From his House of Pain days to his current manifestation as a blues singing Whitey Ford, Everlast has always been an innovator in Hip-Hop. With his latest album, Love, War and The Ghost of Whitey Ford, hitting stores later this month, Everlast sat down with RapReviews for an extended interview that we’ll be running in two parts. This week, in part one, Everlast discusses the album, how collecting art has changed his attitude towards making music, and why he feels the use of technology is actually hurting Hip-Hop.
Adam Bernard: Let’s start by talking about the new album, Love, War and The Ghost of Whitey Ford, which hits stores later this month.
Everlast: It’s been about four years since I’ve put a record out. Time just kind of flew by. I took a little break after my Island / Def Jam deal went really really ugly. I started wanting to record again but I wanted to try some different experiments in sound and instrumentation. Once I started writing the album became a little political, more so than in the past, and I just wanted to make a little bit more aggressive record. I’m very happy with it. I actually just listened to it in its entirety yesterday for the first time in like a month and I’m very pleased with it.
AB: You had a lot to say on this record. Are the topics you chose to talk about ones you feel are easily relatable for people?
E: Hopefully most of them. Hopefully people are gonna be like “yeah, OK, I understand where he’s coming from,” or “I feel like that.” Even if you disagree with it that’s cool by me. I always tell people art is not meant to be friendly all the time. Indifference, to me, is my enemy. I would rather you hate my music, or love it, than just say “oh, it’s OK, whatever,” like it’s elevator background music. That would be the worst thing in the world to me.
“I’d rather have you be like it sucked balls, I hate your guts, because it means I got to ya somehow.”
AB: So “meh” is the most evil word.
E: Yeah, like eh. I’d rather have you be like it sucked balls, I hate your guts, because it means I got to ya somehow. It comes from me collecting art. I’ve been a pretty heavy art collector for the past eight to ten years and there’s been a few artists that I have just despised and I say why do I hate this so much? I can’t even walk by it without goin arrr. I was having a conversation with one of my artist friends and they were like yeah, but it’s good that you hate it. I was like what do you mean? And they said they same thing, it’s better than not caring. It dawned at me like wow, you’re right, and I actually bought the painting that I’m talking about and I have it in my house just to remind me of that. I don’t like it, (laughs) but I’m like OK, I’m gonna remember that forever.
AB: That would make for one of the more interesting editions of Cribs. “And here’s this painting that I really hate…”
E: I really hate it. (laughs) I really really despise this painting.
AB: Do you have any specific artists you like?
E: Most of my art collection is based on street art, like street art, graffiti artists, but it’s not necessarily all graffiti, some of these guys have stepped up into gallery painting and are becoming more fine artists. I collect mostly paintings and for a long time I was into that Hong Kong, vinyl toy, scene and I have a whole room full of that stuff. Actually the whole art toy thing led me into collecting more paintings. Probably my favorite piece right now, at this moment, is a Futura painting I got, it’s just the most amazing thing. He’s like the Godfather of all this stuff to me and it’s something I’ve been hunting down for a while trying to get him to do and I finally got that taken care of.
AB: How do you think your love of art is reflected in your music?
E: In the sense that, kinda along the lines that I was talking about, it’s kind of given me a new attitude. A lot of people make music purposely for people to like it and I’ve let go of that desire. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being a hypocrite, I would love everybody to love my record, but what other people think or what’s gonna happen was just X-ed out of the equation because I decided I’m gonna do like if I’m painter I’m not sitting in from of my easel with my paint wondering what everybody wants me to paint so I approached the record in the same way like yo I’m not gonna worry about everybody else might want Everlast to do, or might want to hear from Everlast, and I’m sorry I don’t mean to speak on myself in the third person like that, but I’m trying to put it into context for you.
AB: It’s very Deon Sanders of you, don’t worry about it.
E: You know what I mean. Prime Time has to do what Prime Time has to do. Point being I just kinda stopped caring what other people think while I was making the art. Now I care. I want to know, but again it doesn’t crush me when somebody has negative things to say about it.
“I knew right away that I would get people that were Johnny Cash fanatics that are gonna be like how dare you…”
AB: You also have a cover song on the album. Tell me what inspired this.
