When it comes to hip-hop groups with more than one emcee, EPMD is easily in my top five. From 1988 to 1992 the duo (technically, the trio, if you count DJ Scratch) put out 4 very impressive albums, which were all commercial, as well as critical successes, sealing EPMD’s legacy as hip-hop legends. So when the news broke that the microphone doctors were parting ways (the rumor was E-Double, or someone in his circle, robbed Parrish Smith’s house), my heart broke, a little bit. After the break up both emcees would begin their solo careers. PMD would sign with RCA and release his solo debut in 1994 (an album I never checked for because his flow on the lead single “I Saw It Cummin'” was so corny I couldn’t waste my time (or money) listening to that crap for an entire album…if I find it now for a few bucks I’d probably buy it…just out of curiosity), but Erick Sermon would strike first. Sticking with Def Jam, he would release his solo debut album, No Pressure, in the fall of 1993.
Throughout EPMD’s catalog, E and P both played a part in the production process. For No Pressure, the Green-Eyed Bandit no longer had Parrish to assist him, as he would handle the production single-handedly (for the most part) and round-up a bunch of guest appearances to help carry the lyrical load. No Pressure didn’t move as many units as the previous EPMD albums and it received mixed reviews.
Let’s see how No Pressure stacks up nearly 25 years after its release.
Intro – The album opens with Erick Sermon being swarmed by the Press, then one reporter asks him what he’s going to do to show his appreciation to all his loyal fans, and his response is the next song…
Payback II – The first official song of the evening has Erick paired with newcomer, Joe Synystr (I wonder what happened to that guy), and the two exchange verses, mixing sharp wordplay with comical metaphors. E-Double stays true to his EPMD funk roots, and hooks up a mid-tempo track, whose bass line sounds a lot like the one he and Parrish used for “The Crossover”, but it works well with the bell-like sample sprinkled over it. Nice way to start the show.
Stay Real – This was No Pressure’s first single. E-Double continues to bring the funk with this ruggedly funked out backdrop that has him talkin’ shit and instructing the listener to “stay real”(which was an overly used cliché in the mid nineties). Not a terrible song, but far from great.
Imma Gitz Mine – Erick’s instrumental seems uninspired and his rhymes follow suit.
Hostile – I believe this was the second single from No Pressure, and the song that would introduce the world to Keith Murray. The Green-Eyed Bandit hooks up a cold and dark backdrop, as he and Keith talk tough all over it. I love Erick’s line “for your protection, go sit in the r&b section, for this session”, but Keith Murray walks away with this one, giving us an early glimpse of his huge vocabulary and uncanny ability to manipulate the English language (“Damage to your medulla, cerebrum and cerebellum, ya got a crew ya better tell ’em”). This one still sounds sick.
Do It Up – It was nice to hear E-Double shoutout Commissioned, arguably the dopest gospel group of all time. But that’s the only good thing I can say about this song.
Safe Sex – This is a corny PSA attempt on behalf of our host, placed over an unimaginative sample of James Brown’s “The Payback”.
Hittin’ Switches – This song was original included on the Who’s The Man soundtrack, that was released in April of ’93, and the second single from that album. It’s decent enough, I guess.
Intro – The second half (or side two) of No Pressure begins similar to the first half: a reporter asks Mr. Sermon who does he think he is and what makes him think he can still sell records, and I guess the next song is supposed to be the response.
Erick Sermon – The rhymes and the instrumental sound a lot like “Hittin’ Switches”.
The Hype – Trash.
Lil Crazy – Shadz Of Lingo (I’m sure most of you won’t remember those guys) join E-Double on this cipher joint. SOL sounds decent on this one, but Erick sounds uninspired and tired, and his instrumental is boring as watching paint dry.
The Ill Shit – Left Coast natives KAM and Ice-Cube drop by to join the E-Double on this one. E’s line about flipping “more vowels than Pat Sajak’s white bitch” (aka Vanna White), sounds forced and like he was trying to appease his black militant counterparts. All three emcees seem like they were more consumed with shouting each other out in their rhymes instead of spitting quality bars. And to add insult to injury, E-Double’s instrumental is trash.
Swing It Over Here – Keith Murray and Redman joint E for what I believe to be the first Def Squad cut featuring all three of its original members. Mostly do to E’s terrible instrumental, it doesn’t go over well, but Keith, Redman and our host’s rhymes aren’t that impressive, either.
Interview – It plays exactly as it reads.
All In The Mind – Erick invites another newcomer Soup (not to be confused with Sup The Chemist) to share mic duties, and Keith Murray, Soup is not. Collin Wolfe stops by and lends some much needed help, giving this instrumental a little bit more life than the previous 7 or 8 songs, but it’s still far from great.
Female Species – The final song of the evening is the only song that Erick Sermon is not the primary producer on. He does get a co-production credit, but Brent Turner is the main production man. Turner hooks up a super laid back instrumental for E-Double to talk about a few fly ladies he’s met. You might not feel this after the first listen, but give it a spin late night after leaving the bar, and I’m sure you’ll love it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve never been a big fan of Erick Sermon’s solo production work. Without PMD, who helped construct the hardcore funk beats that helped shape the EPMD sound, most of E-Double’s funk on No Pressure sounds like soulless boring noise. Speaking of Parrish, his presence is sourly missed on the mic as well, as Erick Sermon has no business (no pun intended) trying to hold down a solo album. Even with the abundant amount of guest appearances on No Pressure there is still too high a dosage of lazily lisped underwhelming rhymes from the green-eyed bandit. Maybe if E-Double put a little pressure on himself for this album the results would have been better. As is, No Pressure is a hot mess.