The last time PMD appeared on HHID, we were discussing how his solo career was necessitated by his need to get the fuck away from the negative influences his former partner-in-rhyme Erick Sermon exposed him to. The breakup of EPMD was brought about by the mismanagement of money, specifically PMD's money being mismanaged right out of his home by a group of thieves who he believed were hired by Sermon. There still haven't been any answers as to what really happened, but in 1996, two years after his solo debut, Parrish Smith still must have believed that his former friend was a two-faced evildoer, as he continued his solo quest by releasing his sophomore project, Bu$ine$$ I$ Bu$ine$$, which was, clearly, obsessed with the concept of money, specifically the money that he allegedly lost.
1994's Shade Business was received as well as one would expect a solo album from the more lyrically-focused half of EPMD to be: PMD technically sounded okay (if winded), but his choice of beats was much more suspect, as they had a tendency to skew toward what his older fans were familiar with, as opposed to trying to update his persona for a newer, younger audience. (Erick Sermon faced a similar issue with his own debut, No Pressure, although he quickly adapted, as his lengthy solo discography can attest to.) Not many people would ever consider Shade Business to be especially entertaining, though, which is a problem in our chosen genre, where there are always approximately eighty-four rappers waiting in the wings to take your spot at all times.
Parrish addressed these concerns with Bu$ine$$ I$ Bu$ine$$, an awkwardly-titled (for people who need to type out the album name, anyway) sophomore effort that eschewed the funky, sample-heavy EPMD aesthetic in favor of the dark, dank New York sound that was prevalent in the mid-to-late 1990s. Handling the production side of things was holdover (and EPMD's deejay) DJ Scratch and Charlie Marotta, among a couple of others, but the man who held the project's destiny in his hands was producer-slash-rapper 8-Off The Assassin, whose own debut release, Wrap Your Lips Around This, was to have been released the same year, had his label, EastWest, not seen fit to use the master copy as a dustpan.
With 8-Off's help, along with some vocal assists from Das EFX (the only Hit Squad members to pop up on this album) and Nocturnal, Parrish Smith entered the modern-day hip hop era in style. Although Bu$ine$$ I$ Bu$ine$$ failed to sell many copies, it is generally held in much higher esteem than his debut, proving that PMD could have perhaps forged a viable solo career, had that continued to interest him.
And then the very next year EPMD got back together. But that's a story for another time.
If a rapper records a rap album intro that never gets heard because everyone always skips right past it, does it make a sound?
2. BU$INE$$ I$ BU$INE$$
Everyone in hip hop loves Brian De Palma's Scarface (a completely overrated movie, by the way), and Parrish Smith is no exception, building 8-Off's instrumental around an extended sound bite lifted from the flick. The beat signifies a shift in direction for PMD: gone are the funky samples that permeated the EPMD albums and Smith's own Shade Business. Instead, they've all been replaced by the darker, starker, boom-bap-aping New York-style street thug shit that hewed more closely to what was popular in our chosen genre at the time. And also, dollar signs taking the place of the letter "s". 8-Off's (uncredited) hook, while overly wordy, also helps the listener understand where PMD is now coming from (“Fuck the breakup”, he exclaims on this title track. “I'm getting mines”). Not a bad way to kick things off, even if it does take forever for the song itself to actually start.
3. LEAVE YOUR STYLE CRAMPED
Mobb Deep's Havoc has elevated the concept of integrating the snaps, crackles, and pops heard while playing back old, dusty vinyl into hip hop instrumentals, turning it into a fucking art form, but he didn't produce “Leave Your Style Cramped”, so everything producer Charlie Marotta does on here can only be considered an imitation. It's a good imitation, though, with a purposely suspenseful feel that may very well creep you the fuck out. PMD somehow fits two verses onto an audio track that runs for less than two minutes total, but he sounds decent while doing so, if not exactly comfortable with the overall vibe. However, the way he says, “Parrish Smith, I does this”, is commanding, and he'll ultimately win you over, And besides, the fucking thing is short.
