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Erick Sermon And Parrish Smith : Twenty Four Hour Business

If you’re reading this Hip Hop this article and don’t know the basic bio info for Erick Sermon and his partner-in-rhyme Parrish Smith, kill yourself. No introduction should really be needed for the green-eyed bandit, and in his recent conversation online conversation with The Chef , the E in EPMD made it abundantly clear that he and P won’t 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 album’s worth of new tracks crafted by Sermon, with the exception of one 9th Wonder produced song (“Left For Dead”). The disc’s 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 disc’s sole southern guest spot filled by Texas crooner/emcee Devin The Dude (“Jane 7”).
And according to the E-Double, the album’s two buzz singles, “Blow” and “Run It” and its remix featuring KRS-One, might now not even be good enough to make the final tracklisting of the new CD.

We Mean Business will not only mark the group’s first full-length since the ‘90’s, but their debut release on their own label, EP Records (which is distributed by RBC/Universal Music Group). 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 Sermon’s 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 The Chef. 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 group’s historic Hip Hop legacy.

The Chef: The most important question first: When will EPMD be recognized by Vh1’s Hip Hop Honors and your show end with a rousing rendition of “Headbanger”?

Erick Sermon: I don’t know. I see that they got certain people on the board…I guess they [choose the honorees] for certain ratings or whatever, but it didn’t make no sense [not to honor EPMD last year]. I don’t have an explanation for that.

The Chef: Who does E and P – like, Jay-Z and Nas, Eminem and Royce?

ES: As far as what?

The Chef: You know how they always have artists like do the tribute.

ES: Well, it’s definitely Red and Meth. That’s who I see doing me and Parrish.

The Chef: Any other suggestions or just Redman and Method Man?

ES: If Prodigy was here – ‘cause that’s who people saw [him and Havoc] as when they came in the game, as the new EPMD – definitely Mobb Deep . But, that obviously can’t happen ‘cause Prodigy’s away.

The Chef: Now I came across an old news piece from 2001 where you mentioned that you guys were prepping We Mean Business. It’s seven years later, what’s 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. You’ll start hearing mad shit soon. We got KRS-One 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 ain’t gonna lie to you. It’s real Hip Hop shit for real Hip Hop heads. If you a Hip Hop head, it’s hard to hate the CD. You’re gonna be excited, trust me.

The Chef What about Keith Murray? Is he on the CD?

ES: We didn’t do anything [with Keith] yet. We wasn’t 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 is the crew, but we didn’t get nothing on there with him yet. So we don’t know, he might not make it. We thinking about putting him on the 9th Wonder beat though. That shit is crazy.

The Chef: And, what should people expect from this new EPMD album, is this a throwback…?

ES: Nah, people got it wrong, we aren’t in competition with anybody. Them young dudes are doing what they’re doing. We’re just doing what we’re doing. There’s a marketplace for 25 to 45-year-olds that’s missing, and that’s what we’re catering to.

The Chef: I wanna go back here to the origins of this new album. You were featured on P’s 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 we’ve 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.

The Chef: 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 wasn’t a decision that we made. That’s kinda why I left Def Jam. Kevin Liles 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 didn’t work. It was something that they did as a marketing plan to like confuse the consumer.

The Chef: 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 didn’t happen that way. [Laughs]

The Chef: 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 didn’t know… ‘Cause it wasn’t just me, it was Busta Rhyme 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
The Chef: Was that always the plan when you guys started doing the group albums again, that there’s still gonna be the solo stuff?

ES: Well, I can’t stop the solos because now I established myself as Erick Sermon. As far as P, that’s what he did too. But me, I’m 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 I’m 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 , I’m also trying to bring that putting new artists on back in effect too with my boy Vic Damone. I promise you, on the mic he’s a problem. But you know how the politic game is, everybody’s on some business shit. But look at my resume, I never fucked with no rapper that wasn’t somebody. That ain’t my steelo. If it was, I’d have a thousand emcees. But I haven’t signed nobody since Murray.

Right now I got this record with Vic and Rick Ross . Rick is my man. Don’t forget, he was on my 2000 solo album Def Squad Presents Erick Onasis . His name was Tephlon then, some people don’t know that… Also right now, Vic has some shit on the Internet with Lil Wayne . He has over 200,000 hits, they’re already making their own ringtones off the record and Motown is not even doing anything to push the song . I’m like, “Yo, he’s on a record with Lil Wayne, the hottest nigga out – with Rick Ross on his second single! Like, what is the problem?” But I’m not worried ‘cause the boy’s 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 I’m used to facing rejection with new artists . So I’m not even trippin’.

The Chef: Yeah, that “Give It 2 ‘Em” joint that you and Vic got, that was tight.

