Erick Sermon: Twenty Four Hour Business
No introduction should really be needed for the green-eyed bandit, and in his recent conversation with HipHopDX, the E in EPMD made it abundantly clear that he and P wont be straining to formally reintroduce themselves to a new generation of Hip Hop fans on their first group album in nine years, We Mean Business. But rather, offer up a new batch of funk-fused tracks for their longtime loyalists who are now mostly over the age of 25.
Due September 9th, the Strong Island duos seventh effort sports an albums worth of new tracks crafted by Sermon, with the exception of one 9th Wonder produced song (Left For Dead). The discs first single, Listen Up, features the legendary Teddy Riley. And the album as a whole boasts a bevy of heavy hitters including M.O.P., Mobb Deep (We Mobbin), Jadakiss, Styles P, Sheek Louch, KRS-One (They Tell Me), Ghostface, Raekwon, and of course Redman, with the discs sole southern guest spot filled by Texas crooner/emcee Devin The Dude (Jane 7).
And according to the E-Double, the albums two buzz singles, Blow and Run It [click to listen] and its remix featuring KRS [click to listen], might now not even be good enough to make the final tracklisting of the new CD.
We Mean Business will not only mark the groups first full-length since the 90s, but their debut release on their own label, EP Records (which is distributed by RBC/Universal Music Group) due October 7. In addition to being back in business literally, Erick and Parrish plan on making dollars with not only their new label but their own limited edition EPMD hi-top sneaker called The Spartan, which will be coming out via the DC Shoe Company in October. Also sure to net some serious duckets for the fellas is a 3D documentary film tentatively bearing the same name as Sermons forthcoming new solo album (which will also function as the soundtrack to the film), The E True Hollywood Story, that begins shooting next month and will cover the 20-year history of the group
With so much on their plate for 08, Erick Sermon had a lot to discuss with DX. In addition to the aforementioned plans, he revealed some never-before-published tidbits of info, including how he may have given Rick Ross his first real break nearly 10 years ago, that an heir to his musical throne is about to be introduced to the public, and maybe most notably he offerd up some interesting insight into EPMD - the break up, the make up, and how the brothers from another mother are fully focused on adding another chapter to their groups historic Hip Hop legacy.
HipHopDX: The most important question first: When will EPMD be recognized by Vh1s Hip Hop Honors and your show end with a rousing rendition of Headbanger?
Erick Sermon: I dont know. I see that they got certain people on the boardI guess they [choose the honorees] for certain ratings or whatever, but it didnt make no sense [not to honor EPMD last year]. I dont have an explanation for that.
DX: Who does E and P like, Jay-Z and Nas, Eminem and Royce?
ES: As far as what?
DX: You know how they always have artists like do the tribute.
ES: Well, its definitely Red and Meth. Thats who I see doing me and Parrish.
DX: Any other suggestions or just Redman and Method Man?
ES: If Prodigy [click to read] was here cause thats who people saw [him and Havoc] as when they came in the game, as the new EPMD definitely Mobb Deep [click to read]. But, that obviously cant happen cause Prodigys away.
DX: Now I came across an old news piece from 2001 where you mentioned that you guys were prepping We Mean Business. Its seven years later, whats taken so long?
ES: We have a couple records [from the album] on the web now. We let the underground pop off first until we had got the contracts signed. Me and Parrish just got finished [with that], so we got our own record label on Universal now. So we gonna get ready to start making stuff happening. Youll start hearing mad shit soon. We got KRS-One [click to read] on the CD. We got a record with Mobb Deep on the CD. Of course, Redman on the CD. The CD is fuckin crazy. The shit is bangin. Like, I aint gonna lie to you. Its real Hip Hop shit for real Hip Hop heads. If you a Hip Hop head, its hard to hate the CD. Youre gonna be excited, trust me.
DX: What about Keith Murray? Is he on the CD?
ES: We didnt do anything [with Keith] yet. We wasnt trying to put people on [this album] just because they [are crew]. We was making songs that sound dope for the people that we wanted to work with. Of course, Keith [click to read] is the crew, but we didnt get nothing on there with him yet. So we dont know, he might not make it. We thinking about putting [him] on the 9th Wonder [click to read] beat though. That shit is crazy.
DX: And, what should people expect from this new EPMD album, is this a throwback?
ES: Nah, people got it wrong, we arent in competition with anybody. Them young dudes are doing what theyre doing. Were just doing what were doing. Theres a marketplace for 25 to 45-year-olds thats missing, and thats what were catering to.
DX: I wanna go back here to the origins of this new album. You were featured on Ps last solo album, The Awakening, in 2003, and you guys have performed together occasionally in recent years, but how much time have you guys actually spent working together since 99, since the last group album, Out Of Business?
ES: Well, the most time that weve worked [together] has been this year, 2008. Of course, last year we did a couple of shows. But we worked a lot this year, as far as touring and being in the studio.
DX: And why did you guys declare that the group was Out Of Business when it had just been put Back In Business two years before that?
ES: That wasnt a decision that we made. Thats kinda why I left Def Jam. Kevin [Liles] [click to read] and Lyor [Cohen] thought it was a good idea to [announce the end of the group]. They figured that it would start hype up [and lead to] that question you asked, and it didnt work. It was something that they did as a marketing plan to like confuse the consumer.
