Many consider 1988 to be the finest year for hip-hop album releases, due largely to Public Enemy’s critically acclaimed It Takes a Nation, BDP’s By All Means Necessary, and debut album’s from Big Daddy Kane and a young duo from Brentwood, NY EPMD.
After paying their dues (a term current rap acts aren’t familiar with) on the chitlin circuit Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith signed to Sleeping Bag Records and begin making dollars (the MD in the acroynm EPMD has a different meaning depending on the day of the week you ask: Making Dollars, Mic Doctors, Millennium Ducats, etc.) after the release of their 1988 debut album Strictly Business. On the strength of their poker faced lyricism and funk beats the duo would go on to earn a gold plague for Strictly Business. The album would go on to receive much critical acclaim and was also included on The Source‘s revised list of 5 mic albums released in 2002.
Strictly Business – Erick & Parrish set the tone for the evening sampling Eric Clapton’s version of Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff” which makes for a funky and entertaining opening. Erick sets thing off and introduces the world to his heavily lisp monotone flow, while Parrish’s smooth flow compliments the green-eyed bandit’s sleepy flow nicely. This song is packed with hip-hop quotables that have been sampled by several artist. This still sounds great 20 plus years later.
I’m Housin – The duo sample Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady”, which sounds like an attempt at a dance/commercial record, but still manages to maintain it’s integrity. P & E sound fresh, and I love this beat.
Let The Funk Flow – The duo manage to make their flow fit this “drunken” beat. I don’t know if anybody else could rap over this beat and pull it off (even Nas who I put it my top 10, couldn’t do justice to the same beat which he used for “Nastradamus”). Even though E’s lyrics are a few step from amateur, this song is a decent listen.
You Got’s To Chill – Certified banger! The duo sample Zapp’s “More Bounce” for the backbone for this track. The mic doctors tag team the mic and dissect this beat like pros. This is classic hip-hop, son!
It’s My Thing – The mic docs spit over a soon to be recycled sample (Jay-Z & Foxy Brown’s “Aint No Nigga”) with pleasant results. Erick sounds pretty good but this is clearly Parrish’s show as he rips this beat to shreds. This was a very entertaining 6 minutes of EPMD funk.
You’re A Customer – The duo serve all competitors over a bouncy bass line. Although the beat sounds a bit empty this still manages to work, mostly do to the infectious bass line.
The Steve Martin – And then we’re hit with this mess of a song. EPMD attempt to create a new dance craze named after the actor, best known for his stellar performance in Bringing Down The House, Steve Martin. I got nothing good to say about this one, this was terrible. By the way, the comment about Bringing Down The House was a joke people.
Get Off The Bandwagon – After a major misstep Erick and Parrish get – back to business. This song uses the same template as “Customer”: pretty empty beat, with an infectiously bouncy bass line that carriers the song. This still sounds pretty dope.
D.J. K La Boss – La Boss gets what would be his only solo joint on a EPMD album, as he would be replaced by DJ Scratch after Strictly Business (if anybody knows the story behind his departure, hit me up in the comments, I would love to know). This was decent, for a deejay joint.
Jane – Ah, the first edition of the infamous Jane series: Jane is a “skeezoid” (I love that term but man does it sound dated) that Erick got with back in the day, and the stories would get more weird with each chapter (there is a Jane song on each of EPMD’s 7 albums). In this particular case, Erick waste 3 minutes on an uninspired verse on a pointless tale of his sexual shortcomings. This was a terrible way to end a nearly flawless album.
If you’re looking for a socially conscious hip-hop album, Strictly Business isn’t the place for you. But if you’re looking for quality lighthearted-braggadocio hip-hop you’ve come to the right party. Strictly Business strives off of the duo’s funk and bass heavy production and witty lyricism, helping E & P live up to the album’s title. Strictly Business is a solid effort and a great debut for the legendary duo.
Did The Source Get It Right? Strictly Business comes close but no cigar. While “Jane” is definitely weak, it’s bearable, and I’d be willing to over look it. But there is absolutely no forgiving the train wreck that was “The Steve Martin”. You shave off those two tracks and we have a 5 micer, but since those two tracks exist we have a 4.5 er. Holla.
DJ K La Boss wound up becoming a backup dancer for E.P.M.D. labelmate and former backup dancer, Stezo. Bad career move in my opinion, but E.P.M.D. may not have blew up with that weight on them. LOL.