An interview with the x rap star
EverLast and his journey to Islam. Part 1.
By Adisa Banjoko (interviewer)
Schrody, Ex-Catholic, USA (part 1 of 2)
Rap music has
seen more than its share of influence from the
religion of Islam. With groups such as Public Enemy
rapping about their respect for the Nation of Islam,
to people such as Q-Tip of a Tribe Called Quest
embracing mainstream Islam, the religion seems to be a
recurrent theme in the genre, both impacting lyrics
and lives. One artist more recently touched by Islam
is Eric Schrody, better known in music circles as
began his musical career as a rap artist, he has
recently shown himself to have much greater depth and
diversity. His current album, Whitey Ford Sings the
Blues (currently ranked #49 on billboard's charts
after peaking at #9) exhibits this in its reflective
and somewhat philosophical tone, showing glimpses of
the influence Islam has had on his life.
What follows is
an interview in which Everlast discusses his journey
to Islam and the challenges he faces as a new Muslim.
AB: Tell me
about the first time you learned about Islam?
E: It was
probably around the late 80's. I was hangin' out with
Divine Styler (a popular Los Angeles rap artist). He
was basically at the end of his 5% period (referring
to the pseudo-Islamic "Nation of Gods and Earths"
sect). He was starting to come into Islam. He lived
with the Bashir family. Abdullah Bashir was sort of
his teacher; and mine it wound up later. As he was
making the transition from 5% into Islam, I would just
be around and hear things.
I'm trying to
think of the first time I recognized it as Islam. I
think it was when one of Divine's friends took
Shahadah (the Muslim profession of faith) and I was
there. I heard him say, "I bear witness that there is
no God but God, and Muhammad is the servant and
messenger." And I remember me being like, "What is
this? I'm white. Can I be here?" It was outta
ignorance, you know? ‘Cause here in America, Islam is
considered a "Black thing." And that's when someone
pointed out to me, "You have no idea how many white
Muslims there are in the world." I was like, "Really,"
and somebody broke it down. I said, "That's crazy. I
had no clue."
AB: Do you feel
any extra pressure being a white Muslim in America?
E: I don't think
of it on the grand scale. To me, Islam is mine.
Allah is the God of all the worlds, and all mankind
and all the Aalameen (worlds/universe). Islam is my
personal relationship with God. So nobody can put any
more pressure on me than I can put on myself. But as
far as the mosque where I pray, I have never felt more
at home or more welcome. And it's not just mine. The
few mosques that I've gone to around the country, I've
never ever been made to feel uncomfortable. Like in
New York, the mosque is big and there's so many people
that nobody is lookin' to notice you. There were
Chinese, Korean, Spanish - everything, which was a
good thing for me because at my mosque I'm the only
white male, [although] there are some white females.
I think at
first, I thought about it more than anybody else the
first couple times I went to Jumma (the Friday
congregational prayer). The first time I went to
Jumma, I was taken by a friend of mine in New York.
It was in Brooklyn in Bed-Stuy (Bedford Stuyvestant).
I was nervous about the neighborhood I was in, not the
mosque. But I was just so at ease once I was there.
I was like, "This is great." I didn't feel any
different than anybody else in the mosque.
AB: How did your
family take your turning to Islam? Because you were
raised Catholic, right?
E: Well, you
know my mom is very open minded, very progressive. My
mother lives with me. And I've been raised all my
life with not a belief in God, but a knowledge that he
exists. I was taught [that] if [I were to know]
anything in the world, [I should] know there's a God.
And my mom, even though she was Catholic, she was the
first person to point out hypocrisy in the church. My
mom really hasn't attended church in a long time. But
as far as me, my mom is just happy that I have God in
She sees me
making prayers. And Divine is one of her favorite
people in the world. She knows how much different we
are than when she first knew us as kids. When me and
Divine first hooked up, we were wild. We were out
partyin', fightin', doin' whatever we had to do. We
thought, "Yeah, that's what being a man is about.
We're gonna go out here and be thuggish."
[But] she has
seen how much it's changed me and him; and how much
peace it's brought me since I've started to really
accomplish something with it. I actually had a long
talk with my mother the other day and we were on the
topic of religion. We were actually talking about
life and death, and the future and when she might go
(die, pass away). That won't be for a long time,
inshallah (God willing). But I asked her to do me one
favor. I said, "Mom, when you die there might be some
angels who ask you a question, and I want you to
answer it; and I'm not sure exactly how it goes,
‘cause I ain't died yet. Remember that there's only
one God, and he's never been a man."
She said, "I
know what you are trying to tell me." [And] I said,
"Jesus wasn't God, Ma."
Some of what I
know has definitely shown up in my mother. She's no
Muslim, but she knows there's only one God. And that
makes me very happy. I know guys that have turned
towards Islam and their families have turned them out
(i.e. rejected them).
Schrody, Ex-Catholic, USA (part 2 of 2)
AB: My family
tried to. I just can't understand that. But you know
what? That's a trial. Although I've changed my name
for like 8 years now, they still run up calling me by
my birth name. Then it's, "Oh I forgot that you're
Muslim." Then it's the pork jokes. It never stops.
