Filed under: Features,G Rap Week,Interviews,Killa Queens,Not Your Average,Print Work,Steady Bootleggin',Strong Island
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Wondering what Eric B. has been up to since Don’t Sweat The Technique? After he released his self-titled solo album in 1995, Eric focused his energies on a number of lucrative business ventures (including a chain of restaurants), which in turn offered him the opportunity to set-up a community center to help local kids stay out of trouble. He’s recently established the Eric B. Music Group, and has teamed-up with Brooklyn native Avion for his return to the rap game with for their first single, ‘Hit The Floor’.
Robbie: What’s the story with this new MC your working with?
Eric B: Name’s Avion – 25 years old, good kid. Has a different kinda style – fresh and innovative. It’s like the stuff I did with Eric B. and Rakim, it’s Eric B. and Avion. I overseen the whole thing, put the whole thing together, did production with a whole bunch of new producers.
How did you discover him?
I’ve been looking for a while for somebody unique, something different, somebody sayin’ something than the regular stuff that everybody says all day. One of these guys – name’s Tim – he bought to me and said, ‘Eric, I’ve found a guy, man. He’s from Brooklyn…has a unique style’. Then we got in the studio and met and just started working.
Can you discuss your community center work?
I have a community center in Newark, New Jersey where we have boxing – boxing is run by Larry Hazzard, the New Jersey State Boxing Commissioner. We have karate over here that’s run by the Assistant Police Chief – Eddie ‘Fruitkwan’ Brown. We have a computer lab here, and I run the studio. So the kids come in and get their homework and stuff done, then they go to the various programs from there. It’s a joint venture we did with the Housing Authority.
Just to give the kids something to do and keep them out of trouble?
Exactly. They had a lotta violence in Newark, New Jersey. Just to keep the kids straight, keep in school, keep them out of trouble.
When did you graduate from carrying equipment to throwing your own jams?
I started working for WBLS, for the radio station. I got my first street team and the first mobile DJ to go out and play at different events for the radio station. That’s how I really got started, professionally. I used to do the same thing and be around the way in the parks and they’d let me play music, but when I really took the show on the road was when I worked for the radio station and started playing playing in different cities and different neighborhoods. That’s how I met Rakim – playing in Long Island.
How long did you guys record together before you approached the record labels?
As soon as we finished the record, the next week went out to the labels and made a deal with an independent label named Zakia. It was in Harlem, a guy owned it – his name’s Robert Hill – went and made the deal and put the single out, and the record just caught on. It just started getting’ bigger and bigger.
Did you approach Island/Polydor or did they seek you out?
No, I went there. I was reading labels. There was a guy named Cutmaster DC that put out a record, name of the record was ‘Brooklyn’s In The House’. So he put out a record and I read the label and I said, ‘Man, this is right down here in Harlem!’ And I went down to the label and I tell ‘em I wanna put out a record. I paid for my own record, gave it to ‘em and they pressed it and start puttin’ the records out.
So you were already pretty business-savvy at that point?
You try to be. You try to learn as you go on. Basically, I really got a lot of on-the-job training.
G Rap was from the same neighborhood, wasn’t he?
I started G Rap. I put G Rap and Polo together. Polo was my friend and G Rap was my brother’s friend and I put them together and made the group Kool G Rap & Polo.
You also got Freddie Foxxx his deal with MCA, didn’t you?
Yep. Freddie Foxxx is a very talented guy. I think one day he’s gonna be a great director. He has a great eye for direction, great lyrical content and I tell him all the time he should’ve been a move director.
When you worked on the second G Rap album [Wanted Dead Or Alive] there were some issues with Large Professor over production credits. What are your thoughts on that situation now?
You know what? When I was doin’ all this stuff it was pretty new – new to me, new to everybody else – and when people sit there and say, ‘Oh, you put together a legendary project’ – it really hasn’t sunk in. I think there’s much more things that I can do, and I think when you sit back, looking at your accomplishments, you get stuck. I feel there’s a lot more things I have to add to music and I can bring to the table, and I just really don’t look back at none of that stuff. I say, ‘Hey, there was some stuff that I did, it had to be done’. Actually, I say I took one for the team.
How do you mean?
I went out and did what we had to do to make things work! That’s all it was. So I don’t look at it as, ‘Oh, if it wasn’t for me this wouldn’t have happened’. I just feel it was a team effort, I was a team leader and I took one for the team and put it together.
The last things a lot of people heard from you was your solo album. Can you fill us in about what you’ve done between then and now?
Oh man, so much stuff…movie production, Source Awards, it’s just so much stuff just to go into. Consultant for everybody.
You orchestrated The Source Awards?
Yeah, the one they did in Miami. I came in as their advisor and put that together.
Are you also involved in the restaurant business?
