The iconic hip-hop duo wore matching customized black-and-gold Louis Vuitton tracksuits to headline at the Soul'd Out Music Festival. They redid their entry because the audience—mostly heteronormative men who were in college and high school during Eric B. & Rakim's heyday—weren't turning up as they should for two men who helped usher in rap's golden age.
The Roseland audience stood stoically for the openers, including legendary collaborator Jaz-O, whose joke about protege and former foe Jay-Z fell flat. Even after Eric B. & Rakim got the energy they needed to start, the audience's energy dipped throughout the show despite a solid performance from all artists involved.
Both rappers have visited Portland before on their own, but this was the first time the Rose City hosted Eric B. & Rakim since they reunited in 2017. They're at the stage of artistry where they can rest on the strength of their original work rather than constantly promoting new, derivative works. Their energy was solid as the duo played their greatest hits for an audience craving nostalgia.
But being a foundational artist isn't all collecting checks. Both Jaz-O and Eric B. & Rakim paused their sets to pay tribute to Nipsey Hussle, and instructed the audience to light the stage with their phones.
The audience was merely slow for Eric B. & Rakim, it felt like Jaz-O was pulling teeth. Eric B. & Rakim's show seemed to adopt the premise of the movie Yesterday, in which only one guy in the world knows the Beatles. If you didn't know the tremendous impact both men had on hip-hop, you'd almost have a valid excuse for being as low-energy as last Thursday's audience.