DX: For like another comeback?
ES: Yeah, exactly. They wanted to [have consumers be like], Damn, this they last tape? Hell no, not again! And then have everybody run to the store and pick it up. But nah, it didnt happen that way. [Laughs]
DX: And once you were out of the Def Jam situation, I think I read there were plans for you guys to do an album on J Records when you had a [solo] situation over there?
ES: Yeah, we did sign to J Records [as a group]. But then I left J Records [in 2003] after I was there with two big records [Music and React] and they didnt know Cause it wasnt just me, it was Busta [Rhymes] [click to read] who left, and Wyclef [Jean] left. I guess everybody felt the same way, [that] something was going on up there. Like, nobody was trying to market the rap music. And so after I decided to leave, there was no [EPMD] album gonna be made [for J].
DX: Was that always the plan when you guys started doing the group albums again, that theres still gonna be the solo stuff?
ES: Well, I cant stop the solos because now I established myself as Erick Sermon. As far as P, thats what he [did] too. But me, Im like a group now. Like, I got too many albums to be like People they request that. Plus I do it cause I love doing it. I was supposed to [already have] come out with my [new] solo LP, The E True Hip Hop Story, but then what happened was I got into the studio with P and [recorded Blow]. And also at this particular time I just think Hip Hop is calling for [a new EPMD album]. We got a good response [from Blow and Run It]. We on the road [touring now]. The shows are sold out. People are asking questions [about the group]. When we went to like Vh1 to do the [100 Greatest Hip Hop Songs], the producer was just saying that when he asked other artists who their favorite group is our name comes up. And when you ask who their favorite producer is my name comes up. So Im still current. And the one group that people still wanna see is EPMD.
And like [we] did with Redman, Keith Murray, Das EFX, and K-Solo [click to read], Im also trying to bring that [putting new artists on] back in effect too with my boy Vic Damone. I promise you, on the mic hes a problem. But you know how the politic game is, everybodys on some business shit. But look at my resume, I never fucked with no rapper that wasnt somebody. That aint my steelo. If it was, Id have a thousand emcees. But I havent signed nobody since Murray. Right now I got this record with Vic and Rick Ross [click to listen]. Rick [click to read] is my man. Dont forget, he was on my 2000 [solo] album [Def Squad Presents Erick Onasis]. His name was Tephlon then, some people dont know that Also right now, Vic has some shit on the Internet with Lil Wayne [click to listen]. He has over 200,000 hits, theyre already making their own ringtones off the record and [Motown] is not even [doing anything to push the song]. Im like, Yo, hes on a record with Lil Wayne, the hottest nigga out with Rick Ross on his second single! Like, what is the problem? But Im not worried cause the boys only 24 years-old. It takes time [to get a new artist off the ground]. I got turned down [by labels to sign] Redman. They turned down Keith Murray when he came. They turned down Das EFX when they came. So Im used to facing rejection [with new artists]. So Im not even trippin.
DX: Yeah, that Give It 2 Em joint that you and Vic got, that was tight.
ES: Thats what I thought too. But once I dropped that I kinda got a little panicked. I was like, No waaaaaay that niggas is not giving it up to me for this. Not the underground, Internet shit the Internet [feedback] make you feel good as hell It was nothing more b-boy than that [record]. And Im far from wack. I dont be talking shit about myself, that aint my style. But I know what music is. I know how to make a record. I know how to make a song. And so I feel like, You know what? I know what Im dealing with now. So I said, Fuck it. Im not gonna go the other route and do something commercial. Im doing my music strictly for the heads. Cause when Im out there [performing], the heads are going crazy. And thats whos mattering right now to me. Like, yo, you dont have to compete. Thats what I tell other veterans in the game like, Yo, dont compete with them kids. Those are kids. This is their era. This aint your era. So dont compete with them. Do you.
DX: I also gotta dap you up for that Main Event track. That shit was one of the best joints yall ever did in my opinion.
ES: Yeah man, we was the second act to do that I heard Ghostface [click to read] was first where you write your shit on stage, and they watch you while you do that and while you go in the booth and you laying it down. And KnowHow did a dope job with the beat. And [DJ] Scratch was able to cut on it too. So that came out really hot.
DX: Is Scratch still around yall? Is he gonna be involved with the new project?
ES: Well, you know how people get. [Laughs] Scratch is likepeople do their own thing. We never hung around Scratch that tough. And I guess like people's views [of each other] change. We still love him to death though. But me and Parrish have an agenda [with this new project], and he's on a different page [than the page were on]. We still do shows with him and the whole nine, but sometimes people don't believe what you're doing [is authentic]. And I don't blame them.
DX: I wanna switch gears here and again go back in the EPMD timeline. I dont know if you wanna revisit this or not, but if you dont mind break down for our readers how you guys put the E and the P back together after such a messy split. Like, what steps you guys took to actually be Back In Business.
