EPMD is finally coming back with a new album. What inspired you guys to record another album together?
Erick Sermon: Well, me and Parish have been doing shows for the last three and a half, four years now. People don’t know that. We’ve been doing shows and the crowds have been crazy. We did the Mountain Dew tour, Scion and Rock the Bells. We did Rock the Bells last year. We’ve been doing shows and me and all of a sudden me and Parish got in the studio one day and record “Blow.” The feedback was crazy and the next thing you know we had the domino effect and everything just went from there.
A lot of people really liked “Blow” when it came out. Were you guys surprised at all by the positive reaction to the song?
Parish: Well, at the same time when “Blow” came out, we were on the Rock the Bells tour. We dropped the single and Flex was showing us a lot of love. We were in the studio just rapping over tracks and catching the vibe.
Erick Sermon: And if it wasn’t for y’all, we wouldn’t have gotten the proper feel to make an album because we didn’t go to the mainstream. My homegirl is Maya. I’m glad my homegirl Maya has connections with y’all to get the feedback from the underground. We were able to get out on the road and meet these fans and see the response and see that real people are calling for real hip-hop. It’s crazy. But they, meaning mainstream, would never show that. You would never hear that in interviews or hear that on the radio and corporate America would never speak on that because they couldn’t control us because we’re all independent now. They don’t have any 360 deals to give us so they can’t make money from us. You wouldn’t know it though from where we’ve been. Rock the Bells is doing 60,000 people a night without being on the radio. That’s crazy.
It’s been almost 10 years since the last EPMD album Out of Business dropped. Does EPMD need to be reintroduced to the younger hip-hop audience today?
Erick Sermon: Me and Parish are not competing with no one. We’re not competing with no one. We feel like the hip-hop heads out there are one world and mainstream heads are another. So the pressure of trying to reintroduce ourselves is not there. If new kids want to get with it, it’s cool. But there are enough hip-hop heads that we don’t need them.
Parish: I feel the same way.
Erick Sermon: That’s where I think that’s where we messed up at, for the 17 year-old kids. A 19 year-old kid’s mindstate is for rap music, not for hip-hop. So it’s up to their mother or their uncle to tell them who we are. The artists just stopped making records and people fell off. That’s where the game got messed up. They’re the ‘tween market. There’s a market where they do like hip-hop. There’s a big market for us and we’re going to get it.
Parish: And, Brian, we’re making it as hard as we’re going to make it so it’s effortless.
Erick Sermon: That’s true, P.
Parish: We’re coming from Def Jam and we’ve been in the game for over 20 years and now we’re just putting forward what we know. This is what we were taught from Russell and Lyor instead of copping to the 360. We’re just putting forward what we know.
Erick Sermon: That KRS-One track that you’re hearing now, “Run It”, is nothing compared to the record he’s got on the EPMD album called “They Tell Me.” He’s one of the dopest MCs you would want to hear, hands down. We thought no one wanted this no more. Y’all are letting the South scare you so much that you don’t want to make no records in New York no more? Me and Parish are taking that on right now. People say there’s no money to be made. Yeah, you can make money now. You don’t know because you haven’t tried it yet. But once you crossover, you can’t go back because they won’t respect you. Me and Parish are taking on that to make it too.
How are you balancing showing growth as a group that has been at it for 20 years while still giving fans the classic EPMD funk they expect?
Parish: Well, when we first started, Erick and I got up and the whole vibe started coming out like Business As Usual. But then as the fans were showing up with memorabilia and album covers, the vibe started turning to Strictly Business and Business As Usual.
Erick Sermon: That’s the amazing part about it! We’re bringing that conceptual flavor and that sound that you know us for and we’re still able to make it sound good in 2008. Don’t forget, T-Pain is doing what we did with the Roger Troutman sound. Our first single is “Listen Up” with Teddy Riley. We were the first one to bring it in with Roger. We got the autotune on the record!
Do you guys feel you get the credit you deserve for bringing funk into hip-hop?
