Before I met Eric B, I read the following after simple “googling.”
“Eric B. & Rakim are an American hip hop duo formed in Long Island, New York, in 1986, composed of DJ Eric B. (born Eric Barrier) and MC Rakim (born William Michael Griffin Jr.). AllMusic wrote that “during rap’s so-called golden age in the late ’80s, Eric B. & Rakim were almost universally recognized as the premier DJ/MC team in all of hip-hop. Tom Terrell of NPR called them “the most influential DJ/MC combo in contemporary pop music period. The editors of About.com ranked them as No. 5 on their list of the 10 Greatest Hip-Hop Duos of All-Time, and Rolling Stone ranked them No. 5 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.”
Yet not until I learned that Eric is from Queens and Rakim is from Long Island, I did not understand who exactly this duo was because I come from where they are from. I lived in Long Island, the longest, of my life. I have great memories from Great Neck, East Patchogue, Point Lookout and Long Beach. It is also there that I understood in America there is north and south side of the railroad tracks. It is another way of saying: There is racism in America.
To put it into perspective, North Bellport is on the north side of the railroad tracks when I used to be on the south side in East Patchogue. In the 1980s, police did not venture much into this neighborhood. Since then, presumably, Mara Salvatrucha, commonly known as MS-13, also moved in there. I can imagine how life must be difficult in that neighborhood nowadays because I knew how tough it was then.
The chances are for another Eric or Rakim to make it out of there to stardom surely would be an impossibility nowadays. Not that it was easy then. It was tough to be from North Bellport, for that matter from certain parts of Queens all the time: It still is. Eric B and Rakim made it then, somehow, against all odds, including the racial divide.
I met Eric B during the filming of the “Trump vs Hollywood” during Corona quarantined months of 2020. I immediately reminisced 1980s. Suddenly I felt like I know Eric B from the old days. So we started to talk as if we were continuing where we left it off back then. But this time around, with us, there was also Daphne Barak, the Director of the documentary that I produced: Filming with Eric was one of the 24 interviews Daphne conducted for this documentary.
By the way, Daphne has no experience whatsoever with railroads, never mind the “divisive tracks.” She only knows how to trot around the globe on planes only to spend time with A-Listers. But even then, we, together, visited the past a little bit and then we moved on as fast to the future, focusing on One America, leaving Divided America behind.