Singer, songwriter, guitar
Hip–hop singer Everlast, born Erik Schrody, makes a forceful case for claiming that despite being white and growing up in the suburbs, his gravitation toward the rap and hip–hop culture was as American as apple pie. “If you go by that little inscription on the Statue of Liberty, the purest idea of America is complete cultural chaos,” he told Spin magazine’s Charles Aaron. “Why don’t we have a national culture? Because we have a all cultures. America has its fingertips into everything, and so does hip–hop, that’s why it makes so much sense.” Taking this notion to heart, the tattooed singer/rapper who converted from Catholicism to the Muslim faith and built an enormous collection of baseball cards over the years released his first album, the unimpressive Forever Everlasting, in 1990. That same year, he put his solo aspirations aside to form the Gaelic rap/hip–hop trio House of Pain with Danny Boy, born Daniel O’Connor, and DJ Lethal, born Leor DiMant, who later joined the rap/metal band Limp Bizkit.
Although the group found success, proving that hip–hop and rap had grown beyond the confines of African American neighborhoods, Everlast announced his departure from the trio the day House of Pain’s third album came out in 1996. In 1998, after suffering through financial difficulties and a painful breakup with his former girlfriend, Everlast released the acclaimed WhiteyFord Sings the Blues —named after Whitey Ford, a New York Yankees pitcher during the 1950s and 1960s—consid–ered a more mature and ambitious effort than any work he had done with House of Pain. And by early 1999, the single “What It’s Like,” a series of hard luck stories set to acoustic blues guitar and a lazy breakbeat became a radio hit. Like the characters in the song, Everlast lived through hard times in his own life as well, forcing him to approach life with a more grown–up outlook. For example, Everlast viewed his conversion to Islam as a serious undertaking and thus prays daily, practices fasting, and regrets his sacrilegious tattoos. Moreover, the same day he completed Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, Everlast suffered a near–fatal heart attack—brought on by a birth defect, in addition to a lifetime of smoking, drinking, and stress—that he continued to recover from throughout 1999.
Everlast was born into a family of Irish descent in Hempstead, Long Island, New York in 1970. His grandfather was a “red–headed singing bartenderfrom Brooklyn,” Everlast’s mother, Rita Mulligan, told Aaron. Ever–last’s father, a construction worker, moved the family to Southern California when he was around 11 years old. The Schrody family’s finances fluctuated throughout Everlast’s childhood, and during the early 1980s, Everlast and his sister Cassandra (born around 1973) were bounced back and forth from Los Angeles to New York as his father chased jobs.Eventually, the family settled in the upscale suburb of Woodland Hills, located in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles. Here, Everlast found himself one of the few working–class kids among a group of wealthy kids with little direction and started smoking marijuana.
However, Everlast’s interests suddenly shifted as soon as he heard the rap group Run–D.M.C.’s “Rock Box” for the first time. “I stopped hanging out with all those hesher/stoner kids, and got into hip–hop full–blown,” recalled Everlast to Aaron. “I still loved my Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, butthatfirst Run–D.M.C. album blew me away.” During his late teens at Taft and Canoga Park high schools, the area school system incorporated busing, an event that significantly altered the racial make–up of students. Before long, Everlast started rebelling against suburban life, often ditching school to take the bus to Los Angeles with his new Latin and African American friends. Around this time he also met future House of Pain band member Danny Boy, his only significant white friend. Everlast later recalled these adventures as the happiest times in his life, even overshadowing the success he achieved with House of Pain.
With friend Divine Styler, who later released three albums, including 1999’s Directrix: World Power 2, Everlast started rapping and making tapes produced by good
Born Erik Schrody in 1970 in Hempstead, Long Island, NY; son of a construction worker father and mother Rita Mulligan, a restaurant franchise manager; one sister, born c. 1973.
Released unimpressive debut, Forever Everlasting, Warner Bros. Records, 1990; formed group House of Pain, 1990; House of Pain released platinum–selling, self–titled debut on Tommy Boy Records, 1992; left House of Pain, 1996; released comeback solo album, Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, survived life–threatening heart attack, 1998.
Awards: Double platinum for Whitey Ford, 1999.
Addresses: Record company —Tommy Boy Music, 902 Broadway, 13th Fir., New York City, NY 10010, (212)388–8300.Home—Los Angeles, CA. Website— Official Everlast Website, http://www.forevereverlasting.com.
friend DJ Bilal Bashir. He lived with the Bashir family for a short time when his mother kicked him out of the house for neglecting his schoolwork. Several of Everlast’s friends knew rap artist Ice–T, one of the founding fathers of the gangsta rap genre. And after Ice–T heard one of Everlast’s demos, the legendary rapper expressed an immediate interest. “Ice–T said he’d like to meet me,” Everlast told Julian Dibbell in an interview with Details. “Then they told him I was white, and he said he really wanted to meet me.”