Parish: We just be busy working, Brian, so we be covering all aspects. We got our new label EP Records. We’re not just artists. We always had artists and we always did business.
Erick Sermon: You’re right though, B. People talk about No. 1 albums. Me and Parish had three No. 1 albums. There’s a lot of stuff that we did in that era that we do not get looked at, but there’s people like you that ask us in interviews and keep it alive. You let the people know that we’re responsible for this. But me and Parish never get mad about it or talk about it in records. We always had artists. We have nine artists within the crew. We were always on tour and we were able to do stuff that people couldn’t do and we were changing music and we do not get looked at for that. We answer these questions and that’s why we’re glad you guys can say what we’re responsible for.
In the past, you guys could run three or four samples on top of each other in a song. Are you able to do that today with the way sample clearances are?
Erick Sermon: Parish Smith was the master of that. I don’t know how he did it! Man, Brian, Parish used to put four records together and I’m like, ‘Yo! It works!’ You’re right. Nowadays, we stopped doing that. When the samples started getting crazier in the business and the people wanted to start getting money, that’s when things changed in rap because the samples were costing too much. That changed the style of what you were using in records.
Parish: But if we made a beat that we feel adamant about then we’ll keep the sample.
Erick Sermon But in “Time 4 Sum Aksion”, I would have all different loops in the record.
Parish: And it would come out dope. But the album is done and it’s real.
Erick Sermon: And it comes out September 8. We Mean Business through EP Records and Universal. I promise you, I’m telling you, I’m getting chills just sitting here talking to you about it. “Blow” didn’t make the album, homie, and the new record with KRS-One, “Run It”, might not make it either. That’s how in tune me and P are.
How would you describe the production on We Mean Business?
Erick Sermon: I think the craziest beat is the one Parish made for the KRS-One record that we haven’t released yet. We have the classic EPMD crossover record. The record with Redman. We have EPMD featuring Mobb Deep. We have EPMD featuring Raekwon. We used a few people who we never rocked with and we wanted to rock with. We have the Redman, Raekwon, KRS-One and Mobb Deep. Mobb Deep is on We Mean Business because they were cool with Parish. We have M.O.P. because we always wanted to do a record with them. We’re waiting on the Raekwon and Ghostface song to get done. People said Mobb Deep was the new EPMD so we did a record with them called “We Mobbin’”. I’m telling you, the record is phenomenal. The next one we’ll have EPMD and Styles P and Jadakiss. We are very focused. And stay tuned. We’ll have a new one coming six months after this one. Prepare for the next one because we are coming again.
I see you kept the word “Business” in the title again. Now I have to ask if there’s a Jane song on We Mean Business.
Erick Sermon: Oh, my God. The new “Jane” features Devin the Dude. Oh, my God! Parish hooked up the Devin the Dude thing. What we did, Brian, is we wanted to make something exciting. We used our era of people. We didn’t use the newcomers. We used the people we wanted to use and it came out amazing.
What’s great about this album is that you guys sound excited about it.
Erick Sermon: We wanted to make something exciting, but we used artists like Raekwon the Chef and Devin the Dude. It feels so good. When you take the plastic off and that first beat comes in, run for cover, homie! Run for cover! You know yourself as a writer and being on a site like this, you know this music is way more exciting and it’s way more creative from the drums to the loop or the kick and the snare or a sample you know or a loop you know. Samples are down again and people who are winning are doing the essence of hip-hop and they’re lasting much longer than these popcorn records that are only here for the moment. Look at Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco and why people love them. They’re not just doing what’s hot for the moment. And we haven’t talked in four or five years. We’re so anxious to come. I’m so confident in this shit. I think that me and P might fully change it. One thing we don’t do is say we’re bringing New York back. We don’t say that. It’s not about New York with EPMD. We don’t do that. It’s about having a balance. Ice Cube is coming back in August and we can all have a balance in music. That’s what we’re looking for.
Did anything change with your guys’ recording process for We Mean Business?
