The artist Everlast is always up for a challenge. After recording one of the 1990s' most indelible rap hits while fronting the band House of Pain, he forged a new musical path as a double-platinum-selling acoustic singer-songwriter.
Along the way, he won a Grammy for his collaboration with Santana, produced a country song for Snoop Dogg and feuded with Eminem.
Everlast, whose real name is Erik Schrody, traces his intrepid journey in the music industry back to his early days in hip-hop, before he recorded the smash hit "Jump Around" with House of Pain in 1992.
As sampling became a key component of hip-hop in the '80s, Everlast dove deep into everything he could get his hands on.
"You'd wind up listening to thousands of types of music," he said. "From Beethoven to 'The Sounds of Hawaii.' Anything crazy, you can end up taking it and making this music. Hip-hop was always the amalgamation of different types of music."
In 1991, Everlast's career started to take off when he formed House of Pain with DJ Lethal and longtime friend Danny Boy. The next year the group, presented as a crew of rowdy Irish-Americans, released "Jump Around," which reached No. 3 on the charts and became a standard at clubs and sports stadiums.
"I didn't think, 20 years later, that was going to be the 'Louie Louie' of that generation," Everlast said. "You don't know these things. Anyone who says they do is a liar. At some point, it has to connect with people. People are finicky."
That realization may have led to Everlast leaving the group in 1996 after the trio recorded two more pedestrian albums.
"When House of Pain went by the wayside, I went and hung with a buddy to make music," he said.
That music often featured Everlast on guitar instead of an MC mic.
"I was making a hip-hop record, but he made it pretty clear he didn't want to do much else until he was able to record some of the (acoustic) songs," Everlast said.
But Everlast couldn't stray far from his hip-hop roots, and the result was 1998's "Whitey Ford Sings the Blues," an album that seamlessly blended rap, rock and folk elements.
It produced the single "What It's Like," which topped the U.S. charts, fusing a few hardscrabble storylines and understated hip-hop beats with a meandering acoustic guitar track.
"The second half of my life has been spent trying to inject hip-hop into these other forms," Everlast said.
Everlast's next musical challenge was spawned from the success of that album, and a heart attack he suffered shortly after he completed it. Born with a heart defect, Everlast wrote "Put Your Lights On" as a personal anthem after surviving the scare with the help of an emergency surgery.
The song landed on the radar of legendary rock guitarist Santana.
"I was doing 'Saturday Night Live'; one of my people came in and said, 'Santana is here trying to find you,'" Everlast said. "He was adamant that he needed that song on his record. It kind of blew me away."
The song won the 2000 Grammy for best rock performance by a duo and exposed Everlast to a new audience.
In 2000, he raised his rap cred further by getting into a beef with Eminem over a reported snub at a concert. The two took potshots at each other on a series of records before both artists declared they'd had the final word on the matter.
Everlast has produced five more solo albums in the last 15 years, most recently 2013's "The Life Acoustic," a play on the film "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou."
Borrowing on his father's love for "construction-site country and Southern rock," Everlast wrote "My Medicine," Snoop Dogg's 2008 foray into country music.
Everlast, an admitted fan of Alaska reality TV, is planning stripped-down shows here, featuring him on guitar along with a keyboard player. He said he continues to write songs and still hasn't decided on a new project.
"I've got a lot of irons in the fire," he said. "I don't know which is going to be done first. Some of them might not make it out of the fire at all. I won't commit to anybody and say I'm doing some hip-hop project... I treat (my songs) like little wild animals. I don't try to cage them, but I train them to stick around so I can remember them."
He also hasn't ruled out an attempt to write a score for a film or a return to acting after a role in 1993's "Judgement Night."
"I'm really intrigued by the thought of scoring movies," he said. "(Acting) is not an active pursuit, but if Martin Scorsese called me and said 'I have a part for you,' I'm not going to say no."
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By Chris Bieri