EPMD is one of those groups that just knows how to make good old fashion quality hip-hop. Parrish Smith and Erick Sermon are never mentioned in hip-hop circles when discussing the greatest emcees of all time (and if you listen to either of their solo projects you’ll have evidence as to why), but like Voltron when these two forces come together the chemistry between PMD and the E-Double, is undeniable, and it comes across strong in their beats and rhymes. Must be the fisherman hats.
We last left our Long Island Brethren in 1989 attempting to wrap up some Unfinished Business, which if you read my blog regularly know I felt was a suitable name for the album, but not in the same manner that EPMD intended. Unfinished Business was not a bad album, but a step back when compared to their groundbreaking debut Strictly Business, thanks largely to the debacle that was “It’s Time To Party” and the court issued public service announcement “You Had Too Much To Drink”.
With 1990 came the third installment of EPMD’s Business series, Business As Usual. Like all EPMD projects, you know what to expect from the duo: hardcore braggadocio rhymes over hard funk beats.
Lets just pray the left out the gimmicks that tainted Unfinished Business.
I’m Mad – I’m not sure who got these brothers upset, but the Green-eyed bandit and PMD come out swinging as if their lives depended on it. Thanks to the sampled piano stabs and the hectic sample placed throughout, the dark instrumental matches the title perfectly making this an awesome start to the show.
Hardcore – Our hosts choose to slow the pace down a bit, so they can get their “slow flow” on over this slow and bleak instrumental. Though I’ve never been crazy about this song, today it sounds more affective than it did in years past. The instrumental’s eerie feel makes it the perfect companion piece to “I’m Mad”. More importantly, this will always be remembered as the song that introduced Redman to the world, as he spits the final verse on this song.
Rampage – E & P quickly pick the pace back up for this threesome with former Def Jam label mate LL Cool J. The beat is a banger, and even though I would have changed the batting order (with E setting it off, PMD going second and LL wrapping it up) all three emcees do their thing on this one, with LL easily walking away with this one. Man, I miss nineties hip-hop.
Manslaughter – Over a sick laid back smooth instrumental E and P do what they do best: talk shit on the mic. They both get two verses and neither of our hosts disappoint as they both deliver clever line after line. This still bangs.
Jane 3 – Their all two things you’ll always find on an EPMD album: The word “business” in the album title and a song dedicated to Jane. I’ve never really cared for the Jane series but their usually short, which makes them bearable. On this third installment PMD handles most of the verse (with a little help from E-Double) and spins a pretty comical tale of his encounter with Jay Jane. You might chuckle the first time you hear it. Or if you listen to it once every 10 years.
For My People – This instrumental is bananas! Erick and Parrish each get a verse and do a pretty good job, but the true star of this song is the instrumental they’ve concocted. Even though they went on to have successful solo careers (well, at least Erick), neither member’s individual production ever matched the quality of their group efforts, proving the old adage true: there is power in numbers.
Mr. Bozack – Was that Bob James’ “Nautilus” playing softly as “For My People” fades out and this song begins before its rudely interrupted by the bombastic horn sample of James Brown’s “Take Some…Leave Some”? Yep. I’ve never noticed that before, and you probably won’t either when listening with the naked ear, but a decent headphone will surely reveal this small mishap, which whoever mastered the album either missed or were just too damn lazy to go back and edit it out. Moving on: This is basically Parrish having a conversation with his cock (played by E-Double) who happen to find a little action the night before but didn’t use protection and ends up contracted an STD. What a dick.
Gold Digger – This might be where Kanye got inspiration for his mega hit that shares the same song title. I believe this was the first single released on Business As Usual. Erick and Parrish both share stories of how they fell into the snares of miners (not to be confused with minors. This is an EPMD song, not Michael Jackson) in hope that the listener will take heed to the hard lessons they’ve learned through their experiences. I still chuckle when I hear E’s line “I tell her that I love her so much, but really wishing she gets hit by a mac truck”. This is still entertaining.
Give The People – Not to be confused with “For My People”, “Give The People” finds EPMD getting as conscious as they’ve ever been in their entire catalog. Parrish even makes mentions of “a dream of a black president” before prophesying that one day hip-hop would be controlled by politics. The instrumental is a straight ripoff of the O’Jay’s “Give The People What They Want”, but it still works well.
Rap Is Outta Control – I used to dismiss this one as garbage, but the more I listen to it the more it kind of grows on me. Both emcees are having fun on the mic as they experiment with different styles but the end result still comes off as an incomplete idea.
Brothers On My Jock – So the whispered “Nautilus” sample that inadvertently plays at the beginning of “Mr. Bozack” reappears as the musical backing for this song. Redman makes his second appearance of the evening as he kicks things off, turning in a verse that sounds miles ahead of his verse on”Hardcore”. Parrish and Erick follow respectively, and all three Hit Squad members murder this track.
Underground – I completely forgot about this song. Erick & Parrish sample Grover Washington Jr “Hydra” for the back drop as they lay in the cut and rip this one to shreds in their classic “slow flow” style. Warning: EPMD’s mix of the Grover Washington Jr. sample doesn’t hold a candle to The Beatminerz genius interpretation of the same sample later used on Black Moon’s classic “How Many Emcees”.
Hit Squad Heist – Erick, Parrish, and K-Solo give the ins and outs as they execute a (bank?) heist that leaves a few unanswered questions (ie. did Erick die from his gunshot wound? Did they actually get away with the money?). Guys, for future reference: if you’re going to rob a bank you could have at least used a more intense instrumental to do it to.
Funky Piano – The last song of the evening is an ode to the duo’s talented (and often slept on) deejay, Scratch. Between Erick and Parrish’s verses Scratch does exactly what his name entails, and does a solid job in the process. And with that, we’re done.
After suffering from a few setbacks on their sophomore effort, EPMD steers things back on course, as the dynamic duo sticks to the formula that made them hip-hop legends: hardcore braggadocious rhymes over hard funk beats, making the title Business As Usual a fitting one. Like most albums, there are a few pieces that I could do without, but Business As Usual packs enough heavy hitters you’ll forget about any small quarrels you have with the rest of the album. Cheers to one of the best duos to ever do it.