Few people can top the success Everlast has had in the music industry. It seems that whatever in whatever incarnation, fans follow and critics give a nod. He’s sung with Carlos Santana and still manages to find time to spit grimy with the La Coka Nostra crew.
His new record, Love, War & The Ghost of Whitey Ford, allows Everlast’s songs of redemption center stage. The songs are rap free, but as we find, not divorced from a hip-hop spirit. He has, after all, 20 years in the game. Rappers old and new share their reverence.
These are the things we wished to discuss when we caught up with Everlast a few weeks ago. Does growth mean no more hip-hop? It’s the sort of question people love to jump on. A death of a genre, some say. An extremely limited approach to an art form, others might argue.
Deep into a tour, Everlast shared his thoughts on some of this. We also talked audience, the difficulty of preparing a track-list and mixtapes.
BallerStatus.com: Ok, so you’ve been on tour for a bit now.
Everlast: Couple weeks.
BallerStatus.com: Things going well?
Everlast: All good, can’t complain.
BallerStatus.com: I wanted to know if you felt like your audience has changed over the years.
Everlast: I don’t know. The audience is a broad range of people, ages and styles. There’s those that have been with me since the House of Pain days and then there’s folks who just like the ballads I write. It’s all over the place, like my music really.
BallerStatus.com: You haven’t noticed a distinct change over time? You’re one of the few hip-hop artists whose expanded from writing 16s to full fledged and sung ballads.
Everlast: That is hard to answer, really. Just older and wiser, I guess. I only see them, I don’t get to meet them. All I see … in the the House of Pain days, it was pretty much just people into hip-hop. Now, it’s a broad spectrum of people who are into it. I’ve probably grown more than they have, just because I’m the one doing all the interchange musically. I think most people just like good music. Even the cats who’ve been listening to me since House of Pain dig what I do outside the b-boy sh**. It is what it is, I don’t put that much thought in it.
BallerStatus.com: Contrasting your solo work with what you do with La Coka Nostra. Is it nice for you to have the balance?
Everlast: Yeah, La Coka Nostra is fun for me. It is purely a fun endeavor. To get in the room with guys that can really MC, it challenges me to step my game up. I hadn’t been MCing like that for a long time. These guys got the fire back in me, and it’s a fun process. That’s really all its about for me at this point in life. If it ain’t fun, then why?
BallerStatus.com: I was interested to read you’ve been commissioned to do some songs for TV and other stuff, and I wondered about your process for those ventures?
Everlast: “The Saving Grace” thing just came about … it’s a little different from writing your own personal songs, because someone else has a say in it. That song [for ‘Saving Grace’] came pretty easily. I watched the pilot episode they sent me, and just wrote about what I saw. It made for a decent song, and they dug it. I wrote a country song for Snoop, but Snoop asked me to do what I do. I didn’t have to change too much to accommodate.
BallerStatus.com: I’ve had the opportunity to interview some guys of the Kottonmouth Kings record label and all mention your influence on them from a song writing point of view. Have you met people or talked with people who’ve mentioned your influence on them that you wouldn’t have expected, or in a genre that might have shocked you?
Everlast: Not shock, but I am surprised when I get comments from anybody. It’s hard to think of yourself in those terms sometimes. I have to remind myself I’ve been doing what I do for 20 years now. Sometimes, I get like “whoa!” All I can do is say “thank you” and “appreciate it.” It is a very cool thing to hear. Doesn’t matter who is saying it. I know what it is personally to have an artist affect me. I equate it the same. When I meet cats that influence me, I’ve got the same feeling. It’s cool, but it’s hard to take in.
BallerStatus.com: You are one of the few guys who can move seamlessly from spitting with Swollen Members, for example, to singing with Carlos Santana.
Everlast: Well, I’m a fortunate dude. I can adapt well. I mean, for me it’s all about hip-hop. What I do, even the most balladed out song I got, if you examine it deep enough, and hard enough, you’ll find hip-hop. It’s the reason I feel I can adapt to anything, growing up making hip-hop records and demos with all the producers (Lethal, Muggs, Donte Ross) I’ve worked with over the years, and all the records I’ve listened to … I’ve heard almost every style of music there is to make … I think that’s where a lot of things started coming together for me. Like this is all the same thing. Whatever you want to call it, hip-hop, it’s all just drawing lines in the same pie. When you divide it up to hip-hop and rock and classic, that’s ok, but it’s all from the same pie.
