Smile Politely

Herm Everlasting weaves positivity into Champaign-Urbana’s hip-hop tapestry

An individual is standing by a body of water. They are attired in a white shirt adorned with a necklace. Their hair is styled in dreadlocks. Their hands are clasped together in front of them. The backdrop consists of a serene body of water and lush greenery.
Herm Everlasting

Derrion Herman, known as Herm Everlasting, is more than just a name on the local Champaign-Urbana hip-hop scene; he’s a compelling narrative in the making, a young artist navigating the maze that is the modern music industry, and doing it in the middle of the Heartland. Within moments of initiating our conversation, it becomes abundantly clear that Herman is not your run-of-the-mill rapper. He’s a man on a mission, focused on the ethos that shapes his art: positivity. “You need to value life,” he states, and this is far from mere lip service. It serves as the foundational pillar for his latest work, an album fittingly titled Life’s a Gift. Designed as an antidote to the often bleak and pessimistic threads that run through mainstream rap, his music is a call for optimism, a lyrical trip that weaves together both the struggles and joys of life to underscore the ultimate message: life, with all its complexities, is indeed a gift worth cherishing.

While Herman proudly reps his hometown of Champaign, he jokingly admits it makes his perspective unique, being so close to Chicago, yet still small-town. “I have my perspective,” he emphasized. “The house that I was raised at is right up the street from cornfields… that’s the prairie; that’s the country.” Herman celebrates the diversity of his hometown, mining his experiences growing up Black in C-U to inform his substance-driven songs. Here’s a man who can navigate both the pastoral and the urban, and that shows in his music. Champaign’s uniqueness rubs off on him, and Herman is keen to point out that the environment in which he was raised gives his work a distinct flavor.

What sets Herman apart from many in the rap game is his refusal to perpetuate negative stigmas often associated with the genre. “Rap is one of the newest genres,” he notes. “It takes from every culture and inserts itself in popular culture.” Herman wants to be part of the new wave that leverages this cultural blend to deliver more uplifting messages. “Ultimately, life is a gift, but there is a lot of struggle in the lyrics,” he says, recognizing that an optimistic viewpoint doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to reality.

When asked about his musical influences, Herman’s list is as eclectic as you’d expect from someone who draws from multiple wells for inspiration. Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Mac Miller, Wiz Khalifa, and even Odd Future make the list. Interestingly, Childish Gambino’s venture into acting encouraged Herman to try out for a part in the school musical his junior year — and he got the part. He saw that expanding one’s creative outlets could be both fulfilling and revolutionary.

Herman’s creative process isn’t just a sequence of steps; it’s a ritual that enables him to tap into a deeper layer of self-expression. He often begins his creative endeavors in the privacy of his bathroom, his personal sanctuary where he can freely sketch out his initial ideas. “In the bathroom, maybe smoking a little weed, writing some lyrics,” he describes his process with a chuckle. Next comes the collaboration with his go-to producer, Mousepad, whom he’ll reach out to for a recording session. This stage sees the fleshing out of those bathroom-born lyrics into something more substantial. However, no song is complete without undergoing what he fondly calls the ‘Car Test.’ This involves blasting the newly recorded track in his car, a space where many people often enjoy their favorite tunes. It’s his personal litmus test to determine if the song has that desired quality; does it ‘bump’ or not? It’s a mix of both instinctual feel and technical assessment, an approach that assures him he’s on the right track, literally and metaphorically.

But Herman’s music isn’t an isolated endeavor. It exists within, and contributes to, the broader cultural tapestry of C-U’s hip-hop scene. When he talks about the return of “Cypher Saturdays,” at The Canopy Club, his enthusiasm is palpable. This isn’t just another gig on the calendar; it’s an affirmation of the hip-hop community’s creative pulse, and a chance for Herman to be a part of something bigger than himself. “It’s a matter of continuing to support that in the scene,” he stresses. For Herman, contributing to the community doesn’t simply mean showing up and performing. It means actively participating in, supporting, and enriching the local culture, doing so in a way that’s organic and authentic. His philosophy underscores the importance of a collective approach to success, which in his eyes, is built not on competition but on collaboration and mutual support.

Maintaining a positive outlook and staying emotionally grounded is a feat in an industry often fraught with egos, harsh criticisms, and constant scrutiny. So how does Herman manage this delicate balancing act? “Once I started making music for myself, I didn’t worry about outside validation,” he states. This mental shift marked a turning point for him, liberating him from the expectations and judgments of others. For Herman, the journey is introspective, and the creative process becomes a form of self-care. Satisfaction is drawn from within, and that internal validation fuels him emotionally and mentally. This resilience isn’t just about surviving the industry; it’s about thriving within it while maintaining one’s own integrity.

Together, these things paint a nuanced picture of Herman as an artist who is equally committed to his own creative vision as he is to the community that shaped him. They reveal a man grappling with the challenges and opportunities of being a young, emerging artist in today’s complex musical landscape, while never losing sight of the values and relationships that ground him.

Herman is also quick to give a shoutout to those who have been instrumental in his journey. “First and foremost to Half House Studios,” he says. Located right here in C-U, Half House Studios has been the nurturing ground where most of Herman’s tracks have been laid down. It’s more than just a recording space; it’s a collaborative hub that’s been instrumental in shaping his sound and creative process.

Herman’s future looks busy and promising. He’s set to play at the Gallery Art Bar on Saturday, October 28th, and he’s planning on dropping a video for every song on his Life’s a Gift album. With his unique sound, positive message, and the gratitude he holds for the people around him, Herm Everlasting, or Herm as he prefers, is poised to make a lasting impression on the hip-hop scene, not just in C-U, but potentially far beyond. And we’ll get to say he came from right here.  

Above all, Herman keeps it real. In his words, “Lose yourself in the moment, but [first] find yourself in the moment before you lose yourself,” urging us to be present first, then you can truly be authentic and creative. He faces hip-hop’s contradictions head-on but resolves to stay positive. And that inspiring attitude shines through in both his music and outlook. 

Cheap Data Presents: Trouble Chasin, AMS, First Eye Therapy, Half House, and Herm Everlasting
Gallery Art Bar
$10 donation at the door
7 p.m.

Music Editor

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