Parish: The technology is totally different and we weren’t rocking with Charlie Marata in the attic with one mic. We have studios at home. Because we’re always rocking shows, that element is around and Redman them are always around. Well, the chemistry is different. Before we were recording with one mic. But all that energy is still there with me and E and we know what we want to hear when it comes on.
What do you have to do to make We Mean Business a success?
Parish: Erick and I prepared for that. EP Records is connected to RBC Records which is connected to Universal. It’s going to allow Erick and I to do what we do best. Erick and I took care of that. We’re around experienced people in the industry that know how to do this from publicity to marketing. It’s kind of like being back on Def Jam in 2008. We’re listening and they’re telling us exactly what needs to be done to have a successful album, from the internet to walking into stores with the CD. We realize that we have to be visible. We really mean this and we’re sincere.
Erick Sermon: Brian, we appreciate this. And you can hear the passion. I don’t know if you’ve heard passion like this from people in awhile. This is passion you can feel. We are so excited even if it’s just you buying the package. We know that record sales aren’t what it was but it’s bigger than that. It’s a different type of sound and it’s about the excitement in music. Everybody else can come back and feel comfortable. That’s what this is about. Everybody else can follow. Tribe can come back and feel comfortable. Kris can come back and feel comfortable. It’s about Rakim coming back and feeling comfortable. Kane can come back and feel comfortable. Kane can rock on VH1’s Hip-Hop Honors and on Wild’n Out. He didn’t drop an album but he was afraid probably if the people would be feeling it. You can make an album, Kane. It’s the time now and EPMD is going to set the forefront.
Parish: And you need the system to support it.
Erick Sermon: And I’m going to bring Diggin’ in the Crates back and Diamond D back!
Why do you think there is such a hang-up on age in hip-hop where some fans as well as artists equate being young with having talent?
Erick Sermon: You now what? That’s what the mainstream is seeing. But by having these dot com’s, you’re showing something different. We don’t go on mainstream. Their time is up.
Parish: You have all these Rolling Stones-type groups that are still selling out stadiums and all that. When you look at this era of music, We Mean Business is there.
Erick Sermon: In rock people you don’t say “old school U2,” “old school Rolling Stones” or “old school Madonna.” Only in our form of music is there an age on it.
Parish: Right. They always put an age on
Erick Sermon: Perfect example – VH1 asked Queen Latifah to perform at the Hip-Hop Honors. VH1 put “Old School Queen Latifah” on the flyers and she said to take that “Old School” tag off her name or she wasn’t coming. They didn’t take it off and she didn’t come. But I understand what she was saying because me and Parish don’t like it neither. Put “Iconic.” Put “Classic” or “Retro”. Don’t put me in no age bracket that’s going to make it sound dated because it’s not dated. I’m not dated. It is what is. Do you see all the ‘80s kids coming back? You go to one party and you don’t hear the DJ playing one record from the mainstream. You can go to The Apartment. Prince Paul is my neighbor and he does the first Monday of every month. DJ Premier does it every third Monday at The Apartment. It’s in the meat-packing district. Biz Markie was there when me and Parish walked in. These things that happen are happening. Things are happening and the culture us so huge. I have to go back to Rock the Bells. Every night there’s 60,000 people out there and not one artist on the bill is on the radio. That’s all I gotta say, B. We are bigger than what they are showing and they know it! So we don’t worry about that young age and what they’re doing. We don’t care about mainstream and what they’re doing. Their time is up. If they don’t change with the clapping and 808 and bass and talking about their car and this and that, I promise you.
Parish: The world is in a recession.
Erick Sermon: That’s right. Their time is up!
Parish: And don’t forget, we tour overseas more than America and when you get off over there, it’s nothing but hip-hop.
Erick Sermon: And over there, they don’t want to hear no “Rappy Taffy” or none of that. They don’t want to hear the hip-hop jingles. We have it bigger than any other hip-hop artist. We go into other countries and it’s pandemonium. None of that rap is getting past them at all. None of them McDonald’s rap is getting past them at all.
Parish: At all.