After meeting Ice–T, the 17–year–old Everlast joined Ice–T’s crew, the Rhyme Syndicate, and recorded his debut album for Warner Brothers Records. Released in 1990 and produced under the auspices of the Rhyme Syndicate, the record made little or no impression, and Dibbell noted that “the rapper was packaged as a boxer with a Sean Penn pout and greased back locks.” Nevertheless, Everlast would later express gratitude for the album’s failure. As he told Aaron, “I thank God every day that record flopped. I could have been Vanilla Ice, dude. Then it really would’ve been over.”
Indeed, Everlast’s story would have ended there if notfor his embrace of a different sort of ethnic undertaking and meeting DJMuggs of the interracial rap trio Cypress Hill. Joined by Danny Boy and producer DJ Lethal in 1990, Everlast created House of Pain as the first Gaelic hip–hop group, draping the group carelessly in Irish imagery more as a marketing scheme than a cultural identity, especially given the fact that DJ Lethal was the son of Jewish Latvian immigrants. Needless to say, touting their “lrishness” angered many, who felt thatthe gimmick reinforced negative stereotypes. Nonetheless, House of Pain adopted a three–leafed logo along with orange and green colors to symbolize Irish pride. And references to the pub life culture were scattered throughout tracks like “Shamrocks and Shenanigans” and “Top of the Morning to Ya,” though House of Pain made certain to avoid the political reality of Ireland.
The group’s platinum–selling self–titled debut, released in 1992, contained the popular hit single “Jump Around.” Embraced by hip–hop and pop music fans alike, the song became a college party anthem and even prompted a hard–core rap following in Ireland. Although Everlast insisted that the song was never meant for pop radio, he confessed to Billboard magazine’s Gil Griffin, “When I was watching MTV and saw our video as one of the top five, then saw our single in the Top Five on the pop charts, I bugged.” Following House of Pain’s success, Everlast landed a small role in the independent film Judgment Night.
House of Pain’s next two albums, 1994’s Same As It Ever Was, and 1996’s Truth Crushed to Earth Will Rise Again, failed to recapture the frenzy inspired by the first album, and Everlast struggled to grow musically with rap and hip–hop. Not to mention, his close friendship with Danny Boy and DJ Lethal had become mired in substance–abuse and was almost nonexistent. Therefore, Everlast, feeling that his happiness and mental state were in jeopardy, made a difficult decision to quit the band on the release date of the third album. “I felt like, if I didn’t just get away from everything that was around me at the time that something really bad would have happened,” he commented in a 1999 interview for the Totally LA website. “I was like the lead guy, so it was almost like there was a pressure on me sometimes to do things I didn’t want to do because the other two guys wanted them done, and I felt that I had been friends with these guys for so long that if I didn’t quit, I wouldn’t be friends with them now, which I am. I’m better friends with Lethal than I’ve ever been and Danny Boy I haven’t seen in a while, but I still got tremendous love for him.”
Little did he know at the time, circumstances would become much worse after leaving House of Pain before they would improve. Everlast was sued by his record company, sold his Hollywood Hills dream home, almost went bankrupt—at one point he had but $12 in his bank account—fell out with his management, lost his Screen Actors Guild (SAG) card, and was placed under house arrest for trying to carry a gun aboard an airplane. Then he endured a painful breakup with his girlfriend, which he later documented in a song from Whitey Ford Sings the Blues entitled “The Letter.” After a seven–year relationship, Everlast’s girlfriend was fed up with his constant infidelities. “I was an asshole, bottom line,” he regretfully admitted to Aaron.
Humbled by these events, he traded a life of booze, women, and insensitivity for one of spirituality, sincerity, and social awareness. After selling his home, Everlast became roommates with his mother, who battled cancer in the mid–1980s, and the two shared a Los Angeles condominium which also doubled as Everlast’s new studio. His parents divorced when he was 20, but Everlast, who learned to play guitar listening to his father’s Neil Young records as a child, never fully forgave his father. In spite of these feelings, Everlast said he still loved his father and continued to maintain a relationship with him out of respect for the teachings of Islam, which tells its followers to honor both parents.
