“If no one else isn’t going to do it, I have to make that change,” offers Erick Sermon. The venerable producer and former member of hip-hop heroes EPMD is attempting to break down rap’s current scene of sneering Trap music soundtracks and regurgitated tales of drug-fueled threesomes without sounding bitter…or hypocritical. Yes, the Green Eyed Bandits’ latest clip for “Ain’t Me”—a brazen Rick Ross featured track taken from his recently dropped mixtape Breath of Fresh Air—does showcase a bevy of scantily clad video chicks frolicking around a pool doing what bottom-heavy video chicks usually do. Chances are you probably won’t see it played on TV without some heavy editing. But for Sermon, random ass shots are beside the point. He simply misses the days when hip-hop fans could hear “Me So Horny” and “Fight The Power” on the same dial.
“It’s not about hating on what’s going on because my kids listen to all the new music, too,” explains Sermon, who along with former EPMD partner Parrish Smith, made room for outright sincere message tracks like “You Had Too Much To Drink” to go along with their hardcore MC manifestos. “I have fun with the music, too. But once you turn the radio on and its just songs about the strip club, sex and drugs, there’s a problem with that. I want diversity in hip-hop again. People are not saying anything, so I gotta say something. I’ve been doing that for the last two years. You have to tell the truth.”
Sermon certainly has the cache to talk. Following their 1988 debut Strictly Business, EPMD (that’s Erick And Parrish Making Dollars) was hailed as the poster group for unbridled hip-hop purity; a no bollocks rap version of punk rock icons the Ramones. There were no curve pitches with the Long Island, New York duo. You knew what you were getting: no-nonsense, telegraphed, B-boy rhymes and Teflon beats. EPMD would go through a nasty feud and on-again, off again break-ups. It was during the rest of the ‘90’s Sermon truly backed up his reputation as a game-changing producer and underrated talent broker. You can’t mention the likes of Redman, Keith Murray or the rest of the Hit Squad/Def Squad crew without Sermon’s funked-out tracks rattling in your skull. It’s a flexible sound that has kept him an in-demand studio rat (Yep, that was Sermon on Raekwon’s 2009 critically-lauded Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2). When you’ve survived a heart attack—on November 10, 2011, the 44-year-old rapper was taken to the hospital for chest pains; he calls the experience “life-changing”— staying musically relevant seems quaint. The E-Double breaks down his career from EPMD, Redman, and Method Man to D’Angelo, LL Cool J, Eminem, and Rick Ross. This is Erick Sermon. This is Full Clip.—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)