Rants, deleted tweets, mystery—something isn't adding up.
Earlier this week, the official Twitter account for Eric B. & Rakim decided to kick a hole in the speaker, pull the plug, and then jet by dissing an entire generation of rappers.
“You are now witnessing the devolution of rap music,” its February 12 message stated. “The death of poetry and smoothness, they use this. The absence of a message. The inability to create meaningful change through words and verses, but the worse [sic] is, they don’t even know they hurt this artful purpose, it’s tragic.”
By Wednesday, the account boasted that the message had spread to nearly a million people, and the hip-hop media landscape was reporting on the rant by two of hip-hop’s most iconic pioneers, with many of them attributing the rhyming message directly to Rakim, the spitting half of the seminal duo. The Source even want as far as to claim “Rakim sets the world on fire with tweets about today’s rap music,” and that “The Goat emcee and one half of the legendary DJ/Rapper duo Eric B & Rakim, took to Twitter on Tuesday to […] make his opinion on the rap scene today known.”
You won’t be able to see those tweets anymore, though. With the exception of a Questlove tweet from 2010 and the duo’s pinned tweet (an Eric B. media appearance from February 9), their entire Twitter history has been deleted.
To make things even more interesting, I think I might have caused this.
From the jump, there was little to no ground to make the assumption that the God MC was the author of these tweets. Even a perfunctory glance at their timeline revealed the account mostly dealt in media appearances by Eric B., and what celebrities had their picture taken with Eric B.
Last year, the account even beefed with singer Eric Bellinger for a while, after he titled a series of EPs Eric B. Is President. Bellinger’s initial press release called the move a tribute to the iconic song, but the official account for the duo said, “This clown Eric Bellinger still trying to fool listeners into thinking his music is @EricB’s so they download it.”
Furthermore, the bio for Eric B.'s solo account links to the duo’s verified account, but Rakim’s solo account—which hasn’t been active since 2010, a short time after the release of his last solo album—doesn’t. The account was created in 2009, seemingly to promote Rakim’s The Seventh Seal album, but Ra lost his interest in social media soon thereafter.
It seems much more likely that Eric B., or at least people connected to him, have been behind the duo’s account. In fact, there is no obvious reason to assume that Rakim has ever been involved with or connected to the account. Before reuniting for concerts last year, the duo hadn’t been on speaking terms for many years.
“I don’t wish him no bad luck, but I don’t call him,” Rakim told HipHopDX in 2013. “I’m a loyal dude, and you know doing certain things, especially when you are breaking bad with people, you gotta keep it 100 with that person. And it was a couple things in business that I felt that he didn’t handle right that left a real bitter taste in my mouth.”
A hint of what might have caused that bitter taste can perhaps be found in the longstanding rumors surrounding Eric B. paying off other beat creators as ghost producers. In 2008, Marley Marl claimed he produced the duo’s debut 12”, despite only getting credited as a studio engineer. “I took the records to Marley Marl’s house in Queensbridge and paid Marley Marl to be the engineer,” Eric B. said in 2008, responding to the allegations. “Marley got paid. That’s why he’s not a producer, that’s why he is not getting publishing. I brought the music. I just couldn’t work the equipment because that’s not what I did. If you look on the record, it says mixed by Marley Marl and MC Shan.”
Meanwhile, Eric B.’s involvement as a producer with the duo’s classic debut album Paid in Full has also been overstated, at least according to Rakim himself. “The drum programming on the album, our engineer Patrick Adams did a lot of that”, he told author Brian Coleman for his book Check the Technique. “He's a real talented cat. I'd basically just take my break beats and ideas in, and he'd sample it up and put the 808 on it.”
In that same book, Rakim stated he himself was responsible for the brunt of the album’s beats: “Back then, Eric B. wanted to be a businessman so I said, 'Okay, you can take care of the business, I'm going to stick with this notebook right here.' So by not getting involved, he was right there telling them to print whatever he wanted them to print on the album cover. That was my mistake. If we did ten tracks on the album, I did like seven of the beats myself. A lot of times they were just old park records. I had a record collection, I had turntables, I had all the breakbeats.”
With all this in my memory, I decided to email the press agent for Eric B. & Rakim, along with the email contact on Rakim’s official Facebook page and a few other folks who might be able to put me into contact with the duo. My question was simple: “Could you please confirm or deny whether Rakim typed this message like various media outlets are reporting? And if he did not type this message, did he have prior knowledge to its publication, and does he agree with the statement (that we are "witnessing the devolution of rap music") or not?”
A simple fact-check. Like journalists are paid and supposed to do.
Apparently, I was the first to do so, because within half an hour after sending that email, voicing my doubt about Rakim’s involvement with the statement, the comments that had Twitter ablaze for the last three days had been deleted. Along with the entirety of the account’s Twitter history.
By now, an official answer still hasn’t been given. The disappearance of almost nine years worth of messages is probably as close to an answer as we’ll get.
A representative for Rakim has been notified of this article and its contents, but as of press time, DJBooth has not received a response.