As the old saying goes, one should never judge a book by its cover. That is definitely true in the case of up and coming rapper/producer Erk Tha Jerk. Hailing out of California’s Bay Area, Erk does not look the part of hip-hop star but one listen to his music proves otherwise.
Debunking the stereotype of what a West Coast rapper should be is what got a very fickle hip-hop audience to initially notice Erk. His streetwear heavy fashion sense, trademark black eyeglasses and hood nerd persona all worked in his favor. Being from a “bad place” yet knowing that there are non-hood things out there is what has shaped Erk’s approach to life and music. “I went to college for a couple years, I’ve worked 9 to 5 jobs and I’ve sold weed and none of those things quite worked out so I’m kinda like a hood nerd.”
The place Erk calls home, Richmond, CA is not known nationally for hip-hop but it is the birthplace of one of music industry’s biggest empires in Percy “Master P” Miller’s No Limit Records. Before blowing up out of New Orleans, Miller ran a label and record store out of Richmond proving that just because you come from the hood doesn’t mean you have to stick to script.
“I didn’t know it was a ghetto until I got older,” says Erk speaking of Richmond. “It shaped me to believe that just because you are from here it does not mean that you have to be stuck on one sound. I didn’t want to be a hood rapper. I was always against the grain.”
Erk fully embraced what some would consider a contradiction with The Hood Nerd mixtape series. The original, released in 2008 created a buzz in the street and on the net. Next up Erk dropped the song and video for “Don’t Need Em” which completed his introduction to fans and garnered some local radio play.
Over the next couple years Erk would go on to release various songs that would define him as an artist including “Plane in the Air” featuring Too Short and the satirical anti-hyphy anthem “I’m So Dumb,” but it was 2009’s “Right Here” that would put him firmly on the map.
The raunchy exhibitionist anthem recorded in the summer of 2009 was a dramatic change from what fans had come to expect from Erk. The autotuned hook and sexually driven lyrics immediately resonated with the streets of Cali and beyond. “It was so dirty, it was like Ying Yang Twins ‘Wait’ or Akon’s ‘I Wanna Love You,’ one of those songs that are completely filthy but people still played it,” explains Erk about the song's appeal.
The song’s popularity eventually translated to the airwaves where the censored version of “Right Here” became one of the most played songs on 106 KMEL. “All you do is change the F word to love and you got a hit song.” The single also broke onto Billboard magazine’s top 100 Hip-Hop/R&B charts. To date the Taj Mahal-directed clip has garnered more than 100,000 views online and is in rotation on MTV Jams.
Capitalizing off of the buzz of “Right Here” Erk released the Hood Nerd EPthrough his Red Planet Music Group independent label in February of this year. Featuring more melodious hooks and commercially palatable Erk songs, the EP outsold many established acts in Northern California stores and continues to do brisk business via digital outlets.
In addition to producing and directing videos for other artists, Erk is currently working on his first full-length album titled Nerd’s Eye View.