Parrish Smith and Erick Sermon not only helped to further define the sound, style and overall aesthetic of Rap music during the apex of Hip-Hop’s first Golden Era but their lyrical and sonic approaches also stood out. What many present Rap fans that don’t remember the late 80’s aren’t aware of is the quality of EPMD’s live show. They came out during the era of stadium Rap tours where they had to share a stage with the top acts of the genre and they had to be able to entertain as well as they did.
Between PMD, E Double, DJ K La Boss and dancers Stezo and Fendi they were able to hold their own on tours with Run DMC, Public Enemy, Stetsasonic, N.W.A, Big Daddy Kane, BDP, Eric B. & Rakim. If you couldn’t deliver live as well as you could on record you’d face serious scrutiny during this time and EPMD did not disappoint.
So here we are 25 years later paying homage to a great group and remembering a classic album that stood the test of time that still sounds as fresh today as it did back in 1988. Numerous artists and groups were inspired to make their own brand of Hip-Hop after hearing Strictly Business. EPMD is partly or directly responsible for the starting the careers of Stezo, Craig Mack, K-Solo, Redman, Das EFX and Keith Murray, among others, and they influenced numerous artists to be themselves and advance the art form by being original. EPMD’s potential weaknesses and idiosyncrasies instead became their strengths when they entered the studio. That’s as Hip-Hop as it gets.
As a kid, I remember staring at that album cover with the logo Haze designed (which I originally misread as “epmo”) and all the equipment around Erick & Parrish in the studio wondering how they made that album using it. I close my eyes and remember how that album closed with the ultra funky track “Jane” where they transformed Rick James’ jam “Mary Jane” into something completely new. I marvelled at it. I can press play on that song today and be instantly transported right back to 1988 and retain that exact same original feeling I had when the tape played on the box in my bedroom when I was 13.
The supreme height that you can attain when creating art is to make timeless material that will resonate with people and continue to move them now matter the amount of time that’s passed since it’s creation. Both Parrish Smith and Erick Sermon succeeded in doing so when they made one of the greatest Rap albums ever in their early 20’s when competition was it’s fiercest and the burgeoning genre was at it’s first creative apex and this should never be forgotten. If you’re a Rap fan you should listen to Strictly Business to know what the gold standard today’s rappers and producers should be ultimately aspiring to: creating timeless art that resonates with it’s listeners.