Erick Sermon: Any hip-hop artist is bigger overseas. Jeru the Damaja is bigger over there. We go over there and it’s pandemonium!
Parish: Do you know how many countries there are?
Erick Sermon: Do you know how many kids there are over there? It’s strictly hip-hop. That’s how big it is over there. How come we haven’t done Hip-Hop Honors yet? For some reason we haven’t but we’re one of the main groups that people want to see come back.
Parish: And we’re here. It’s one thing to drop it and not be here.
Erick Sermon: It’s crazy. Every interview they ask us why we think we’re still relevant for some reason. We’re still coming back, man. Parish’s solo album is coming out. It’s Black Cloud and it’s coming out in the fourth quarter. And we’re shooting a documentary movie coming out in August and a sneaker coming out with DC. It’s incredible. We’re rolling and we’re going to bring out new talent. We got Rise and Profit. We have things coming. We’re going to try and do that and bring in other artists and drop hip-hop.
When I interviewed Keith Murray and asked him about the younger artists he was helping out, he told me that it was his responsibility to help the up-and-coming generation. Do you agree with that outlook?
Erick Sermon: I think so too.
Parish: No question.
Erick Sermon: That was a good way to put it. It’s a responsibility.
Parish: We have fun. Erick says it every day. If it ended today it was a super-great run. We’re just trying to help anybody who’s coming in who looks at it the way we look at it.
Erick Sermon: That’s how big hip-hop is.
You guys have both dropped solo albums in the last few years. How have those projects helped you grow as artists?
Parish: Our solo albums were like a segue way to this album.
Erick Sermon: Me and Parish, we were forced into that but it helped out us and it helped out me because it kept us current. And we stayed doing production. They don’t look at us as old school. I think it’s going to be one of the dopest albums to come out in a long time.
Parish: We have fun. Erick says it every day. We really live this. We came in with this album and we’re just trying to help anybody else who is coming in to look at it the way we look at it.
Erick Sermon: We can talk it and we can walk it. We can say it in an interview and people won’t blow it off. We have the 20 years behind us and we can talk us now. You can’t tell us no, you can’t tell us we don’t know what we’re talking about and you can’t disrespect it. Let’s see you do 20 years. We can talk it and we walk it.
Parish: We learned it form Run DMC, Jam Master Jay and Russell. And now it’s EPMD.
Erick Sermon: Yo, P, just talking to Brian right now, I can’t wait for this album. I can’t wait.
Parish: The album is dropping in, like, 70 days.
Erick Sermon: Word, September 9.
You know you guys gotta give me another interview before the album drops.
Erick Sermon: Whatever you want! People come to your site. I understand what time it is. Trust me. I want the people to know. We ain’t holding no punches and I’ll put a mudhole all around their young asses. This is God felt and we are coming. When I tell you we’re coming, we’re coming.
Do you guys still tour with DJ Scratch?
Erick Sermon: We don’t do as much shows with him because Scratch is producing and doing his shows too. But he’s there when we really need him for the major shows like when we’re doing BB King’s or the Nokia tour or going on the road for Rock the Bells. When he doesn’t do it it’s DJ Ev and he’s incredible too.
Will we see another Def Squad album in the near future?
Erick Sermon: You know what else you’re going to that might be more exciting? We were planning on doing a Hit Squad and a Def Squad CD. It’s going to be an A side and a B side. We have a problem with one Hit Squad member which is K-Solo. It’s going to be the Def Squad with the Hit Squad and have a Def Squad 2. People probably imagined what that Hit Squad album would have sounded like at the prime of everyone’s career.
Parish: I can’t even imagine what that would have sounded like at the top of everyone’s career. We’re kind of imagining a little bit of that. But the focus now is on EPMD. But the album is going to be called The Squadron and it’s going to be crazy. That’s another dope album to put out! The Squadron! It’s going to be crazy. Oh, it’s crazy! Crazy!
I haven’t heard this kind of excitement from artists in a long time.
