Erick Sermon's 'Breath of Fresh Air' And Hip-Hop Lessons

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My new mix-tape is very positive. No guns, no negativity. Not preachy though, just positive. Good vibes.

[Arts And Entertainment]

Erick Sermon, one half of the fantastic rap duo EPMD, aka the Green-eyed bandit aka E-Dubble, is back with a brand new mix-tape, "A Breath of Fresh Air", featuring the single "A Way Out" which touches on his life-altering experience of suffering a heart attack less than one year ago.

This inspired him to develop "Hearts for Hip-Hop", his non-profit organization geared towards educating our community about the importance of leading a healthy life-style. After accumulating 26 platinum albums over his 20+ year career as a pioneer in hip-hop, Erick has yet another project.

Def Squad Digital, his new label, will bring excitement and creativity back to hip-hop and feed the need for a more balanced music genre.  Though his last name is Sermon, he promises there's nothing preachy about this mix-tape.  We can expect the E-R-I-C-K to do what he does best, give us dope beats & melodies to nod our heads to, while introducing us to some new fire-flame spittin' emcees.

BSN: Glad to have you back Mr. Sermon, healthy and well.
ES: Thank you, I appreciate it.

BSN: How are you?
ES: I'm good, taking it easy. Doing this one day at a time.

BSN: Let's talk about your brush with death this past November when you suffered a heart attack.
ES: Yes, I did.  Luckily, I knew I wasn't feeling well and I drove myself to the hospital.  If I hadn't, the outcome    
could've been much, much worse.  Once they examined me they saw that my blood pressure was sky high, so they admitted me for 5 days.  They ran all sorts of tests on my heart and discovered that I had suffered a heart attack.

BSN: That must've been quite a scare.  You're a young guy so you don't expect to have a heart attack.
ES: Well, to be honest, I knew I was on the wrong path health-wise.  I mean, I was being reckless.  Eating whatever I wanted, not exercising.  I was 6'3" and 285 pounds, so I can't say that I was totally surprised that I wound up in the hospital.  We don't realize that heart disease caused by stress and unhealthy living are the number one killers of black men and women today.  It's not the cancer that will kill you, not the HIV, not the gunfire. It's the heart disease and diabetes.  When I tell people that and show them the stats, they're in total shock!  We need to be aware of this. It's killing us.

BSN: Wow, I'm shocked myself.  How has this experience  changed your lifestyle and your diet?
ES: I'm gonna keep it all the way real with you.  I'm not where I need to be as far as eating all the right foods and exercising all the time.  I'm slowly working myself into a routine.  I recently joined the LA Fitness gym and I've lost 13 pounds already.  It's a process, doesn't happen over night.

BSN: Excellent. That's a great start.
ES: Exactly.  But I'm definitely watching what I eat and making sure I'm moving around.  Not just eating and laying around.  I'm staying away from the fried foods and eating the things that aren't so healthy in moderation.  The main thing is staying active no matter what you eat.  You see Fat Joe lost 100 pounds.  He's taking his health more serious too.

BSN: Yes. He looks great. Joe should be very proud of himself.
ES: Joe watched about 5 of his friends, including Pun, die from heart disease and decided it was time to make a change.  You start to take it more seriously when you see people so close to you affected by it.

BSN: Any chance of you two sparking a campaign catered towards our hip-hop generation to encourage eating and living healthier?
ES: Well, I haven't been in contact with Joe recently but the Erick Sermon Foundation has developed "Hearts for Hip-Hop".  It's a non-profit organization I founded along with Russell Simmons.  Its geared towards helping educate our community about heart disease and promote healthy living.  After what I've been through I feel like I have to make this journey and let people know how dangerous it is not to be healthy.  We are working very hard and hope to be up and running by September 2012.

BSN: Your new mix-tape is titled "A Breath of Fresh Air". Any particular reason you chose this title?
ES: Yes, I feel like hip-hop music needs a breath of fresh air. Something different.  My new mix-tape is very positive.  No guns, no negativity.  Not preachy though, just positive.  Good vibes.  The new hip-hop is only sending out one message--sex and drugs.  Eminem sold millions and millions of records just talking about the pain he went through in his life and how he overcame his problems and look what we rap about, having sex, smoking weed and having the most Louis & Gucci. We need more to put out more than just negative messages in the music. And there's no variety.  The young hip-hop fans have no options as far as music is concerned.  They're only being exposed to one sound and one message.  I have children, as most of us do, and I want them to be able to listen to a positive record. I want them to have choices.  Everything today is just one style of rap, all saying the same thing.  I guess because I'm not from this era I don't understand how that's cool.

