Esteemed rapper and producer Erick Sermon sat down with N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN for story time on the latest episode of “Drink Champs.”

As the genre of Hip Hop started taking shape in the mid 1980s, a young Sermon began establishing himself as a beat-maker and song manufacturer. He, alongside PMD and DJ Scratch, formed the group EPMD. They unleashed their debut and sophomore albums to end the decade, both of which were certified gold. The ensemble continued to drop respected projects throughout the 1990s, simultaneously becoming a force as one of the best-selling acts on their then-label Def Jam Recordings.

In that same decade, Sermon found individual success as an artist by releasing several albums and singles. Outside of his unit, he also got active on a production trip and lent his talents to Run-DMC, Method Man & Redman, D'Angelo, JAY-Z and LL Cool J among others. With all of that in mind, his dual resume in the worlds of rap and R&B is arguably second to none. These days, the legend is still in and out of the studio with other acts who have reached GOAT status over time. And as an OG, he’s also able to look back at the depth of his career and appreciate the journey, which he does in real time during this episode.

In summary, below are nine takeaways from an interview that contains more stories than a library shelf. Additionally, the full episode can be watched here.

1. On the making of “Crossover” and “Head Banger”

Sermon broke down two of the biggest songs on EPMD’s fourth album, Business Never Personal. On what inspired “Crossover,” he explained, “Roger Troutman had just come out, so I took his new album, and I went through it. And I heard, [‘You Should Be Mine’]. So, I went home and sampled it.” And then on the note of “Head Banger,” Sermon revealed, “I made the record for [Ice] Cube… It felt like something loud with the birds and horns, so it was loud, so I made that for him. I never got it to him. ‘Crossover’ and ‘Head Banger’ were the last two songs that were made on Business Never Personal.”

2. On ironing out his early record deals

Sermon gave some insight on the early contract that EPMD signed with Sleeping Bag Records and how the group realized down the line that they were in a shaky situation business-wise. As he discussed his early financial struggles, he said, “Don’t forget, I signed for $1,500. That means $750 for Parish, $750 for me. But I was a minor. So, when Russell [Simmons] went in for the audit, he was able to get it. They was just robbing, it just wasn’t right,” the OG said. “So, Russell came with like $1.6 million. And after that, we was on Def Jam. That’s why that whole third album [Business as Usual], I’m mad. ‘Manslaughter.’ Just all types of angry titles when we signed to Def Jam because of what was going on with Sleeping Bag.”

3. On collaborating with Kanye West

In February 2024, Sermon revealed that he was “summoned” to work with Kanye West on a forthcoming project titled Y3. Ye allegedly refuted those claims later via social media. However, that didn’t stop the EPMD emcee from talking about the experience of working with the Chicago legend. “There’s a rumor out there saying ‘Erick said that the album is coming.’ I never said nothing like that. I said I was working on the album, we was doing Hip Hop music,” he said in reference to a project that preceded VULTURES 1.

When talking about Ye’s ongoing commitment to collaboration, Sermon added, “All I know is that when it comes down to the music, this muthaf**ka’ is what you know of: A pure genius. He needs no one, but he just chooses to do that to see ideas and to see where your mind is at. Same with [Dr.] Dre, though.”

4. On Michael Jackson comparisons

Over the last decade or so, a couple of artists, such as Drake and Chris Brown, have drawn comparisons to the late Michael Jackson, whether they came in light of commercial success, popularity or talent. Here, the Green-Eyed Bandit gave his two cents on that notion. “Michael Jackson, when he did the Oprah Winfrey interview, there was 500 million that watched it. Then, when he passed away, it was 1 billion people that watched it. So, when you talk about the people who are like, ‘I’m the next Michael.’ None of y’all are, no way in the world,” he said. “His whole s**t about him, Prince don’t have that either. That’s why you gotta give it to Michael. He was something that we’d never ever, ever seen before.”

Though they never worked together, Sermon told a story about how he regrettably dodged a chance to link with the fallen legend while in Virginia with Teddy Riley. “I could have walked on that bus, shook hands, maybe could’ve built a record, anything. My mind was someplace else,” he recalled.

5. On letting Pharrell rap for the first time

On that same trip when Sermon was recruited down to Virginia to work with Blackstreet, he met a diamond-selling producer for the first time. “The first person that I meet is Pharrell. It’s a producer there, him, Chad [Hugo] and a singer named Mike. So, he’s like, ‘Yo, I rap.’ I’m like, ‘You do?’ So, if you go on the internet, there’s a song with me and Pharrell called ‘Bootknockalization’ that we made in 1993. Because I put him on two records,” he declared. “Teddy had him. He was in the studio. [They were] producers. But I let him rhyme on the records that I was doing.” DJ EFN then asked, “You let Pharrell rhyme before anybody else let him rhyme?” To which Sermon responded, “Right.”

EPMD’s branding was always on point, particularly when it came to the logo. Funny enough, the combination of another legendary group and Russell Simmons is to thank for that presentation. “EPMD was E-P-E-E-M-D-E-E, it was long. Russell was like, ‘Do it this way.’ I was like, ‘Russell, you can’t [do] Run-DMC’s logo,’ ‘cause all it is just chopped up lines. Run-DMC is just one line. We told Russell and he said, ‘Don’t worry about that, I’ll take care of that.’”

Furthermore, Sermon continued to clarify the obvious common denominators between the two group emblems. “And then we had different colors, and then they had the nerve to put the red and the white like them on this one,” he said before admitting that despite similarities, “ worked.”

7. On artists he could’ve signed

As an OG in Hip Hop, Sermon has come across a lot of talented people before they blew up, some of which he had an opportunity to take under his wing. “Raekwon, I could’ve had that. I could’ve had the Wu-Tang Clan. I could’ve had [The] Game. I could’ve had Luda[cris],” he said as he went into a story about meeting the Wu-Tang Clan on Staten Island in 1989.

Moreover, E-Double talked about Nas being one of those related acts as well. Though they ended up working with one another, Sermon admitted that he accidentally looked past the Queensbridge rhymer during the making of Illmatic. “I did seedless records. I wasn’t paying attention to him like that,” he voiced. “I’m from Long Island, so I don’t know about Queensbridge and the type of struggle in all that s**t… He just rhymed on what I gave him, but I knew it wasn’t strong.”

8. On discovering Das EFX

EPMD caught onto Das EFX’s wave far before the world did. “We met them at their school, at a rap contest [in Virginia]. And we let these other guys win because we knew that we were gonna f**k with them. It was $100,” Sermon explained. “They was already too advanced. You see what happened. They was ready. For some reason, they was just ready. And Sylvia Rhone saw it.”

The group member then gave flowers to the chairperson of Epic Records: “Sylvia signed all those people that’s different. Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, Das EFX, K-Solo. Everybody that was different.”

9. On the financial benefits of streaming

Streaming has become the name of the game when it comes to music consumption. In this conversation, Sermon weighed in on its effects. “Streaming right now is quadrupling the contracts that we got when we got contracts… Even with the less than one penny, it’s better than the contracts we got,” he expressed. The OG then emphasized the larger impact if an act is independent, such as himself. “I’ve seen it happen for people and what it’s doing for other people who are benefiting off streaming.”

Related, it also came up in the conversation that he receives $240,000 every four months from Metro Boomin and The Weeknd’s “Creepin’,” which contains a sample of “You’re a Customer” by EPMD. Since coming out at the end of 2022, the record has been streamed over 1.2 billion times on Spotify alone.