In 1986, Rakim teamed up with producer DJ Eric B to form one of hip-hop’s most influential and groundbreaking duo’s—Eric B & Rakim. The duo’s first single, “Eric B. Is President” was a smash success and their debut album, Paid In Full, released in 1987, shook up the hip-hop world. 

Rakim pioneered a lyrical technique called internal rhyming. Already an important aspect of traditional poetry, where rhymes could be found throughout the lyric, thus adding to the rhythmic complexity of the song. Rakim also introduced another technique known as cliffhanging and popularized the use of metaphors with multiple meaning, setting a higher standard of rap lyricism and serving as a template for future generations of MCs.

Rakim is the most venerated figure of hip-hop’s “golden age”. He has been named as one of MCs ever—if not the greatest—by media authorities like The Source, MTV, Blender and Time. Rakim’s artistic influence spans decades and regional sounds, with many prominent rappers naming him as the primary inspiration behind their music.