Determined to make a career comeback as well as a personal one, Everlast started the five–month process of writing and recording music for Whitey Ford, intended at first to be “a straight–up hip–hop album,” he told Entertainment Weekiys Tom Sinclair. However, he ended up recording the atypical “What It’s Like,” at the urging of his producer Dante Ross. “I’ve been playing guitarfor a long time, but I never thought of putting guitars on a hip–hop record,” said Everlast. “But I was in the studio strumming that song one night, and Dante said, ‘Yo, that’s dope. We’ve got to record that.’” And because “What It’s Like,” sounded so well set to a moody acoustic guitar and an understated string section, Everlast decided to record a few more tracks with the instrument.
In addition to giving a bluesy, acoustic feel to hip–hop, Everlast also brought a sense of social concern to the album. “What It’s Like,” for example, tells the stories of three individuals suffering through hard times—a homeless alcoholic, a woman seeking an abortion abandoned by her unborn child’s father, and an ill–fated gangster—for whom Everlast empathizes in a line from the chorus, “God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in their shoes.” As Everlast told Sinclair, “It’s about empathy. It’s saying, don’t judge… because you’ve gotas much dirt under your fingernails.” Likewise, another song called “Ends” condemns greed.
Feeling self–fulfilled with his accomplishment, Everlast believed his personal troubles were finally behind him. But on the sameday he wrapped up recording, he suffered another wake–up call, this time the event proved life threatening. That night, after eating dinner at his home in February of 1998, he felt his chest tighten and at first thought indigestion was the cause of his pain. Producer John Gamble, watching Everlast struggle for several hours to breath normally, finally decided to call for an ambulance, and within moments of arriving at Cedars–Sinai Hospital, Everlast’s heart failed, his aorta was torn and he lost large amounts of blood. Born with a heart defect, a bicuspid aortic valve, doctors had predicted Everlast would need surgery when he reached his 50s. However, heavy smoking and drinking combined with nervousness and stress had sped up the process.
Everlast awoke four days later to the relieved faces of his parents, as well as to a ticking sound, a prosthetic heart valve. “Every time it closes, that’s the sound it makes,” he explained to Alona Wartofsky of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “It’s soothing. I fall asleep to it every night. If it stopped making this sound now I’d be a little worried.” Everlast spent the remainder of the year and 1999 recovering from his heart attack. He released Whitey Ford (produced by Ross and Gamble) in mid–1998, but the record failed to earn recognition right away. Then several months later, MTV started airing the video for “What It’s Like” on a regular basis, helping to bring the album out of obscurity. Subsequently, radio stations started to embrace the single as well, and soon thereafter, “What It’s Like” hit number one on both modern rock and mainstream charts. By the summer of 1999, the album achieved double platinum status.
While continuing to recover, Everlast also toured in 1999 to support his record. Furthermore, he landed another acting role as police officer O’Maley in an upcoming film by hip–hop producer “Prince” Paul Huston entitled A Prince Among Thieves. One of his favorite recording artists is Lauryn Hill, and he concluded to Aaron that people who “don’t feel her record [the single “Ex–Factor”]—I mean feel it—inside, there’s something wrong with them.” He also admires Outkast, Miles Davis, Tom Waits, Hank Williams, and newcomer Fiona Apple.
with House of Pain
House of Pain, Tommy Boy, 1992.
Same As It Ever Was, Tommy Boy, 1994.
Trutyh Crushed to Earth Will Rise Again, Tommy Boy, 1996.
Forever Everlasting, Warner Brothers Records, 1990, reissued, Rhino Records, 1999.
Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, Tommy Boy, 1998.
Billboard, October 31, 1992.
Dallas Morning News, February 11, 1999, p. 45A.
Details, November, 1992.
Entertainment Weekly, February 19, 1999.
Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 5, 1999, p. 03E.
Newsday, May 27, 1999, p. C01.
Spin, June 1999.
Toronto Star, February 25, 1999.
Toronto Sun, February 27, 1999, p. 38.
“Everlast Interview,” Totally LA Website, http://www.totallyla.com/lnterviews/Everlast/Text.htm, (October 17, 1999).
“Everlast,” Official Everlast Website, http://forevereverlasting.com, (October 17, 1999).
Born: Erik Schrody; Hempstead, New York, 18 August 1969
Genre: Rap, Folk, Rock
Best-selling album since 1990: Whitey Ford Sings the Blues (1998)
Hit songs since 1990: "What It's Like," "Jump Around"
Only an elite group of rappers has been able to break free of a popular group to attain crossover success as solo artists. Fewer still have been able to do it while reworking their sound to incorporate elements of folk, blues, and country. Former House of Pain rapper Everlast not only reinvented himself on his second solo album, Whitey Ford Sings the Blues (1998), but he also opened the doors for other rap artists to broaden their musical horizons with songs such as the smash folk/rap hit "What It's Like."
