If you let Everlast tell it, hip-hop is in need of some serious heart. The veteran lyricist—who started his career as a member of Ice-T’s late ‘80s rap clique Rhyme Syndicate and went on to platinum success as the ‘90s frontman for House of Pain—found his socially conscious voice on his 1998 guitar rock-driven, three-million selling album Whitey Ford Sings The Blues. On his sixth solo studio work the groundbreaking white MC is making a no-nonsense return-to-form. Songs of the Ungrateful Living (due out October 18th) finds Everlast delivering stinging rebuke against the powers that be responsible for the current sinking economic ship and America’s chaotic human condition. He says the album title was born out of his own personal experiences.
“The title comes from just reflecting on all the shit that has happened to me over the last 10 or 11 years like my heart surgery and almost dying,” Everlast says of his near death in 1998. “I was just kind of tripping on how when I first got out of the hospital how humbled and grateful I was to be alive. But 10 years later, you kind of find yourself back in the same old state of mind. I was ungrateful.”
On barebones tracks like the bluesy first single “I Get By, such hard-hitting subject matter as sky-rocketing unemployment, damaging political infighting, class warfare and the increasing poverty line are communicated. Everlast, a supporter of President Obama, even criticizes the commander-in-chief with the line “change in my pocket,” a stinging nod to the former candidate’s historic “change” campaign. For Everlast, who injected a heavier hip-hop backbeat for many of the tracks on Songs of the Ungrateful Living, the work was sparked by his own dissatisfaction over the lack of protest energy in today’s hip-hop scene. He views the underdog artform’s current class-driven, materialistic obsessions as troubling.
“I don’t have a Maybach car to cut up in a video,” Everlast says, alluding to Jay-Z’s and Kanye West’s Watch The Throne clip for the single “Otis.” And I’m not disrespecting anyone with that. But I ain’t Floyd Mayweather burning $100 fucking dollar bills in the club while people are starving in the streets and losing their homes. I find that mad disrespectful and disgusting. The whole glorification of opulence and gluttony…it’s just sickening to me. I like nice shit. I like money. But this is mocking people.”
Next up for Everlast is a tour in support of Songs of the Ungrateful Living. But the rapper says there’s one tentative project that will no doubt surprise fans—a Busta Rhymes reworking of House of Pain’s classic single “Jump Around.” “I can’t wait for people to hear it,” Everlast says of the collaboration. “I’ve known dude for damn near 20 years and we have never done a record together. My peers seem to get it. They seem to get all what I’ve done and that its still hip-hop.”—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)