E: Yeah, I covered “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash. DJ Muggs and my partner producing the record, Keefus Ciancia were doing this kind of mash up trio thing but instead of just the DJ doing it we were taking them a step further and doing them live with Muggs cutting beats and me playing the guitar and singing, the other homey holding down the keyboards. That was one of the songs we would do. We would do some of mine, we would cover a bunch of songs by like Jane’s Addiction, The Rolling Stones, we’d do a bunch of fun songs and after doing a bunch of shows we just were like we gotta record this version of “Folsom Prison Blues,” I like it too much. Once I recorded it I was a little worried. I knew right away that I would get people that were Johnny Cash fanatics that are gonna be like how dare you even attempt to rerecord a classic and I’m like OK, whatever, but I was worried about it from the standpoint of being a fan myself, so much so that I contacted Johnny’s son, John Carter Cash, and flew down to Nashville and met with him and played him the song. I got his thumbs up and through him got the indication that even his dad might have dug on it a lot. Once he told me that I knew I was putting it on the album. They were also really instrumental with the video, which has me CGIed into the old Johnny Cash Show and I couldn’t have gotten that done without the cooperation of the family.
AB: You mentioned there’s a lot of guitar playing on this album. With your past do you feel it can still be considered Hip-Hop and an expansion of the culture?
E: I think people who actually have some wits about them will know that it’s Hip-Hop just because it’s me, even if it’s the furthest thing. There’s one straight acoustic almost ballad-y kind of thing on the record that you would be hard pressed to call Hip-Hop, but it’s me, I’m a Hip-Hop musician, so anything I do kind of becomes that. I feel like in a lot of ways it may take a long time, it may be one of the things people say when I’m gone, but I think I’ve done my fair share to spread the breadth of what Hip-Hop is defined as. If you think about it all we did was sit around and listen to other forms of music to find beats, so Hip-Hop’s everywhere. I can find Hip-Hop in a country record. I can find Hip-Hop in a Neil Young record, so the people who don’t are narrow minded. “That’s not Hip-Hop. That’s not rap music.” Yeah, it’s not rap music, you’re absolutely right. Most of what I do nowadays isn’t rap, but all of it’s Hip-Hop.
AB: Do you listen to rap music anymore? Is there anyone out there that speaks to you in 2008?
E: I won’t even front, I think Kanye’s pretty dope. I think he’s brought back some production qualities that are reminiscent of the 90’s but with his own modern kind of spin on them and I think lyrically he’s pretty decent, he says some things. I love Talib Kweli. I love that kind of stuff. I’m not a big fan of the most popular stuff right now because it’s just not my thing. I don’t like keyboard beats. I never have. And I really hate Auto Tunes. So anything that has a keyboard beat or Auto Tunes gets X-ed out and that’s about 90% of what’s going on right now in the upper echelon of the pop Hip-Hop scene.
AB: There isn’t a lot of authenticity to a purely keyboard beat.
E: I mean, you can take that same keyboard and probably make a banging ass beat. A lot of what The Neptunes have done are keyboard beats, and I haven’t liked everything they’ve done, but they’ve managed to make some really good beats with the keyboard sounds. It’s when you don’t do anything but rip off the stock beats. How many times have people been caught ripping off the demo in the keyboard player?
“Go on YouTube, you’ll find that whole track is jacked note for note from the Garage Band demo.”
AB: Swizz Beatz.
E: And he’s not the only one. There was a big Usher song recently that was jacked out of Garage Band. “Love In The Club,” go on YouTube, you’ll find that whole track is jacked note for note from the Garage Band demo. Garage Band is the studio program that comes with the Mac that anybody can pretty much use, but there are demos in there and all the dude did was put some drums behind the demo and that’s the Usher song. When I hear shit like that I’m like what the fuck, how are you a producer? I don’t even know who produced it so I’m not shitting on anybody personally, if anybody reads this and takes it personal fuck you because you’re not a producer doing that kind of shit, you’re a biter. Where I came from, I’m 38 years old, back in the day if you did shit like that you got labeled a biter and that wasn’t a good thing to be labeled, dawg. If you were called a biter you were done. It was a wrap. If you did a fucking Coke commercial when I was young you were Hammer, you were done, you sold out and now that don’t exist no more.
Partially it’s because of the record business. These guys gotta get their money so I’m not hatin on you doing commercials and stuff, what bothers me more is cats just stealing shit. 90% of the people who call themselves producers in Hip-Hop couldn’t produce a record to save their life. They make a track and send it to somebody and a whole bunch of other people make a song about of it. Making a track on a drum machine doesn’t make you a producer. It took me years to learn that. When you start working with real musicians and real producers you learn that a real producer sometimes help write, arrange, producer, record, and is in on every bit of the song. You’re doing a lot. You’re making a song come to life, and I think there are a lot of misconceptions in the game, especially in Hip-Hop, about what a real producer does. I would say Kanye is probably a real producer. Muggs, Primo, and I’m sure there’s a bunch of cats that I don’t know that are around now that are producers, but these guys that are just ripping off demos and shit, it’s hilarious.