They never scored the sort of crossover hit that made them visible to pop and rock audiences, but Eric B. & Rakim were heroes to practically every serious hip-hop fan in the '80s and '90s. Fusing the smooth but muscular tone of Rakim Allah's streetwise rhymes and the lean, hard beats and virtuoso scratching and sampling of Eric Barrier, Eric B. & Rakim featured two performers who meshed perfectly, and prior to the rise of West Coast gangster rap and the dense, sample-heavy productions of Public Enemy, Eric B. & Rakim were hip-hop's dream team, cutting masterful recordings representing New York hip-hop at its minimalist peak. Icon is a budget-priced collection that features 11 tracks from Eric B. & Rakim's four original albums, 1987's Paid in Full, 1988's Follow the Leader, 1990's Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em, and 1992's Don't Sweat the Technique. Despite being part of a series of low-priced greatest-hits CDs, this is as good an introduction to Eric B. & Rakim as you might hope for, featuring the duo's biggest hits along with classic album tracks that truly skim the cream from their body of work; longtime fans wanting a good "best-of" will be happy, and younger listeners looking into the history of East Coast rap will find this to be a revelation.