ES: What happened was I called Parrish after the deaths of Tupac and Biggie. When I came home from L.A. [after Biggies murder] I called him. I was in L.A. for the [Soul Train] Awards. I was in the [same] hotel [as Biggie]. Matter of fact, Keith Murray was in the hotel room [kickin it] with [Biggie] either the night before or that night [he was murdered]. But once that happened, I felt like while Hip Hop was so negative niggas would be excited if they heard that EPMD was coming [back together]. It didnt take a whole lot off the [dark climate surrounding Hip Hop], but that was some good news to hear for Hip Hop. I figured that we had to make that happen.
DX: Was Parrish receptive to your initial call, or was he?
ES: P was waiting on that phone call. Because in actuality, Parrish had been trying to get in touch with me for years. Im the one that was not trying to talk to him. Dont forget, it wasnt me that [orchestrated a break in of his home]. They was accusing me of what happened.
DX: Well that cop in the Beef documentary sound like he still wanna find you.
ES: At that time, yeah, it was heavy. But that was mad years ago though.
DX: This is just a loose question I have about the group: Im from Cincinnati, Ohio, and southwest Ohio is the arguable birthplace of Funk music, so Ive always wanted to ask you what motivated two New Yorkers to start spittin over Zapp samples?
ES: Its just what we felt. We were sampling so much funk music that L.A. niggas thought we was from there. But its just what we felt. And my parents [listened to funk music]. I know Parrishs father was a big Roger Troutman/Zapp fan. And so when we got a chance to get on, we sampled the records we had around the crib.
DX: And originally you guys worked more as a production team, like in tandem, right?
ES: Yeah, in the beginning, we worked as a team. Whatever [records] we had we would get together and we would loop em together, and do ins and outs on things. But people dont know Parrish was very influential in the EPMD [music making] process on the first, second and third LPs. But by the fourth [album], I did that whole thing dolo.
DX: Switching gears again, going back to the new album, you said Keith may or may not be on there, but what about other members of the Squad like Das EFX?
ES: No Das. A Hit Squad album [under the new combination Hit Squad/Def Squad moniker The Squadron] might be something that we might try to do though. But now Dre and Skoob are having some troubles, so
DX: What about K-Solo? What the fuck actually happened between you guys and him? He was whylin on both of you in the last interview we did with him.
ES: Yeah, Solos retarded. No question about that not to talk about nobody, but Murray and them beat him up so bad. And hes still going! Thats the sad part. But then hell contradict himself and say, Yo, I still got love for E. Like, I dont understand. See, that right there you know somebody is either crazy or just bi-polar. But we havent seen Solo since he got beat up. I wasnt there when Murray did that, so I havent seen Solo in I dont know how many years. But when you dont have nothing, you reach. Nobodys gonna just give him no type of light. Nobody cares. If he was making some records, or doing something current, somebody might say something. But hes not even doing nothing. You just having interviews with no music.
DX: You mentioned earlier about grooming a new squad of emcees like Vic Damone, so are there any other new artists that youre working with?
ES: I got this kid named Tre from D.C. And I got my son. Hes nice as hell now. Hes 17. His name is Ryze. I know this is kinda biased, cause its his dad saying this, but the kid is crazy! And I mean he gives it to you. Hes a great songwriter, a great chorus maker. Basically hes like a protg of Vic Damone. And so the stuff I hear him say I be shocked myself sometimes like, Damn, I dont know where you got that from.
DX: Hes gonna be on the [EPMD] album?
ES: I would, but Im not gonna piggyback him like that. Ill wait till Vic Damone take him - hes on Vics CD and then hopefully Ill be able to get something poppin that way. And if not, then Ill build him. Hes got maybe like 18 songs. Hes ready to go. But you know how this game is, and he refuses to be something else besides Hip Hop. He loves the shit that people are doing [currently], but he likes to rhyme. And he was like, Yo dad, if I cant spit me Im not gonna try to go in that way.
That same type of sound [thats popular right now] - that same clap, the same rappers, the same contentAnd not being no hater, but this cant be fun. This cant be exciting. I dont care what anybody says. Deejays have to be getting paid money [to play these records]. In fact, I know they do cause I spoke to some of em. They do what they have to do to get paid, but they dont like it.
DX: Are you seriously suggesting that Get Silly didnt organically grow to become the #1 Hip Hop song in the country? [Laughs]
ES: This is what Im saying. These kids in corporate America at the labels, this is what they pushing: music for tweens seven-to-12-year-olds, and teens 12-to-17-year-olds. But I dont worry about them people. Im worried about people like me, 25 to 45-year-olds who still like Hip Hop but who dont have nobody to buy. Im not coming out trying to recapture [my past]. And I dont need the money. All Im doing is making good music. And once you make some good music, it shuts everybody up. It shuts the critics up. It shuts up the haters. Everybody is forced to be like, Oh shit, its actually a dope record.
I look at Madonna at 49-years-old. I look at Jay-Z [click to read] signing that new contract at almost 40. Like, if you still can do it, then do it. We the only race that has [the label] old school. They dont say old school Madonna, old school U2, old school Metallica. Only we do that. When they drop albums they just come out. So Im not gonna have anybody in Hip Hop put me under because youre thinking Im old school. No, Im an icon. Im retro thats my new shit.