Third acts have always been a problem for former House of Pain frontman Everlast. But this third time around might end that streak.After leaving House of Pain, Erik "Everlast" Schrody staged a massive "comeback" on 1998's Whitey Ford Sings the Blues. The double-platinum album (which included his huge "What It's Like" hit) gestated between a spiritual awakening and near-death experience. After House of Pain went up in flames, Everlast converted to Islam. And just after he finished recording the disc, a previously undetected congenital heart defect nearly killed him.
Shortly after 2000's Eat at Whitey's follow-up went gold, Everlast became embroiled in a public feud with Eminem, Detroit's new white king of hip-hop. Following a run-in at a concert, Everlast launched a feud, climaxing with a cameo on Dilated Peoples' "Eardrums Pop." The episode hit fever pitch at St. Andrew's Hall in 2001; during that show, Everlast made derogatory remarks about Eminem and D-12. Afterward, a group of about a dozen assailants rushed the door and made their way inside. Three made it onstage and assaulted the band, immediately ending the show.
The "white-rapper" dustup coincided with the end of Everlast's run as a solo star. After Whitey's sputtered, he signed to Island/Def Jam for 2004's flat White Trash Beautiful, which came and went unnoticed.
This year, however, Everlast is back in the spotlight. He earned an Emmy nomination for the theme to the TNT drama Saving Grace. And he's taking care of unfinished business in the pop world. All three members of House of Pain contribute to the upcoming debut album from La Coka Nostra, a group of hip-hop superfriends. Between records, Everlast kept busy performing live shows with longtime producer and friend DJ Muggs (who's a member of Cypress Hill). The gigs led to a surprising first single from the new Love, War and the Ghost of Whitey Ford — a cover of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," with a rejuvenated Everlast spitting over the beat from Cypress Hill's "Insane in the Membrane."
METRO TIMES: Where was your head at for the first Whitey Ford record?
EVERLAST: I wrote that after House of Pain came apart, watching my man Danny Boy [House's second rapper] get mixed up in drugs, and having the whole world in my hands and watching it turn bad, and thinking about what else there was. I've always thought about my spirit and life and death and been aware of things like that, and been drawn to them.
MT: Did your heart experience set the tone for the album?
EVERLAST: No. It was done before that. I was living with my producers. And the only reason I'm here is because they heard my breathing getting shallow. They called the ambulance, I got the right doctor — or I would have been John Ritter. And I think on a subconscious level I knew that was coming, like my body or spirit was talking to me. Like death was near.
MT: Were you a fan of Eminem to start with?
EVERLAST: Um, yeah. I mean, the whole original thing that became a problem was: I tried to shake the dude's hand long before he was a star. He just kind of ... he didn't show me any kind of respect or acknowledgement. And that kind of pissed me off. And that's what the whole thing started from. I've always said the dude is super-talented. Like, throughout our little exchange of a couple songs, never once did I say, "You suck," "You're garbage" or "You're whack." I laid out some personal shit. But I always told people, "Dude is nasty, man." He's one of the better rappers I've heard in my lifetime.
MT: That was like challenging Tyson to a fight. Why even say that on the Dilated record?
EVERLAST: Like I said, I felt like the dude didn't show me any respect at the time. And on the Dilated record, I was like, "Let's see if ..." And the excuse apparently was that it wasn't known who I was. And if you listen to that Dilated record, I don't say anybody's name. You have to be listening pretty sharp to figure out who that's about. You have to be paying pretty close attention to me to figure that out. So it was like me proving a point.
MT: Do you feel like you came out of that feud OK, like you got your licks in?
EVERLAST: I really don't reflect on it. As far as I'm concerned, it is what it is. I said what I said. I think out of anybody that ever went rhyme-for-rhyme with him, I gave the best run for his money.
MT: In retrospect, was it a mistake?
EVERLAST: I don't think about it that much. To be honest, this is the most I've discussed it. Ordinarily, it's not a topic of discussion. We ain't friends; we ain't enemies. It's like, "Did you outdo me?" I don't want to be him. That was never what it was about. You can't even accuse me of using that to promote records, because that was never on any record of mine. Honestly, it was just "OK, we're both rappers, I've got something to say, so I'm going to say it, and you have something to say back." And that was about it. It's not that big of a deal.
MT: Is La Coka Nostra not a House of Pain reunion, even though all three of you are on the album?
EVERLAST: You definitely could say, yeah, it is, because we're all there. But also, it's a new thing. It's fun. When La Coka Nostra plays live, we definitely do a bunch of House of Pain stuff. Will there be another record? I don't know. If there was one, it would probably be only one more and it would be to end things on a good note.
MT: When I saw "Folsom Prison Blues" on your MySpace page, before the music started, I thought, "Man, I don't know about this ..."
EVERLAST: A lot of people are like that. Some people think I'm messing with Jesus there or something. That's why I actually took that song to [Cash's son] John Carter Cash before I put it on my album and got his OK.
MT: What will you be doing 10 years from now?
EVERLAST: I always want to make records. I always want to write songs. But lately, the scoring things are starting to come around for me. I'm a big fan of guys like [composers] Lalo Schifrin and Danny Elfman. That's amazing, that you can make a movie better because of what you did for it.
MT: Do you think white guy in rap is a permanent fixture?
EVERLAST: [The idea of] a white rapper is no crazier today than a black president.
Friday, Sept. 26, at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7665. With the Lordz and Questions.D.X. Ferris is a freelance writer for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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