BSN: I admire your passion for giving our youth something positive to look forward to.  Not everyone is concerned with that.
ES: Corporate America is making billions of dollars off of this culture, so they don't care. They'd rather dumb us down and pump negativity into our minds all day.  Like the TV that just plays one station and makes everybody stupid!  Kids today want to hear something good too, something real.  Like, "Tell me how to get out of my situation?  Give me something I can use in my life.". This is what the 16, 17, 18 year old kids want.  They want direction. And right now they're not getting it. Ask 10 young ladies around 15 years old what they wanna be. I guarantee you a few of them will say they wanna be a stripper. Why?  They'll say, "Because of all the money they make."  It's crazy out here.

BSN: That's deep. Definitely not the message we should be sending our young ladies.
ES: Don't get me wrong. I like a lot of the music today.  Rick Ross is a very good friend of mine and he's doing his thing!  I love his music, but should everyone be running around trying to sound like Ross or Wayne? NO!  Music should be creative.  Each individual should have their own sound.  When EPMD was in the game, the fans had a choice.  Music was more exciting and you had different styles of hip-hop to choose from.  We had our style, De La Soul had theirs, Jungle Brothers, Naughty by Nature, Kane, Rakim, LL Cool J, NWA and Too Short all had their own styles.

BSN: Absolutely. It was much different back in the days.
ES: Corporate America doesn't even need us anymore. They have our blueprint.  People are tired of this culture. It's been infiltrated everything around us for so long. Every commercial, every advertisement is hip-hop.  People aren't even buying music like they used to. Record sales are slow. SoundScan shows it.  The rock stars, the Sades and the Cold Plays are doing their numbers though. 

BSN: What has to happen to change the state hip-hop music is in?
ES: We, as artists, have to start making good music again.  Quality music. Being creative, bringing something different to the table. Hip-hop needs balance.  Not Just all one message filled with negativity.  We have to say something positive too.  We have to look at the big picture.  The mainstream is a mirage, but change is comin. It's already happening.

BSN: And we look forward to seeing the much-needed transition. You've introduced us to so many great emcees over the years. Redman, Keith Murray, Hurricane G, etcetera. Are you showcasing any new emcees on "A Breath of Fresh Air"?
ES: Yea, my man Twan Gas, my man Tray from DC and my man Raz to name a few.  I also have a female emcee, Nahtee, from New Orleans. She's nice. Like Remy Ma to the second power. Check her out on YouTube.  I don't believe in putting out just any rapper because at the end of the day they'll be representing me.  I'd rather wait for a great emcee with real talent to come along.  I've never put out a wack rapper.  This mix-tape is basically me and my friends rhyming over dope beats and having a good time.

BSN: So no JANE record on this cd? (Laughing)
ES: Nah, not without Parrish. (Laughing). That was our thing.

BSN: You've worked with so many artists over your lengthy career, is there anyone you'd like to work with that you haven't had the chance to?
ES: No, I kinda worked with everybody.  I've been in this game a long time.

BSN: Now you know I have to ask the burning question...Can we look forward to an EPMD reunion in the future? 
ES: Nah, those days are over.   I'm not out here to rap anymore, I'm here to make a statement.  The work I'm doing on my label, Def Squad Digital, will bring forth a new era of music.  It will change the sound and bring a new chapter to the game.  This is a movement and I plan to be at the forefront.

BSN: You are a hugely accomplished emcee, writer and producer with 26 platinum albums under your belt.  Which of the three do you enjoy the most?
ES: Making the beats. No question. There's no conversation, no writing, just music. The music speaks for itself.  And without a good beat no one wants to hear what you have to say.  Fans fall in love with the beats first, then the chorus, then the verses.

BSN: This is so true.  Will you be hosting a listening party to introduce your latest work?
ES: No, not for the mix-tape.  I will be dropping an album this summer though, in June, so look out for that.  We'll definitely do something for the album.

BSN: We look forward to hearing this new mix-tape, "A Breath of Fresh Air", sparked by the single, "No way out" and the new album soon after.  We definitely appreciate your passion for helping our youth find their way through music in these crazy times.  We can only hope that other artists will follow in your footsteps to help create the balance that hip-hop music so desperately needs.  Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
ES: You're welcome, thank you. I appreciate it.

Author's Note: As a true veteran of the hip-hop game, Erick Sermon is determined to reintroduce us to real hip-hop music and show us what the game's been missing in recent years.  We wish him the best of luck and have our noses wide open waiting for that--Breath of Fresh Air.

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