Erk tha Jerk Unplugged



The Richmond rapper dishes about his 'hood nerd philosophy.

East Bay Express: You were profiled in this newspaper back in 2008. How have things changed for you in the years since?

Erk Tha Jerk: Nothing much has changed, as far as I go. Same old stuff. Right now, I'm just getting ready to push this album and new single, "I Know." "Right Here," which is also on the album, has helped a lot as far as exposure is concerned.

EBE: Have you performed outside of California yet?
Erk: Yes. I recently traveled to Louisiana, Seattle, and Atlanta to perform and had good feedback in each of those places. The south was definitely my favorite place to perform.

EBE: It seems like certain people pay more attention to your wardrobe — the glasses in particular — than to the quality of your music. Have you noticed that? And does it bother you?
Erk: Now that you mention it (laughs). I guess it's partly my fault. But I do think people do that because they need to find something to latch onto when it comes to rappers and rap music, and in general, it doesn't seem to be about the product.

EBE: Do you think Bay Area hip-hop is capable of achieving the same level of widespread, national success as cities like Atlanta or Miami or Houston?
Erk: I hope so. I know we have the potential to do so. I think we just need a little light to be shinned on the new breed of Bay artist. The world looks at us for what we used to be and not for what we are now.

EBE: A few years ago, people were very excited about hyphy and that excitement flamed out almost immediately. What do you attribute to hyphy's inability to catch on?
Erk: I think it became a quantity over quality issue real fast. Rappers were so excited that the bay was getting looked at again that everyone just started putting out whatever to hop on the "boat" before it left. A lot of people abandoned what they came from to jump on a trend.

EBE: Is "jerkin" just another passing trend, or do you think it will stay popular for a while longer?
Erk: I don't know too much about "jerkin" since that's more of an L.A. dance. But I don't think anything that can be classified as a "trend" will last.

EBE: Who are some other, lesser known Bay MCs that people should check for?
Erk: Right now I think Vell4short, The Diligentz, Su, Db, just to name a few.

EBE: You had a record called Hood Nerd, which is appropriate considering that you spent time in college and time on the street. Which did you learn more from: school or hustling?

Erk: I didn't learn much from college. Didn't stay long enough to reap the benefits, if any. The "streets" is just where you learn how to be social in different environments. Some things just can't be taught in school and vice versa.
EBE: Growing up in the Bay when you did, how important was someone like Too Short? Do you credit him as an influence?

Erk: Yes, of course. He was one of (if not) the first to move units independently. Now when you look at the music industry everyone is trying to get their independence back with record sales. Coming from the Bay, it's almost a must to be a hustler, to find new ways to market yourself and make money. Too $hort pioneered that, in my opinion.

EBE: You've said that you aspire to make "anti-radio" music. Define "anti-radio."
Erk: Anti-Radio music is when you go into the studio and do what you want, not what you think the radio wants to hear. If people like the music it will do what it's suppose to do.