ES: That’s 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 I’m far from wack. I don’t be talking shit about myself, that ain’t 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 I’m dealing with now.” So I said, “Fuck it. I’m not gonna go the other route and do something commercial. I’m doing my music strictly for the heads.” ‘Cause when I’m out there [performing], the heads are going crazy. And that’s who’s mattering right now to me. Like, yo, you don’t have to compete. That’s what I tell other veterans in the game like, “Yo, don’t compete with them kids. Those are kids. This is their era. This ain’t your era. So don’t compete with them.

The Chef: Do you.”also gotta dap you up for that “Main Event” track. That shit was one of the best joints y’all ever did in my opinion.

ES: Yeah man, we was the second act to do that – I heard Ghostface 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 DJScratch was able to cut on it too. So that came out really hot.

The Chef: Is Scratch still around y’all? Is he gonna be involved with the new project?

ES: Well, you know how people get. Laughs Scratch is like…people 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 we’re 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.

The Chef: I wanna switch gears here and again go back in the EPMD timeline. I don’t know if you wanna revisit this or not, but if you don’t mind break down for my 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 Biggie’s 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 didn’t 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.

The Chef: 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. I’m the one that was not trying to talk to him. Don’t forget, it wasn’t me that orchestrated a break in of his home . They was accusing me of what happened.

The Chef: 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
The Chef: This is just a loose question I have about the group: I’m from Philsde;phia.Pa, and Philadelphia is the arguable birthplace of Funk music,but you went to Ohio for funk music so I’ve always wanted to ask you what motivated two New Yorkers to start spittin’ over Zapp samples?

ES: It’s just what we felt. We were sampling so much funk music that L.A. niggas thought we was from there. But it’s just what we felt. And my parents[listened to funk music . I know Parrish’s 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.

The Chef: 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 don’t know Parrish was very influential in the EPMD music making process on the first, second and third LP’s. But by the fourth album , I did that whole thing solo

The Chef: 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…

The Chef: What about K-Solo? What the fuck actually happened between you guys and him?

ES: Yeah, Solo’s retarded. No question about that – not to talk about nobody, but… Murray and them beat him up so bad. And he’s still going! That’s the sad part. But then he’ll contradict himself and say, “Yo, I still got love for E.” Like, I don’t understand. See, that right there you know somebody is either crazy or just bi-polar. But we haven’t seen Solo since he got beat up. I wasn’t there when Murray did that, so I haven’t seen Solo in I don’t know how many years. But when you don’t have nothing, you reach. Nobody’s 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 he’s not even doing nothing. You just having interviews with no music.

The Chef: You mentioned earlier about grooming a new squad of emcees like Vic Damone, so are there any other new artists that you’re working with?

ES: I got this kid named Tre from D.C. And I got my son. He’s nice as hell now. He’s 17. His name is Ryze. I know this is kinda biased, ‘cause it’s his dad saying this, but the kid is crazy! And I mean he gives it to you. He’s a great songwriter, a great chorus maker. Basically he’s like a protégé of Vic Damone. And so the stuff I hear him say I be shocked myself sometimes like, “Damn, I don’t know where you got that from.”

The Chef: He’s gonna be on the EPMD album?

ES: I would, but I’m not gonna piggyback him like that. I’ll wait till Vic Damone take him - he’s on Vic’s CD – and then hopefully I’ll be able to get something poppin’ that way. And if not, then I’ll build him. He’s got maybe like 18 songs. He’s 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 can’t spit me I’m not gonna try to go in that way.”

That same type of sound [that’s popular right now] - that same clap, the same rappers, the same content…And not being no hater, but this can’t be fun. This can’t be exciting. I don’t 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 don’t like it.

The Chef: Are you seriously suggesting that “Get Silly” didn’t organically grow to become the #1 Hip Hop song in the country? [Laughs]

ES: This is what I’m 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 don’t worry about them people. I’m worried about people like me, 25 to 45-year-olds who still like Hip Hop but who don’t have nobody to buy. I’m not coming out trying to recapture [my past]. And I don’t need the money. All I’m 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, it’s 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 don’t say “old school Madonna,” “old school U2,” “old school Metallica.” Only we do that. When they drop albums they just come out. So I’m not gonna have anybody in Hip Hop put me under because you’re thinking I’m old school. No, I’m an icon. I’m retro – that’s my new shit..

The Chef: I know you said we are hanging out tonight so what kind of bread we gonna break.

ES: We going to do that Rib thang with some Coleslaw and corn bread.

I would like to take this time to thank Erick Sermon for giving me this interview and I would like for all the EPMD
fans to get that CD when it drops on September 9th 2008.

The Handicapped Chef, Carlton Haynes is owner of Triple H Catering and Consulting service/ for more information E-mail us

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