After releasing four consecutive critically acclaimed gold selling albums and cementing their hip-hop legacy, In 1993, EPMD decided to go their separate ways do to…we’ll just call it a bunch of fuckery (feel free to click here and get more details on said fuckery). Both Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith would pursue solo careers after the break-up. The Green-eyed bandit would strike first with his 1993 solo debut, No Pressure and Parrish aka PMD, sticking with the EPMD “Business” themed album titles, would release his in ‘94, subliminally titled Shade Business. Shade Business was nothing short of mediocre, plagued by PMD’s erratic beat selection and his less than impressive experimental slo-flow. Needless to say, Shade Business was a commercial failure and RCA would sever ties with P, but he would soon rebound, landing at Relativity/Epic, where he would release his sophomore solo effort, Bu$ine$$ Is Bu$ine$$ in 1996.
For Bu$ine$$ Is Bu$ine$$, PMD would focus strictly on the rhymes and leave the production in the hands of a few of his associates (including DJ Scratch, Charlie Marotta, Solid Scheme and 8-Off aka Agallah). Bu$ine$$ Is Bu$ine$$ would render two charting singles and barely cracked the Billboard Top 200, peaking at 180. Thankfully, P and Erick would patch things up and get back to business (no pun intended) the following year, releasing their fifth group album, aptly titled, Back In Business.
Though my memory keeps telling me the last secular hip-hop album I bought before my hip-hop sabbatical was Biggie’s Life After Death in 1997, the deeper I get into ‘96 I’m realizing I was slowly beginning my sabbatical well before March of ‘97. Bu$ine$$ is yet another album that I bought over a decade after its release and have never listened to before this write-up. So, let’s see if P learned from the mistakes he made on his previous business venture.
Intro – The first thing you hear on Bu$ine$$ is the same helicopter sample that EPMD’s “It’s My Thing” began with. Then a hard menacing instrumental clip plays with a bunch of vocals soundbites placed over it to welcome PMD back and introduce the album.
Bu$ine$$ I$ Bu$ine$$ – This one opens with P and his homie complaining about the current state of hip-hop (boy, they’d be really pissed about where the genre is today), while a snippet from hip-hop’s favorite movie, Scarface, plays in the background (this song is actually laced full of different Scarface snippets). Then 8-Off drops menacing cinematic musical stabs over steady drums and P’s homie returns to get off an energetic refrain warning any would be competitors that PMD is not to be fucked with. 8-Off’s menacing stabs seamlessly transform into a muffled melody during P’s verses, and it was nice to hear him abandon the annoying stuttering slo-flow that he bombarded us with on Shade Business.
Leave Your Style Cramped – Maybe I spoke too soon. P resurrects his slo-flow for this one, as he spits two sleepy verses and sounds like a man desperately in need of a cup of coffee. Speaking of sleepy, the combination of P’s flow and Charlie Marotta’s drab and dull instrumental nearly knocked me right out.
Rugged-N-Raw – This was the lead single from Bu$ine$$. 8-Off slides P a monster track driven by a magnificently spooky church choir loop and an eerily muddled bass line that finds a jaded but still resilient PMD in “woe is me against the world” mode: “You ask for P, I’m missionin’ to get richin’, lost my other half but I still got my fishermen, hat, it ain’t over ‘til the fat, chicken head cat, wreck, snap that bitch neck, I show and prove, niggas better move slowly, to P the mic doc, the microphone’s my only, friend, can’t even trust nobody, cause next thing you know I’m fuckin’ bustin’ somebody, my shadow got my back and that’s the way it goes, keep my eyes out for foes, and remain on my tippy toes.” P’s hurt and pain has him sounding motivated, as he gets off some of his best bars of the evening on this undeniable banger.
What Cha Gonna Do – Solid Scheme builds this instrumental around a pensive piano loop and quiet drums, and P invites his Hit Squad bredrin, Das EFX to join him on the mic, as the three emcees share a message about the importance of standing on your own and making sound decisions. It’s rare to hear PMD or Das kick knowledge on a record, but they do a serviceable job with the subject at hand.