Yes. I got a bunch of ‘em. What I do is, actually I set ‘em up and I gave ‘em to the kids. So I give ‘em to my kids, my brother’s kids, a friend’s kids, and they actually run it. I tell a funny story – I was down in Texas one time and I came back home and I told the kids, I say, ‘I ate at this restaurant and it was really good!’ And they say, ‘Dad, we’re partners in the restaurant. You own half the restaurant!’ I was like, ‘Oh, OK’.
So this is like a restaurant chain type of thing?
Yeah. They’re like a whole bunch of Mom & Pop restaurants, and the kids come in and we put up the money and we do joint ventures with different people.
Are you still into collecting luxury cars?
I do and I don’t. It’s funny, you get to a point in your life where all that doesn’t even mean anything. Everyone likes luxury items and things, but you get to the point in your life where it’s like I’ve done it for twenty years – what else could you possibly do? I just like to get from Point A to Point B. I still got a buncha cars but it really doesn’t excite me like it used to in the 80’s. I used to be on the cutting edge of vehicles and needed to have the newest of the newest of the newest. But now it’s like I’m in a different place – I got the centre where I’m helping kids and stuff like that That means more to me than the cars and all the jewelry and all that stuff. Making a difference in people‘s lives – and actually saving people’s lives. We got a bunch of kids that’s in gangs and stuff, and having them here and off the streets – we could’ve somebody’s life! That to me is, when people ask me, ‘What would you like to be remembered for?’ My humanitarian efforts and helping people. My music was fine and fantastic, but just to be able to say, ‘You know what? At the eleventh hour we could always count on him to help us for our charity or help us to take the kids out of a slump and takin’ them into somewhere positive in their life’.
Where did you guys used to hang out back then?
The only place we went to really was the Latin Quarter, 48th Street and Broadway in Manhattan.
Who’d you used to roll with?
The original 50 Cent, Supreme Magnetic from Fort Green, Brooklyn, his brother Rat…
Was 50 already notorious at that stage?
He wasn’t notorious to us. I never looked at it like…I laugh at all the stuff we see now.
Did you do many big stadium tours?
We played everything from Wembley to everything else. All the big European shows…we did ‘Top of the Pops’ and everything. It was pretty funny, we took the concord over, played ‘Top of the Pops’ and come back out the airport and all these older people – they’re sixty, seventy years old – ‘Hey! I seen you on ‘Top of The Pops’ last night!’ We’re lookin’ at them like, ‘What? ‘Top of the..?’ We’re from the United States, we’re stupid, we don’t know nothing about ‘Top of the Pops’. We figure it’s a regular video show that they put rappers on from all over. We didn’t know it was a real television show that people watch and everybody performs on! And everybody said, ‘Top of the Pops is a big thing that you’re all on!’ We were like, ‘Yeah, OK’. It never dawned on us ‘Top of the Pops’ was a big show. We just did it, that was the end of it, then we came through the airport, everybody was like, ‘Oh my god! I loved you on Top of da pops!’ And I was like, ‘Wow’.
What song did you perform?
‘Paid In Full’. If you look at the ‘Paid In Full (Coldcut Remix)’ video, we never did a video for ‘Paid In Full’. They took that from our performance on ‘Top of the Pops’.
I read somewhere that you went to White House to meet George W. Bush?
I’ve been there for the both Bush’s – for the father and for him. I’ve been there twice.
What was that experience like?
Hey, it was what it was. He’s Commander-In-Chief, you’ve gotta show him respect. ‘Hey, how ya feelin’? How you doin’? Keepin’ it movin?’ Take the pictures – that was it.
I think the person that I met that we sat there and talked and really had a conversation was Nelson Mandela. We had a dinner – there was probably about twenty of us – myself, Robert De Niro, the accountant Bertha Dell, my father, Russell Simmons…no more than thirty people there. We sat there with Mandela and he talked about boxing and how much he loved boxing and stuff that.
That must’ve been an honor.
Definitely. To even be considered to sit there and talk to him, to even be considered to be sittin’ in the same room, and he sat there and talked to us like we were the best of friends.
So was that the highlight of your career so far?
Without a doubt. You sit there and talk to Nelson Mandela about boxing…he’s telling me his Joe Lewis stories and how much he loves Joe Lewis. Pretty interesting.
What are your thoughts on where boxing’s at right now?
I think people put too much into stuff. Boxing is great – you’ve just gotta sit back as a spectator and enjoy it. A lotta people put too much into everything. I think it’s one of the greatest sports out there because it’s individual achievement. It’s not a team, it’s you based on your own individual efforts. I think we’re gonna see some great fights this year. I think 2007-2008 was some of the greatest fights that we’ve seen in the last ten, fifteen years of boxing.
Have you been involved in the boxing game yourself?
Yeah. I was managing a bunch of boxers. I managed Floyd Mayweather for a minute.
Eric B., E-Love and Terminator X.
Eric B. & Rakim – ‘As The Rhyme Goes On’
Eric B. – ‘Love Trap’
Freddie Foxxx – ‘The Master’
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