E: It's one of
those things where people laugh at what they don't
understand. Or they fear what they can't grasp. The
thing is that nobody can pretend that they don't
understand it. Because I've never come across
anything more simple in my life.
Like I remember
that when I sat down and asked, "So, what does a
Muslim believe," and I got the list run down to me. I
was like, "You don't put up the wall between
Christianity and Judaism." They were like, "Nah, it's
all the same story."
If when you
finally get down to reading the Quran, the Bible and
the Torah, which is pretty much just the Old
Testament, you find that the Quran is just an
affirmation of what is correct and isn't correct
within those books (the Bible and the Torah). And
then you say to yourself, "How did that go down when
these cats were all from different parts of the
world?" But they are all confirming each other's
I'm reading a
book right now called Muhammad: The Life of the
Prophet, by Karen Armstrong. It was written by a
non-Muslim. So far, I'm only about a quarter of the
way through; but it starts out telling you how they
originally tried to make Muhammad look like the most
evil man on the earth; that he established Islam under
the sword. But then you learn that Muhammad only
fought when he had to. Muhammad only fought to defend
Islam. It's a very good book about the man. It just
lets you know that this cat was a man. We ain't
trying to tell you that he was anything else but a
man. We're telling you as Muslims that he was the
most perfect example of a man to walk the earth so
far. And from what I've read he is the last one to
come of his kind.
When you get
beyond being scared of Farrakhan and what he's sayin'
-- and here as a white person I'm speaking -- when you
get beyond the ignorance of believing that Islam has
anything to do with just people that are blowing up
things, that doesn't have anything to do with Islam.
They might do it in the name of Islam. But it has
nothing to do with Islam. You can't argue with it.
When I explain
Jesus to a Christian, he can't argue with me. And I
don't mean argue, saying, "Jesus isn't God!" I mean,
how much more sense does it make that he's a man? If
I was Christian, which to me means to be Christ-like,
and God asks me, "Hey how come you weren't more like
Jesus?" I'll say, I wasn't more like Jesus because
you made him half of a God [and] I'm only a man?"
That doesn't make any sense.
God doesn't want
things hard on us. God wants things easy as
possible. God is going to make it as easy as
possible. If you ask and you are sincere, God will
bring it to you. He might throw some rocks on your
path, to make you trip and stumble. But it's gonna
come to you.
AB: Talk to me
about the first and second time you took your Shahadah
(profession of faith).
E: Well the
first time, it was right after I had heard a tape from
Warith Deen Muhammad (son of Nation of Islam founder,
Elijah Muhammad, who took most of the Nation of Islam
into mainstream Islam). That just kinda broke down
the whole Jesus thing. He explained that we (Muslims)
do Christians a great favor by bringing Jesus down to
the level of a man. Why would God create a man who is
half a God and compare us to him? And it just sent
off a bomb in my head. So I took Shahadah. And then
the initial high wore off.
It was almost
like a Christian who says that they accept Jesus.
Then they say, "No matter what I do now I'm saved."
‘Cause I was raised with that kinda mentality. Like,
"OK, I accept the truth so let me just go out here and
sin my butt off and I'm saved."
I didn't really
claim to be Muslim though at that time. I picked and
chose what I wanted to believe. God gave me leeway
for a time. But eventually it was time to fish or cut
the line. I was coming to a point where I was
unsatisfied emotionally, and spiritually. I had money
in the bank and a $100,000 car, women left and right
-- everything that you think you want. And then just
sitting there being like, "Why am I unhappy?" Finally
that voice that talks to you -- not the whisper (of
Satan) -- the voice said, "Well, basically you're
unhappy because you're living foul and you're not
trying to do anything about it."
at that time wouldn't allow me to talk about it at
that time. You get in that state of mind where you're
like, "I can figure this out all by myself."
I finally got
humble enough to talk to Divine and Abdullah about
it. They asked me, "How do you feel? What do you
think it is?" So finally I'm sittin' there taking
Shahadah again. From that point on I've made a
commitment where I'm going to try my best. I'm gonna
do my best to make my prayers, let's start there.
Let's not beat ourselves up because we went out last
night and had a drink. Let's make our prayers and
pray for the strength to stop doing one thing at a
time. That's what I'm still dealing with.
You know, once
you get over the big things, it becomes very subtle.
It can be as subtle as looking at a man, and not even
speaking bad about him, but back-biting him in your
mind. The easy ones to beat -- well I shouldn't say
easy -- the big ones are easy to notice. It's the
subtle psychological stuff that helps you get into who
really you are. You gotta be able to face the truth
of who you are. If you are not able to face that
truth of who you are, you're gonna crumble, man.
me and go, "You're Muslim?" And I'm like, "Yeah I'm
Muslim, but I'm also a professional sinner." I'm tryin'
to get over it, tryin' to retire. I won't front and
say I'm better than you. I just believe that I've
been shown the truth and hopefully that will save me."
Adisa Banjoko is
a freelance writer in the San Francisco Bay Area.