Over 20 years in the game and still going, Erick Sermon is still making music and contributing to the hip-hop culture he loves. One-half of the legendary EPMD, E-Dub recently released his Breath Of Fresh Air mixtape and he’s passing on his wisdom to several younger MCs, producing for the likes of Cory Gunz, Fred The Godson and newcomers Twon Gabz from Chicago and female spitter 3D Na’Tee from New Orleans. This is all after Sermon almost lost his life due a heart attack last November. Here, E-Dub gives his sermon and synopsis on still rapping, the possibility of starting an all-digital label and the overall state of hip-hop today.—Mark Lelinwalla

ON HIS NEW MIXTAPE: “I Just dropped the mixtape, so I was just trying to make some balance in the game because I was tired of hearing the same stuff over and over again. The youth—it don’t be older people—but the youth be shouting me out in the streets like, ‘When you gonna do something for us?’ So, I put my project out. Raekwon was on Power 105 talking about this is his last shot to put his groups through. It’s the exact same thing I’m going through."

ON BUILDING A NEW LABEL: "We’re living in a digital world, where there’s no physical CDs. So, if it’s going to be that, why should you be on a label, when the label is going to distribute and whole nine…we don’t need that anymore. The labels are going down the hill and they can’t see themselves drowning. So, why are they taking so long? They want their jobs. The same thing they’re doing, we’re doing on the web for free. So, I see myself as being a Def Jam mixed with Death Row mixed with Bad Boy, a digital label, coming with new groups and new shit that you could write about."

ON WHY HE'S CONTINUOUSLY PRODUCING: "Part of why I’m doing this is hip-hop has the same sound over and over again with the same rappers over and over again with the same content over and over again…you cannot tell me that in a way, you can’t be tired. When you feel a [Wu-Tang] “C.R.E.A.M.” on, it makes you feel different. When you hear a “Who the fuck is this, paging me at 5:46 in the morning?” it’s a whole different feeling. We don’t have that right now. We’re just partying now.
It’s been going on too much for a long, long time because there’s no change. Jay-Z found eight different ways to talk about ice. It’s how you relay it. If you’re gonna eat McDonald’s every day, put that in your rhyme. But we ain’t gonna see that because you’re telling the other man’s story. The lyricists that want to give you the skill…we don’t have that no more. I’m producing Fred The Godson, Cory Gunz because they’re guys with those skills. Kendrick Lamar has those skills.
I’m not down on the rap game. I just want to have a balance. Don’t forget, I got kids and I hear the same shit every day. Meek Mill, you cannot front on that kid. But all we’re hearing is the same content in rap over and over again. The drug rap over and over. I don’t know how that could be exciting. What made DMX big? Because he wrote for the have-nots. What made 2Pac big? Because he wrote for the have-nots. What Biggie big? 'Black and ugly as ever.' There’s realness in that.
Keep it all the way one hundred. Kanye as far as how cocky he is—one hundred. Eminem talking about his family and mother—one hundred. 50 Cent shot nine times—one hundred. Wu-Tang, the Big Puns…they were superstars! We don’t have superheroes with presence. We got moments. I’m still doing it because I love this. You think I didn’t get nicer rapping alongside a guy like Redman all these years? After having a heart attack, I’ve changed my diet, not eating as much fried food and I’m feeling good, man. I want to make real music and continue to produce—not make beats—for the younger artists out there. I’m feeling good.”