Heart-Attack Man

The then-27-year-old Everlast converted to Islam, a lifestyle change he has credited with giving him the confidence to branch out in his new direction, and tried to figure out what to do next. At the time, however -- having just left House of Pain and with only a lame solo record as his only self-directed work -- it looked like it might be time for him to consider another career.

But Everlast had other plans. He realized that he was getting too old for the self-glorifying shenanigans of the rap he had been shoveling. A more conscious and self-aware Everlast started writing songs that encompassed his love of rock and his knowledge of hip-hop. Strumming his guitar on the couch led him to rethink his songwriting style, and this new thought process resulted in the remarkable Whitey Ford record.

Everlast's latest endeavor is acting/rapping as a racist, crooked cop in Prince Paul's soon-to-be-released "hip-hopera" LP, A Prince Among Thieves, based on Paul's 1995 one-man, off-Broadway show. Prince Paul's production of De La Soul and time spent as a member of both the Gravediggaz and Stetsasonic (one of the first rap groups to use a live band) have made him one of the most respected names in hip-hop. Only last year did he step out as a solo artist, with the acclaimed Psychoanalysis: What Is It?! LP.

Prince Paul's Prince Among Thieves play was a smash hit and a favorite of celebrities, but Paul found it too exhausting to continue and decided he wanted to translate it into a film project. The new album is a morality play centering around a young rapper whose friend double-crosses him. (The screenplay was bought by Chris Rock, who is hoping to have it made into a film.) Everlast shares credits in a cast that includes Kool Keith (Dr. Octagon), Sadat X, the RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane, and Biz Markie. A fuzzed-out guitar and ominous bass line back Everlast's in-character, spittle-flying rhymes about being on the take on "The Men in Blue." His flow is just as hard as it was in the House of Pain days, and he seems to relish the harshness of the lyrics, spewing, "the police department does whatever it wants to do," as a brag.

This character is just that, an act, but Everlast's Whitey Ford personality seems closest to his own. By unshackling himself of his past, he was taking the chance of alienating the few fans he had left and not being taken seriously by those who knew and didn't like his past. The result is a hit song, a hit record, and a new lease on life -- which is a much better story than the cliched death of a young musician.

Everlast is scheduled to perform Saturday, February 13, at 8 p.m. at the Cameo Theatre, 1445 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, with Sugar Ray. Call 305-532-0922 for information.

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