From the very beginning of his career, Everlast sought to combine his love of blue-collar rock and roll with an equal affection for rap music. He was born in Hempstead, New York, into an Irish family with a construction worker father who constantly moved the family between the East and West coasts in search of work. Everlast eventually landed in the upscale Woodland Hills area of the San Fernando Valley in California.
The clash between his blue-collar roots and white-collar surroundings led the young Erik Schrody to experiment with marijuana and ditch school, often hanging out with a multiracial group of friends who stoked his interest in hip-hop music. A mutual friend passed a demo tape Schrody had made to legendary rapper Ice-T, who asked the seventeen-year-old to join his Rhyme Syndicate Cartel crew of artists in the late 1980s.
Everlast released his poorly received solo debut, Forever Everlasting (1990), which apes the pop-inflected hip-hop style of the day. The album was notable mainly for its use of samples of songs by the Knack ("My Sharona") and Steam ("Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye") as source material.
Following the failure of the album, Everlast formed the Irish-themed rap trio House of Pain with MC Danny Boy and DJ Lethal. The group scored a huge hit with their 1992 party anthem "Jump Around," driving their self-titled debut (1993), which samples old blues songs by Willie Dixon and Albert King, to sales of 3 million. Two subsequent albums failed to reach the same heights, and Everlast quit the group in 1996. The rapper was subsequently sued by his record company, forced to sell his Hollywood Hills home, declared bankruptcy, and placed under house arrest for attempting to carry a gun aboard an airplane. The devout convert to Islam endured a painful breakup with his longtime girlfriend, shunned his former partying ways, moved in with his mother—who was battling cancer at the time—and began five months of writing and recording on his next solo album.
Facing Death, a Rebirth
Just hours after finishing the final vocal track for his second solo album, Whitey Ford Sings the Blues (1998), Everlast suffered a nearly fatal heart attack that required bypass surgery. Once he recovered, Everlast emerged with an album that eschewed the tough talk, violence, and boasting of House of Pain in favor of humble, introspective acoustic folk and blues with rap-inspired beats, samples, and scratching.
His voice a low, scratchy rumble now instead of a booming snarl, Everlast reinvents himself in an unprecedented way on the album's smash hit single, "What It's Like." Built around a country blues guitar riff, a lazy, programmed drum beat, and backing from a string section, the song tells sobering tales about homelessness, abortion, and drug dealing without the usual bluster associated with hip-hop. "God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes / 'Cause then you really might know what it's like to have to choose," Everlast sings of the character facing opposition to her abortion. It marked one of the first times a rap artist had used traditional, blues-based instrumentation to reach not only hip-hop fans but also mainstream rock and pop fans who might never before have listened to a rap record.
Tracks such as the acoustic soul blues "Ends" employ street slang to tell an earnest tale about urban violence and murder, mixing the grim country style of Johnny Cash with hip-hop's cutting-edge production techniques. Chillingly, the album has several songs recorded before Everlast's heart attack that ponder the question of mortality and near-death experiences, including "Painkillers" and "Death Comes Callin'." In the latter, a funky, elastic funk blues number, Everlast raps, "Day to the night / Night to the day / Up around where I stay / We do things this way."
Everlast wrote the song "Put Your Lights On" for the comeback album of the Latin rock legend Santana, Supernatural (1999). Here he again explores the dangers of the dark side of life. A second folk-inspired solo album, Eat at Whitey's (2000), was not as well received as its predecessor, but came packed with cameos from rap stars (CeeLo, Kurupt, Rahzel, B-Real), as well as a return favor from Santana on the meditative acoustic blues "Babylon Feeling."
The rapper is back to some of his boasting ways on tracks such as "Whitey" ("I'm whiter than crack / I'm harder than drugs / I'm smarter than thugs / I'm hotter than slugs"); and he adds a touch of rhythm and blues ("Love for Real" ) and pop flavor on the single "Black Jesus."
From pop stardom to a near-death experience, the rapper Everlast grew from a boasting, thuggish street tough to a sensitive blues musician over the course of the 1990s, penning introspective songs about redemption, regret, and mortality. Finding a way to integrate Delta blues, acoustic guitars, and folk melodies into the realm of hip-hop, Everlast expanded the horizons of an entire genre while reinventing his sound and image.
Forever Everlasting (Warner Bros., 1990); Whitey Ford Sings the Blues (Tommy Boy, 1998); Eat at Whitey's (Tommy Boy, 2000). With House of Pain: House of Pain (Tommy Boy, 1992); Same as It Ever Was (Tommy Boy, 1994); Truth Crushed to Earth Shall Rise Again (1996).