Never Watered Down – P invites Nocturnal (not to be confused with the Long Beach emcee, Knoc-turn’al) to join him on this duet, as the two emcees exchange bars. Nocturnal, who vaguely reminds me of a sedated Redman, outshines his gracious host (which I think was by design), while 8-Off does it again, this time constructing a dark and desolate gem that both emcees sound right at home rhyming over.
It’s The Pee – This was the second single released from Bu$ine$$. P continues to spew half-hearted boastful bars that mostly fall flat, but I enjoyed Solid Scheme’s regal sounding semi-melancholic instrumental.
Kool Kat – PMD uses Charlie Marotta’s silky-smooth instrumental to practice his story telling skills. After a random first verse, the storyline gets interesting when P introduces a mysterious, sexy, long- haired “Spanish” (aka Latino) steel-packing honey named Jane Doe, which is a cute reference to the infamous female character from the “Jane” EPMD song series (“I said, ‘What’s your name?’ she said ‘Jane Doe’ Oh no, had a flashback when I was running with my man, yo.”). Things peak during the third verse, which ends with Jane Doe cornering P in an elevator and seductively sticking her finger in her G-string, while she licks her lips (yummy), then the fourth and final verse begins and completely fails to give details on what transpired in the elevator, as the song ends with the peculiar vixen giving P some random advice about guns, money, warriors and swords, before she vanishes into thin air. WTF?
Interlude – This interlude sets up the next song…
It’s The Ones – Fabian Hamilton blesses PMD with a fire backdrop that he uses to address foes that pose as friends, and I can’t help but assume that Mr. Sermon was the muse for this record. P doesn’t come alone, as M.O.P. jumps on the track and spices things up with energetic threats of bodily harm to anyone that abuses the loyalty of their family. This was hard.
Nuttin’ Move – Das EFX returns on this joint, which starts out sounding like it’s only going to feature the duo on the mic, then P shows up mid song to get off a couple of bars. It’s not a great record, but it makes for decent filler material.
I’m A B-Boy – A weary sounding PMD uses this soulfully somber DJ Scratch production to pledge his allegiance to B-Boyism: “I don’t play, I don’t drink the Alize, I’ll stay a B-boy until they take my fuckin’ mic away.” Scratch adds a dope Sticky Fingaz soundbite for the hook and the emotional tickling of the keys at the end of the record sounds absolutely amazing.
Rugged-N-Raw – Even though it’s not spelled out in the song title, this is technically a remix. P brings back the same instrumental from the O.G. mix and invites Das EFX to jump on the track with him. I didn’t necessarily need this remix, but the diggity duo bring a little extra seasoning to the fire instrumental. But you can’t still claim “the microphone is my only friend” when you have guests rhyming next to you, P.
After four critically acclaimed gold selling albums with EPMD, I’m sure the dismal sales and negative criticism of his lackluster debut solo album, Shade Business, affected PMD, causing him to re-evaluate his approach to the music. One of the major adjustments he would make with Bu$ine$$ Is Bu$ine$$ would be completely removing himself from production duties and solely focusing on his rhymes. As a result, his recruited production team craft a cohesively dark and moody musical scheme, and I enjoyed the gloom. PMD also abandons his stuttering slo-flow that he first introduced on “Scratch Bring It Back Part 2 (Mic Doc)” off the Business Never Personal album and carried into Shade Business. But even with a more conventional rhyming style and delivery, P sounds like a shell of the emcee we came to know and love during the first EPMD stent, as most of the album finds the Brentwood emcee sounding unmotivated and spewing uninspired rhymes.
Bu$ine$$ Is Bu$ine$$ is a vast improvement and a much more enjoyable listen than Shade Business, but still a far cry from the quality brand of hip-hop we came to expect from the EPMD version of Parrish Smith. On his next solo venture, Parrish would leave the business themed titles alone and call it The Awakening (I bought a used copy a few years back and God willing, I’ll get around to dissecting that album someday). Hopefully, the title’s an indication that P would finally awaken from all this monkey business and get back to serious business on the microphone.