Erick Sermon: Pandemonium

    The Green Eyed Bandit stole our ears, then he stole our hearts. After 20 years with EPMD, Def Squad, behind the board and in front of the microphone, Erick Sermon has become a timeless icon that exudes wisdom and defies age. After one of his signature hiatuses, the E Double exclusively tells that […]

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    The Green Eyed Bandit stole our ears, then he stole our hearts. After 20 years with EPMD, Def Squad, behind the board and in front of the microphone, Erick Sermon has become a timeless icon that exudes wisdom and defies age. After one of his signature hiatuses, the E Double exclusively tells that he’s back with his next album, The E Hip-Hop Story. Revealing his secret, the iconic MC/producer states, “The reason EPMD had all those number one records is we came when nobody came; I’m not droppin’ with the big dogs.” With a window of time between T.I. and Kanye/50 Cent, August may be getting serviced with another Sermon classic.    With a critically acclaimed album from Redman released already this year, and Keith Murray a month away from his own release, Def Squad stays rocking like they did in ’97 – and Erick started doing in ’87. The Long Island visionary describes his new artist Vic Damone, the next in a pedigree of talent he’s delivered. Touching on Strong Isle’s merits, his hiatus, and why Marvin Gaye means so much to him, a hyper Erick Sermon is anything but mad this year, as he readies yet another world premier. You’ve been doing a lot of powerful production work recently with Busta Rhymes, Method Man and Redman. Historically, you’ve taken breaks between albums to do swarms of beats. Is that the case again?Erick Sermon: Yes, I am working on The E True Hip-Hop Story. I was [working on albums] from Redman, Meth, Keith Murray, Busta, [Jadakiss], Styles P… I constantly still work, I just stopped rapping for three years. That’s not putting nothing on where Hip-Hop was at, it was just where I was at. If I can’t compete in the game at the time, I just felt that I’d just do production. Every 10 years, there is always a change when a new decade comes in. This is in fashion, Hip-Hop, whatever. I had that record out there “Give it 2 ‘Em” that I felt would be a great introduction for me. Also, I always piggyback; I’ve always been behind the gun. When I first had Redman, [critics said], “Oh, he sounds like you.” Keith Murray – “Yeah, he’s alright, but I can’t hear him on a whole [album].” Das EFX – “Miggity miggity might be boring.” I’ve always been behind the gun, but I always won – I always won with an MC. If I had it, I was gonna make them a star. So I didn’t have anybody to look at to come out with; I’ve gotten too picky through the years. But when I met [Vic Damone], I said, “This is somebody I wanna come through with.” Why?Erick Sermon: First of all, his father Grandmaster Vic is a really famous blend DJ. Kid Capri, DJ Clue, they all know him from way back in Queens. Def Squad MCs are punchline rappers…how slick can we say it. Redman has his thing; Keith Murray invented words; K-Solo did the spelling thing; Das EFX had that [stuttered delivery]. The kid Vic – he’s from South Jamaica, Queens; [Lloyd] Banks and 50 [Cent] know him. When he was sayin’ some rhymes on his demo, I heard some ill ass metaphors. No matter what, any MC that you hear, we have all heard everything – how many guns you’ve got, what kind of car you drive, boom boom boom. Nothing you hear is gonna be different, it’s just gonna be how the person says it this year. Jay-Z found seven ways to talk about ice; it’s how you do it. So when I heard the swagger on his demo, I believed. You said you’ve always been a punchline rapper. Your album is titled The E True Hip-Hop Story. Like the television show it’s playing off of, can we expect an added dose of honesty or controversy in the lyrics?Erick Sermon: That is a great question! The E True Hip-Hop Story, I get to explain from 1988 to 2007. That’s why, when I come on the record, I’m like, “I’m back, well-rested / Most requested / The return / Open your books, it’s midterm / Back in 2007, it’s my turn!” So right there, I look at it as me being behind the podium and let these kids know who I am. For all the voices that can’t get out, I’m able to do that, so let me, as a golden era MC, give you the story of Hip-Hop. I just happen to have been in the game for 20 years. When [EPMD performed] at B.B. King’s [in New York City], people think it was all people my age. No it wasn’t; it was the new youth. It’s all young kids at the shows I’m doing now; somebody is tellin’ who the f**k I am, and these kids are singing the records verbatim, rhyme for rhyme. If you show the kids this, they will like it. Kanye West, Common, Lupe Fiasco, Busta Rhymes, Nas…these guys are doing strictly Hip-Hop music, and these kids like it. Don’t tell me there’s no place for it. That’s a great point. As an ‘80s baby, I will go on record and say that my jump-off with EPMD was not “It’s My Thing,” it was “Da Joint” in 1997, right smack in the middle of the jiggy, shiny-suit era…Erick Sermon: It’s so crazy. “Da Joint” was EPMD’s first single after five years, comin’ back with [Back in Business]. But I’m tellin’ you, if you’re ever overseas with us, when that record hits the air, it is pandemonium. “My squad stays on point like de de de de Da Joint!” [Laughs] Overseas, the response on that record in phenomenal. I was having a conversation with one of my colleagues recently about New York Hip-Hop. I personally believe that with EPMD, De La Soul, Rakim, Prince Paul, Freddie Foxxx, Public Enemy, Keith Murray, Busta and so forth, that Long Island might be the most talented borough in New York. Still, I’ve never heard anybody so much as utter it. I’m not a New Yorker, you are, what’s your take?Erick Sermon: People speak about Brooklyn all the time, but when you mention EPMD and Rakim being two towns apart…Public Enemy, De La Soul, Biz Markie, Craig Mack, JVC Force, Method Man, Keith Murray, K-Solo…all…Long Island! Nobody ever talks about that! Why is that?Erick Sermon: Rakim speaks about it all the time. The only time Long Island gets some light is when Ashanti came out. That was about What was it that in 2001, made you take two singles that were both sampled and centered around Marvin Gaye? It’s Black Music Month, what’s that man mean to you?Erick Sermon: Everybody says who’s doing it and who ain’t getting they shot. Just know that nobody’s ever over. You’re always one record away from pandemonium. In 2000, I had dropped [Erick Onasis], and everybody said, “Oh, Erick is over.” Another example is when Dr. Dre dropped The Aftermath album; they had put Dr. Dre underneath the casket. The n***a who just did N.W.A., The Chronic and Doggystyle is over? So when it boils down to it, my friend Caroline had the accapella to [Marvin Gaye’s] Midnight Love, one of my favorite albums. She came back from overseas with that, so I said, “Let me see what it would sound like if I made a beat under Marvin Gaye real quick.” That’s how “Music” came out. Music transcends everything. “I could put Black and White in one room.” At that particular time, I just wanted to do it to hear it. I wasn’t even gonna put that record out. My friend stole the CD and took it to L.A., and next thing you know, Clear Channel had it pumpin’ on the radio. It was for my personal use; I’m never gonna get Marvin Gaye’s [sample] cleared – it was something I did in my basement. Interesting that you say that Midnight Love is one of your favorite albums. Because at that point, everybody had, as you say, put Marvin “under the casket.” Erick Sermon: Exactly! You know what Paine? Yo, I’m about to choke you! [Laughs] You are reaching the point… that also was a factor too. On that accapella album, he has interviews on there…at one point he calls the record label [CBS Records] and says, “Yo, this is my new single ‘Sexual Healing,’ I hope you like it. Here’s a demo.” Get the Midnight Love Revised edition. That whole thing…people had him like, “Yo, he’s over too.” That also was an influence. Know that, I don’t care who you are, if you’re focused, everybody’s one record away from pandemonium.