Epademik typically grabs your attention in one of two ways: Either you're a fan of pissed off emcees who rap about assholes, or you're one of the assholes he's rapping about. Local hip-hop prima donnas beware– if you consider yourself a big fish in OC's miniscule music pond, just know that there's at least one verse in every one of this rapper's songs dedicated to calling you a no-talent hack.
“I have no problem saying what's on my mind,” the rapper says. “Regardless of whether people get mad or upset or whatever, sometimes it takes that person to say some crazy, off the cuff shit to make people turn around and say 'hey what's going on over there?'”
With all that drive to get people's attention, it's no wonder that the rapper makes signs for a living. By day, the man born Jason Perea is a graphic designer and owner of a company that prints off banners, logos and business cards for everyone from mom and pop stores to AAA.
“Whether it's with my business, creating logos, artwork, stickers, banners, it's gotta be new and fresh all the time,” the rapper says. “It's gotta stand for something.”
Standing out is a skill he's been honing since the early '90s when he started on the mic as part of the rap group the Casual Crew, which he started with his older brother, who first introduced him to hip-hop. Moving from Gardena to OC as a kid, Epademik's steady diet of icons like Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One and Too Short pushed him to make his lyrical jabs both witty and wise. Two decades and several albums later, his knack for calling out everything and everyone he hates or has hated on him reaches a new plateau on his latest album, The Beast Within, released last January.
The lack of vocal compression behind raucous, beat-knocking tracks like “They Talkin'” gives each verse the gritty, growling anger to convey his sentiments toward naysayers and those who love to get high on their own hype.
“The whole album was born out of frustration, anger, depression, all those emotions,” he says. It's about the inner feelings I have about everyone that's gone against me in the last 3-5 years.”
But despite trying to piss some people off with this record, someone's actually buying it. In an effort to get some physical distribution, he hit up Cycadelic Records, the OC/LA-based label made famous for selling cassettes and CDs of early Compton gangsta rappers likes N.W.A. and DJ Quik at places like the Compton Swap Meet. Thinking that he had potential to sell beyond the swap meet market, Cycadelic's label owner Kirk Kim–son of late founder Wan Joon Kim–pointed Epademik in the direction of big time distributor Select O Hits, which believed in his project and offered him a limited run in west coast Best Buy and K-Mart stores. For an independent artist who vowed never to sell out just to get an album sold, the deal was music to Ep's ears.
“I didn't wanna be exclusive to label that says 'We own this project.' Fuck all that,” Epademik says. “This is my shit. But we can do a business partnership where we both make money.”
Of course after so many years in the game, expecting to make it big on one album is kind of like expecting one great rapper to rid the entire OC music scene of corny emcees. And though there's no sign of those things happening for Ep anytime soon, he's proud to at least be one of the few locals who isn't afraid to wave a banner that he hopes will make us wiser about who we listen to.
“I just want to put that message out there about promoters and rappers who really ain't doing what they say they're doing,” he says. “Everybody needs to watch out, because there's a lotta snakes out here.”