BallerStatus.com: When would you say you really started to think about hip-hop, and when (if at all) did your definition of hip-hop change? When you realized how all in compassing this music is, to the point that no matter what you make you’re rooted in a way of putting pieces together.
Everlast: You know, it wasn’t a realization all at once. It was steps over time. I’d see something and think, “oh that would work with that.” Things I hear, I’d think that those two things would work together. No blinding light. Just small steps and I just kept following them to new sounds. To me, it’s just a game. I’m fortunate in that I’m pretty good with music, but that has never been the motivation. I just like chasing it down and capturing it.
BallerStatus.com: Anyone you haven’t collaborated with that you’d like to?
Everlast: Collaborations for me are built on personal connections. If I were to just call out names … Tom Waits is a huge influence, I’d love to do something with him. I’d like to write a song for T.I. I’m into this thing right now where I like sculpting tunes for cats. It’s kind of become something I feel I really want to get into. I still think KRS-One is one of the greatest of all time, so any day he would want to get in the studio. But, mostly, collaborations I have to know the people or get to know them under regular circumstances where its not about work. Perhaps they’ll be a guitar and we’ll just f*** around to see what happens. That’s how I like to go about them.
BallerStatus.com: There is certainly an organic quality to your recordings, and a context to them.
Everlast: I have to have that to make. That’s why sometimes I’m gone for two years. I’ll go out and work and get all happy, and be living life. I’ll come home and regroup and it will take me awhile to regroup and start to think about what I feel like making, music wise. Sometimes the answer is nothing. Sometimes it’s overwhelming how much I want to sit in the studio. It’s very organic, as you say, for me. Has to be, anything I force doesn’t turn out right. It has to be about gut feelings. Over the 20 years I’ve made records, I’ve learned to trust my gut.
BallerStatus.com: The new record has a lot of material about relationships. In all honest, growing up, I never heard anything like that in hip-hop before Atmosphere. With your style, there is a whole new element to the relationship record. I think it takes a lot of personal growth to get to the point where your singing about sensitive issues.
Everlast: I remember when Whitey Ford Sings the Blues was first done, that was probably the weirdest part for me. With some of the songs, with the producers, I trusted those dudes. They knew everything about me and what I was saying anyways. But, the general populace, with some of that stuff I was like “Wow, I’m really putting myself out there.” But, that is what art is, you’ve got to wear your heart on your sleeve. If you’re not willing to get your heart broke, you’ll never fall in love anyway. It’s the same principle. If you are scared to say some sh**, you might never say anything important.
BallerStatus.com: What’s one of your favorites on the new record?
Everlast: There’s a handful … I mean, of course I dig the whole record, it’s mine. That said, I think “Stone in My Hand,” which is the next single is powerful. “Anyone” is very personal, about the connection between my father and I after he passed and I was thinking about myself, in ways that filtered through him. “Kill The Emperor.” It depends on my mood. If I’m feisty and uppity, “Kill the Emperor” is my jam. “Stone in My Hand” if I’m feeling more pensive. If I’m chilled out, it’ll be “Anyone.”
BallerStatus.com: On that note, it’s a fun album to listen to all the way through, but it has tracks that really stand out individually. Not in the sense that you buy a record and its got a single … like between ’88 and ’97 it would be placed at track 7 …. and it’s the only joint you want to play. Here there are stand alone tracks, but it is also really cohesive. Can you give a sense of how you put the album together?
Everlast: As far as putting it together … I say it, but it wasn’t quite right. You have a tracklist in your head, and then sort of just throw it together and listen. Then a bit of movement here or there to make it right. I do want to make a record that listens from back to front. It felt right, and the tempos and ideas work. I was taught early in the record game, that even though you want the best order, you also want your heat up front. You want to catch people right away.
BallerStatus.com: Do you think that stands in the MP3 era? We’re not previewing albums at HMV anymore.
Everlast: You know, there are people who’ll do that. But, I think there are still people that understand an album. That’s what I try and make. I don’t try and make 12 singles, and a lot of people do that. I feel like albums are like books. They don’t need to be thematic, like a concept album, but they are all books. They need some continuity. That’s what I try and do.
BallerStatus.com: Would you say a mixtape was like a magazine?
Everlast: I guess. Sort of. That’s funny.
BallerStatus.com: I’ve noticed you don’t do many mixtapes.
Everlast: You know what? I’ll do the La Coka ones, because there’s guys in the group motivated to do it. I’m not that organized. I’ll come spit on one. Mixtapes, though, I can’t really keep up with. Motherf***ers are writing 100 songs every three months. Hats off. It takes me a little longer to create.