EPMD – Unfinished Business (April 1, 1989)

Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith were a part of the class of 88′ (i.e. Public Enemy, BDP, Eric B & Rakim, and Big Daddy Kane), which all dropped stellar releases in the same year.  But unlike the other groups in that class who were backed by name brand crews, or had prior releases under their belts already, EPMD came out of nowhere to mess up heads with their own brand of east coast funk and undeniable chemistry on the microphone.  Riding high on the commercial and critical success of their debut album Strictly Business, EPMD returned in 89′, still in a business state of mind (which they have maintain through their lengthy career, when they’re not broken up), to release Unfinished Business.

While it received favorable reviews upon its release the duo are often criticize for playing it too safe and driving in the same lane they traveled on their debut.  But if that’s the only complaint you have for a hip-hop album, it must be pretty good.  Hey, if aint broke, don’t fix it.  

So Wat Cha Sayin’ – Erick and Parrish pick up where they left off on the last album and get right to business.  Staying in their comfort zone the duo spit their traditional boast over traditional EPMD funk, and sound traditionally good in the process.   

Total Kaos – I never was a fan of this song, mostly do to the boring track.  E & P spit their standard boast and sound pretty good, but it’s the beat that kills this song for me.

Get The Bozack – Now this is more like it.  Erick and Parrish are at the top of their game as they tag team the mic and completely demolish it in the process (although P’s mispronunciation of “assassination” at the end of his final verse was pretty funny).  The uptempo beat feels like a track field, and E-Double and PMD are running a 4 by 4 relay as they continue to pass the baton, and while one catches his breath the other takes off running his leg.  Yo, this is hot, son!

Jane II – The infamous Jane saga continues. While Parrish’s experience with Jane sounds a lot more interesting than Erick’s encounter in round 1, it still manages to not be interesting.  Over the same beat used on  part 1, P spits a sexapade that has no direction what so ever.  At least we get the Jane experience out the way early on, this time around.

Please Listen To My Demo – E & P show a rare glimpse of vulnerability as they relive the humbling journey on the road to getting a record deal.  Both emcees sound comfortable (although E’s line about having a “grin on his chin” was kind of funny) over this laid back track (I’ve always loved the eerie howling sound on the sample).  While most rapper who have attempted this kind of song are more boastful and celebratory, the hook mixed with the melancholy beat give the song a level-headed quality often missing in our chosen genre.  This was a nice change a pace and a very solid performance from the duo.  

It’s Time 2 Party – I’m torn.  I kind of like the track but I don’t like E & P rapping over it.  Plus it sounds like a forced effort at a pop hit… almost like something Will Smith would have done when he was still known as the Fresh Prince.

Who’s Booty – Over a very familiar James Brown sample the fellas share stories about “fishy situations” with the opposite sex.  Although I’ve never liked this song in the past it actually sounds decent today (mostly do to a solid verse turned in by PMD). 

The Big Payback – Erick and Parrish turn things back up a notch spitting solid rhymes over this efficient instrumental.  That’s all I got.

Strictly Snappin Necks – EPMD’s track sounds like a remix of the beat used on “Your A Customer” off of Strictly Business.  Both emcees sound decent enough, but this is far from their best song…but still miles away from their worst.  Although, it does seem to run on a little too long.

Knick Knack Patty Wack – Erick & Parrish invite hit squad member K-Solo (somebody put out an APB on that dude) to the proceedings for this one. E and P sound good but K-Solo the real stand out here, as he sounds like he hasn’t had a meal in a year and completely swallows the mic without stopping to chew.  Yeah, he misspells “bird” (b-r-i-d) in his rhyme and the acronym that makes up his alias is utterly ridiculous, but you can feel the dude’s hunger (if you listen closely you’ll hear his stomach growling).  This is probably the best K-Solo has ever sounded, and his inability to match this output is probably why he’s not around today.  I’ve always loved the Joe Cocker  “Woman To Woman” piano sample used on the track.  This has to be one of the better “posse cuts” from the eighties.

You Had Too Much To Drink – This is nothing more than a public service announcement over a generic rock-hop track.  This must have been a court imposed community service duty Erick or Parrish had to fulfil for one of their own DUI charges.  Either way, this was terrible. And it’s over 7 minutes long, which by the 4 minute mark had me wishing a drunk driver would drive through my living room to stop my ears from bleeding.

It Wasn’t Me, It Was The Fame – Erick and Parrish close things out by addressing all the haters who didn’t believe in them and think the duo’s success has changed them.  E & P hook up David Bowie’s “Fame”, and it actually sounds pretty dope.  Erick and Parrish stick to the subject at hand and do a great job of articulating their argument.  It would have been interesting to hear what EPMD would have sounded like doing more “thoughtful” songs like this.  Anyway, this song ends the evening on a good note.

Like their debut album Strictly Business, EPMD’s sophomore effort lives up to its title: as the “business” does sound a bit undone.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a handful of goods songs and maybe 2 great songs, but the inclusion of  “You Had To Much To Drink” alone hurts the credibility of this album.  I don’t have a problem with playing it safe, if the security is quality.  But I do struggle with the wack and mediocre, both in which Unfinished Business contains.  No, Unfinished Business is not as solid as their debut Strictly Business, but there is still enough on her to enjoy.

-Deedub

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