Real classic Hip-Hop resurrected. Just when you thought that real pure unadulterated Hip-Hop was near death or needed a revival, in comes the legendary Erick Sermon to give rap it’s ninth life on his eighth solo album, Vernia.
A record that Sermon worked on for what seemed like forever, Vernia is an album that’s a surprisingly very dope and refreshing album from beginning to end and more than makes up for his somewhat disappointing comeback album, E.S.P. (Erick Sermon’s Perception), that he dropped four years ago. Taking all the elements that makes a timeless and classic Hip-Hop record with the art of freestyling, great lyricism and very top-notch production, the legendary emcee and producer crafts an album that is not only a true masterpiece from beginning to end, but one of the best Hip-Hop albums I’ve heard in quite some time.
Whether it’s the very hard and braggacios raps over the very hard-hitting DJ Kanzer-produced, Payne Intro with RJ Payne or on the futuristic Sermon-produced, Wake Up/No Fear, you can tell from the very opening tracks you’re in for a very eventfully dope album. Besides his own very stellar top notch production, E-Dub gets very top notch production from such notable names as Rockwilder, DJ Battlecat, Ty Fyffe and Apathy. With the very vintage production from Rockwilder on the Yummy-featured banger, Wave, showing how diverse and creative the album is. Something that a lot of Hip-Hop is missing now and still needs.
Compiling a who’s who list of All-Star guest features old and new, from Raekwon to AZ, Styles P, N.O.R.E., No Malice, Keith Murray, Nature, Xzibit, Too $hort, Shaquille O’Neal and Big K.R.I.T., among others. Sermon uses those features very well and really gets the best out of all his features too. One of the most notable being on the standout cut, Tha Game featuring Styles P and AZ that finds all three spitting stellar verses dissing those who are only out for the fame and not the art. The soulful sample and great bass-line from the E-Dub and Mic Chek co-production providing the perfect backdrop for them to do so. While the luscious boom bap beat on Go! provides the perfect backdrop for Sermon’s and No Malice’s very stellar lyrical performances about life in the streets. With the very smooth vocals from Try Bishop and Kaelyn Kastle’s very soulfully smooth vocals providing the perfect hook to really help elevate the track.
As the album reaches it’s midpoint, we get into what’s arguably the best three tracks on the album with lead single, My Style, followup single, That Girl and the very standout, Cabinet. The really nice soulfully sampled Boogeyman-produced, My Style, finding the longtime emcee and producer for Def Squad and EPMD linking up with fellow Hip-Hop legends Raekwon and N.O.R.E., further cementing his legacy among rap and Hip-Hop’s elite. Sermon providing such vintage smooth bars as, “Thirty years in the game. So I gotta couple of fans. Right now I feel like Hugh Haffner. Foreign chick in the back of the Tesla. Yes sir, got her pinned down like a wrestler. She’s got Rockets everywhere, Clyde Drexler. Green-Eyed Bandit, I’m known like Amazon. Worldwide, that’s money when the camera’s on. I’m home wearing Timbs wit pajamas on, everybody gets quiet when the hammers drawn. Raekwon, Erick, N.O.R.E. What y’all to do? No need to look around, we fathered your style too. You ain’t DC, so who running who? My style is colorful. Purple tape, one and two.”
The ode to Southern women inspired cut, That Girl, of course had to feature two Southern greats. With one of the hottest emcees and producers in the game, Big K.R.I.T. providing a great guest verse and a very nostalgic smooth chorus from North Carolina based and Grand Hustle affiliated singer Ricco Barrino. Also showing Sermon’s ability to capture many age demographics and master many regional soundscapes. The very funky production on, Cabinet, which shouts out several legendary emcees is not only one of the best two or three tracks on the album, but one of the best I’ve heard all year. Plus it’s one of the most creative concepts you will ever hear on a record. While, Stay Real, Pt. 2 with Keith Murray and Nature is a very fantastically dope sequel to one of the standouts from Sermon’s very underrated debut solo album, No Pressure, which dropped in 1993.
Reaching the latter part of the album, E-Dub shows his influence on not only the East, but Westcoast and South as well. As he gets fellow legendary emcees Xzibit, Too $hort, Devin the Dude and even David Banner and Shaq on, Zion and May Sound Crazy. Zion rallying the very unexpected, what the fvck pairing of Sermon, X, Banner and even Shaq making his first rap appearance on wax since 2013. The sinister piano-laden Ty Fyfee production the perfect backdrop for all fours surprisingly stellar rhymes. With X’s standout opening verses of, “Erick Sermon, yeah. Mister-X-to-the-Z, (yea) what up? I spit shit like a floggy, hand guns and hoodies. When the beat talk to me, it’s up jumps the boogie. You can ask, King Tookie, a rookie with King T. I took it to new heights. Xzibit is OG. Over gossip, over greed, over gold teeth. I’m eight five wag you, if you ever want beef. I came from a gang of pain and chain smokers. Stop looking for shit under your seat, I’m not Oprah. I never believed nothing you speak. You’re not Sosa or Scarface. You’re not even compared to King Cobra. Lean over, dumping 45s through the driver’s side. Hooking a homicide. What a great day to be alive. Okay and hating isn’t don’t effect my bottom line. Catch me eight to nine on Empire, playing Shine. X-to-the-motherfvcking-Z. Red. The Green-Eyed Bandit. Def Squad, OBE.” Really setting the tone for the track. The very romantic G-Funk beat from legendary producer, DJ Battlecat, meanwhile is a “Freaky Tales” reboot that finds Sermon reuniting with fellow legends, Too $hort and Devin the Dude. As they all get romantic themselves with their very smooth verses.
Despite all the great guest features, Sermon is at his very best though when he stands alone or assumes most of the emcee responsibilities. Such as on the futuristically beautiful Rockwilder-produced, 300 E, which is essentially an entertaining biography that finds E-Dub charismatically boasting about EPMD’s glory days. While new up-and-coming singer Kami Marsden provides refreshingly soulful vocals on the hook. The keys of the piano and strings of the guitar on the Apathy production meanwhile provide the perfect backdrop for Sermon on the very emotionally introspective closing title track. Where E pays homage to his families matriarch that the album is named after and delves deeper than most tribute songs with the heartwarming dedication. Explaining how the strength of one woman laid the foundation of a tight-knit family, which inspired one of the most acclaimed careers of the modern music industry. Such lyrics as, “You took the four of us in, no questions. Granny, it was nothing but a blessing. I think God knew with you is where we needed to be. ‘Cause without you there I wouldn’t have met P. Four years later, no EPMD. Your grandson is Erick Sermon. Yeah, that’s me.” Letting him know to her how important she was to not only him growing up, but being able to help form EPMD and have such a legendary career.
Overall the album is not only the best Hip-Hop album to drop so far this year, but one of the best of the past several years and will be very hard to top. Though it likely wouldn’t make many top albums of the year lists at the end of the year like it should, it should further cement Sermon’s legacy as one of the greatest dual emcees and producers ever. Sure to capture the more older and wiser audiences that’s Sermon and EPMD’s core fanbase, it should help captive many adolescent Hip-Hop fans as well with how much of a timeless masterpiece it’s that you can easily play from front to back with no skips. While also helping introduce him to possible new fans as well. This is definitely a must cop and listen to album if you’re a true Hip-Hop fan, which you will throughly enjoy listening to not only this year, but several years to come and you will play over and over again. Just like truly great Hip-Hop and good music period is meant to be.