Everlast has come a long way, baby. Remember that tattooed, goateed MC who jumped to the top of the charts with the multi-platinum rap group House of Pain? Well, the shamrocks-and-beer shenanigans are dead and buried. And on his new solo album, Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, Everlast's born again with a bluesy, hip-hop hybrid sound, a new alias (Whitey), and a new introspective attitude that's still rough around the edges.
The L.A. based MC-turned-musician (born Erik Schrody) quit House of Pain in 1996 out of what he describes as creative frustration. After battling financial woes and a rough break up with Manhole/Tura Satana frontwoman Tairrie B., he began work on his self-penned solo album, drawing on inspiration from artists including Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and, of course, hip-hop. "We've come up with names to describe the sound, like hick-hop," says Everlast. "I basically said fuck the rules and took everything I've ever liked in my life and threw it all together like one big bowl of soup."
And much to Everlast's own surprise, folks are really digging in. "I thought I was going to get a lot of flack for this album because a lot of people are narrow minded," says Everlast. "I thought hip-hop purists would be like, 'What do you think you're doing?' And I thought rock guys would be like, 'Who do you think you're trying to fool?' But instead everyone's been like, 'Wow you did your own thing, that's really cool.'"
It's the alternative crowd that's shown him the most support so far. The album's first single, "What It's Like," is getting heavy spins on modern rock stations in the top ten markets. "What I'd really like to see is rap stations playing it," says Everlast, "but it's the rap cats who are one-track minded with the regurgitated disco hits with an R&B singer and a cat who can't rap on 'em. It's called karaoke music and I despise it."
Hmm. Let's guess who Everlast is alluding to. "The guy's a brilliant marketing genius, but musically, yeah, I am speaking about Puffy. Not just him, there's a whole school of them and that's all they do. He just happens to be the master of it."
A lot of people would call that player-hating, but Everlast says he has no personal vendettas. "More power to you Puff, you make all your money. But as a musician? Come on, let's be real," Everlast says. "People always put me in this position like, 'yeah, come on, diss him,' but he's already dissed himself by saying he's just in it for the money. Anybody who's just in anything for the money is wack to me. I ain't all about the Benjamins, I'm about trying to live a decent life as a decent human being, and make some decent music that inspires people."
Everlast's blunt honesty pops up all over Whitey Ford, from the apologetic sentiment to his ex on "The Letter," to the real-life tales on "What It's Like," to the bare-bones feel of his acoustic guitar playing.
"It's about growing up," he says. "I just stripped myself naked and said, 'Hey everybody take a look.'" But let's not forget a solid dose of sarcasm. "Whitey Ford was a New York Yankees pitcher from the Forties," says Everlast of the alias he assumes on the album's title. "But Whitey is actually what it's all about, it's supposed to make you giggle."
But there's more to Whitey than meets the eye. "I was looking at all the fake gangster mafioso aliases in hip-hop. Everybody wants to be Don this or some mobster out of the Godfather," explains Everlast. "It's like, if you're going to take on an alias, make it obvious why you took it with the imagery that it invokes. A lot of these cats are trying to be people who would hate their guts. Whitey Ford also sounds like some old blues cat's name. Like, if there was some white guy in the Thirties playing the blues, they would have called him Whitey."