have your parents?

Eric B: My father died in 2003, but my mother’s still alive.

AllHipHop: Did you call your mom right away with the news? 

Eric B: My mother is funny. If she doesn’t recognize the number, my mother won’t answer the phone. I’m like, “Mom, are you kidding me?” So, sometimes my phone doesn’t register on 5G and she will not answer the phone. She’s one of those people. I said, “Mom, were you a secret agent in your life before or something? CIA?” She does not answer the phone if she doesn’t know the number. I don’t care how many times you call, she will not pick up the phone.

AllHipHop: So you had to call her a couple times?

Eric B: Yes, and she has not answered the phone yet, and she’ll tell me, “I can’t be talking to just anybody on the phone.” Oh, OK Mom.

AllHipHop: She sounds awesome. Where does she live now?

Eric B:  She lives in a place called Ruleville, Mississippi. If you go past the traffic light, you went past her house.

AllHipHop: So she’s far away from all the glamour and the glitz of New York.

Eric B: She lived in New York for years and decided to move back home to Mississippi. She’s a retired as a school teacher and decided to move on to Mississippi.

AllHipHop: What do you think your dad would say if he was here right now and heard the news that his son is being nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? 

Eric B: I don’t think it would even register for him. He didn’t care about anything. He’d probably tell me, get in there and wash the dishes [laughs].

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AllHipHop: Did he understand what you were doing in Hip-Hop culture when you were blowing up in the ’80s? 

Eric B: Absolutely. He is probably the person that’s single-handedly responsible for turning us around, because when we first started doing it, everything was a joke. He was the one who really put his foot down and—I’ll never forget it. It was like yesterday—he said, “You guys are treating this like you’re selling nickel bags in the park, like y’all hustling. He said, “This is a million dollar operation and you guys are about to blow everything.” He said, “I don’t understand you guys. Look at our neighbors. My neighbors go to work in the dark and they come home and it’s dark. You guys just played a local roller skating rink and made $50,000. That’s more than my neighbors make in a year. You did that in 40 minutes and you guys are messing up this whole operation.”

He said, “Matter of fact, when you talk to people, tell them that you don’t have a father and you don’t know me.” We were going on tour. It was us, Doug E. Fresh, Kool Moe D, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. It was a bunch of us going on tour and we were going out the door. We were on our way to Hampton, Virginia and my father had everybody in the house. So he cussed us out for about an hour. Then he goes upstairs and gets his gun and comes downstairs and says, “All you stupid motherf###ers, get the f### out my house.” And he slammed the door. He said, “You guys are messing up a great opportunity just doing stupid stuff.”  From then on, we treated it as a business. So he was right.

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AllHipHop: So he gave you a big old reality check?

Eric B: Oh no, he took his gun out. He kept a.38. He went upstairs and got it and he said, “All you motherf###ers get the f### out.” He said, “The first person that makes a funny move I’m shooting you in the crack of your a##.”

AllHipHop: Did jaws drop?

Eric B: The funny thing about it is everybody and all my friends know that my father is serious, and if you came past the house, you’d have thought that we were coming out of a bank robbery or something. He said, “I’m telling you, the first person go in their pocket and act like they got something, I’m shooting you in the crack of your a##. And he was just adamant. He was on fire about it. Because he said we didn’t take it seriously. We didn’t take anything that we were doing seriously. And he was really p##### off about it.”

AllHipHop: Wow. So that changed your whole perspective on how you were going to move forward.

Eric B: Yes. And I treated it like a business ever since. I never, you know, if we didn’t get to accolades, but we did, we were still happy about it because we were still able to feed our family.

AllHipHop: What year was that? 

Eric B: When he did that? That was ’87. I’ll never forget it.