Erick Sermon: Really? For real? Let me tell you something, Brian. If you didn’t know this, when me and Parish first came in we had no idea we were producers or writers until somebody told us we were writers and producers. We thought that’s what we had to do so we did it. We were so powerful coming into the game young. We came in the game young and people were asking who made the music, we did. Who wrote it? We Did. Who mixed it? We did with Charlie Marata. We were advanced without even knowing we were advanced.
Erick, a few years ago there were rumors that you attempted suicide. What really happened that night?
Erick Sermon: To tell you the truth though, I don’t hardly remember as far as what went down. There was an accident and people took it to the extreme. I didn’t understand how the people would believe a story that had no evidence to it. Whoever this girl was, there was no pop-up of her. She was make-believe. If Erick Sermon fell from a window, there was no ambulance, no blood and no witnesses. Nobody knows the story. It was kind of something I didn’t want to remember and I’m lucky I didn’t remember. I know there was an accident but it got blown out of proportion. They said my legs were broken and I couldn’t walk. When the accident happened, I was on the Red and Meth tour in November. It wasn’t what you read.
Does the media get too close to you guys at some times?
Erick Sermon: Me and Parish’s story was blown out of proportion though too to an extent. It’s what comes with it. As you can see, it was the outside, not just the media though, B. You’ve probably had it in your cipher too with your so-called friends. They’ll put something in your head and you’ll listen and not listen to your gut. The media can make you think you’re not going to buy the album and now you didn’t go buy it and you don’t know what you’re missing because you listened to the media or your so-called friends. People tell you what you do and you get programmed. And the next thing you know it wasn’t the right move for you.
What do you guys have to do from here on out to make sure We Mean Business is a success?
Erick Sermon: What we’re doing right now. We’re talking to you.
Parish: And we’re happy to be doing it. If Russell and Lyor were here, they would be telling us, “You know you gotta be on the phone!”
Erick Sermon: We had three gold albums when we first came out. We were the first rappers to ride around with a van and huge speakers and blast out music. We were famous. I mean, we were on fire and we still did our promo run. We know what’s it’s like to go out there and meet the fans, go do shows and go grind. But right now we have easy access to people like you and we reach millions of people. Since we’re EPMD we’re able to go to any interviews or any stations and get an interview and go on MTV and BET and Kay Slay. Basically it’s not even going to be that hard. We’re going to do what we know. We’re going to go rock shows and make phone calls. And plus we’re on Universal, the biggest label in the world. The music back then, before there was radio and video, there was word of mouth and EPMD and N.W.A. sold records without having mainstream.
Parish: Without that. And now that we have a label, we don’t have to give up all the royalties.
Erick Sermon: The money is going to come. We don’t have to worry about that. We can go on tour and not have to worry about it. The money will come. We get $7 a record and 80 cents a record. You can imagine what happens if we get 100,000 people to buy the record. We get $700,000. This is our responsibility to rap music. I got my engineer who told me yesterday, “Erick, I couldn’t stop humming the single all day.” That’s how infectious the album is. Back in the day you would play one album all year because the writing was so off the cassette tape. Nowadays you buy an album and you play it for two weeks and then it’s a coaster for your drink. These are moment CDs that people are buying. They’re moment records. These CDs aren’t classic material. Why do you think people are able to go to their classic material and play their whole shit? You can’t do that nowadays.
Parish: People always come up and tell us, “You don’t know what this album did to me.” It’s like, ‘Oh, my goodness.’
Erick Sermon: And one more thing. Look at back when we were coming up. Everybody had their own sound and their own identity and everybody won. Nobody had to sound like somebody else. Now if one person has a rap everyone has it. Don’t tell me it can’t be done because we did it already. You don’t have to be with that person to make that song. People look at KW and ask how did he get so big. He’s the only one who did what he did. Look at Common. Common stayed himself and he was grinding and now he’s a major star. But he never once changed himself and now he’s a perfect example. Common. Hip-hop music. Hip-hop ain’t nothing but the truth, B. It ain’t going to come out no other way but the truth.