South Aucklander Ermehn arrived at the Deepgrooves stable with some serious credentials in hiphop - he'd been in Radio Backstab and DJ Payback (who featured on the landmark "Proud" compilation) and was also part of the early lineup of the Otara Millionaires Club. His debut solo album dropped in 1998, and included some great tunes and killer singles, like Walls of Steel, featuring the Khaz the Field Style Operator (now known as The Feelstyle).
Grant Smithies says in his book Soundtrack: 1118 Great NZ albums that Ermehn "...sees South Auckland primarily as a place of poverty, violence and crime, so that's what he raps about. His street soldier stories are bleak but skilfully told, and give insight into the hard life many rappers invent for themselves but this man seems to have actually lived. Contains the strong singles Walls of Steel, Don't be late, and Stranded in the city".
"Herman 'Ermehn' Loto was notorious for playing live dressed in a lava lava and waving a machete over his head ... Ermehn's Samoan heritage was represented not only by the track content but also by the cover which showed Mau leader Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III. The tracks also focused on South Auckland and 'Who holds the knife' talked about the devastating effect of the notorious South Auckland rapist who was operating at the time." (Source, originally published in the book Hiphop Music in Aotearoa by Gareth Shute).
Ermehn also had a fierce reputation, built on his gang affiliations with the King Cobras. "I'm an ex King Cobra patch member. I've had the Chinese TRIADS put a hit out [on] me! I've had the Head-Hunters hunting me down. F#ck, I've even had my own King Cobras put a lifetime hit out on me and I still roll hard. I've made more money than any muthaf#cker I know! More money more dramas!" (Source)
"As Herman Loto in the mid '90s he was part of the Otara Millionaires Club, sharing writing credits for We r the O.M.C along with the Fuemana brothers, also involved in the 'Proud' album and touring party with Radio Back Stab. His own debut album 'Samoans Part II' was released during this time (1998) on Deepgrooves, and distributed by Festival. But not long after Ermehn's gangsta life took over.
"In Otara basically when you've got nothing, the only thing on the table at the time is either going out and hustling, selling drugs and joining a gang - or joining a rugby club and becoming a great rugby league star. I fell into the pitfalls of the hood and ended up hustling and put my music aside and just embraced the darkness.
"I came out of it a few years later and I thought I'd do an album. I had the money at the time and I thought, well NZ On Air aren't going to give me the money, so I funded the album on gangsta money - so it is a pure gangsta album.... With this album, if I was to perform it, it would probably be at a nice dodgy club - I don't think I'll be getting asked to perform at Pasifika any time soon." From NZ Musician interview, 2005.
In that interview Ermehn is talking about his second album Path Of Blood (Sony BMG, 2005) which featured the singles Bankjob and Silver and gold (videos for both songs were made by Oscar Kightly). Currently he runs a security company based on the Hibiscus Coast called Pride Security, and is involved in martial arts.
His most recent recording is a single with Chong Nee, called I Love The Way (from 2008). Watch the video here, shot at the Pasifika Festival in 2008, and watch out for Ermehn onstage performing. Looks like he DID get asked to perform at Pasifika.
ADDED (19/1/2011) Sean popped up in the comments to mention that Ermehn had released an album in 2006, called Drug House Raps, via itunes. Ermehn also got a video grant from NZ On Air for a song with PNC in late 2009, called Stare and Whisper. Thanks for the info.
CORRECTED: Ermehn joined in the comments below, saying "DRUG house raps' was just me guesting on tracks or ruff demos that got out - not really my album. i haven't even heard the trks. I guest on a lot of MR SICCS album trks, cos he from otara. mr sicc is pretty much the new and Better Me! he my favit rapper! and has my full respect!"
ADDED Ermehn's third album Trained To Kill is due for release October 4 2012. More info here.
|Above images from the CD for Samoans Pt II|