After another long and unnecessary intro (it runs for approximately twenty seconds but feels like a goddamn eternity), the hottest, grimiest, earworm-iest 8-Off beat on the entire album kicks in to brainwash listeners into believing that Parrish Smith could have had a better solo career than E-Double, had the odds been ever in his favor. Now, our host doesn't sound quite as good over this masterpiece as I remembered, but he still connects where it counts, even though most of his bars sound like motherfucking t-shirt slogans. Our host was smart enough to realize that this song could most most likely epitomize his entire solo career, so we'll be revisiting this track before the evening is over. Until then, just accept that this song is alright and move the hell on already.
5. WHAT CHA GONNA DO (FEAT. DAS EFX)
The first truly lackluster cut on Bu$ine$$ I$ Bu$ine$$. Whoever had the bright idea to feature the energetic, grammatically-chiggeddy-challenged duo Das EFX over a subtle, low-key Solid Scheme instrumental that is so boring that it sounds like it's about to croak while it's playing needs to be fucking tarred and feathered. This shit was weak sauce. None of the threats on here sound remotely menacing: they may as well be knocking on your door, interrupting your dinner or your ritualistic marathons of Storage Wars, to discuss your respective lord and savior when all you really want to do is to practice religious tolerance and shut the fucking fuck up. You may think I went off on a bizarre tangent right now, but we've all been there, really.
6. NEVER WATERED DOWN (FEAT. NOCTURNAL)
PMD himself barely registers on “Never Watered Down”, which turns this track into what is essentially a solo showcase for Nocturnal (with an uncredited Das EFX on the inconsequential hook). Which isn't entirely a bad thing, as Nocturnal doesn't sound bad: he comes across as a less gravelly-voiced Twin Gambino (from Infamous Mobb). But the star of this track is 8-Off, whose ill-as-shit instrumental sounds so fucking dark and Apocalypse Now-militant that the various members of Killarmy should have swiped it for their own personal use instead.
7. IT'S THE PEE
This unfortunately-titled affair claims to hold Parrish Smith's declaration of dominance in this here rap shit, but, you see, that title. Especially since it isn't even accurate: the hook spells out: “It's the P-E-E-M-D-E-E”, which also isn't correct, but at least you can sort-of tell what he was trying to piece together. Solid Scheme's instrumental, all dark and melodic, isn't the proper vehicle for a song about urological definitions, and our host doesn't sound convinced in his own work to help it stand out. This song was, obviously, the pee.
8. KOOL KAT
Not content with misspelling just one word in his song title, PMD goes balls-out in his battle with Merriam-Webster while simultaneously giving the listener a storytelling rap that doesn't seem to have any stakes whatsoever. At one point, he notices a girl who “could've been from the island of Spanish”, whatever the fuck that means, but almost, almost redeems himself by quickly flashing back to the “Jane” series of EPMD songs (he even mentions that he was “runnin' with [his] man” when he knew Jane, which implies that PMD was at least open to discussing Erick Sermon without outright trashing the man immediately, since he could have easily served another volley at that very point). Not great, but could have been worse.
Parrish tries to be clever, directing this sampled-dialogue-driven interlude toward not just a certain Green Eyed Bandit, but toward everyone else who doesn't believe that he's a hard working man behind the mic (a Mic Doctor, if you will). And then EPMD got back together almost immediately after Bu$ine$$ I$ Bu$ine$$ dropped, thereby proving my theory from “Kool Kat”. Go figure. Not that our host was necessarily finished talking about his then-former partner, mind you.
10. IT'S THE ONES (FEAT. M.O.P.)
In which the Green Eyed Bandit is rechristened the Green Eyed Monster better known as jealousy, a character trait that can cause friends to turn on you. (It's important to note that Erick Sermon himself is never actually named on this song, but after that previous interlude, well, come on.) PMD reaches out of his Hit Squad comfort zone to connect with the Mash Out Posse, who do what they can over a Fabian Hamilton beat that isn't quite in their wheelhouse. (“It's The Ones” becomes ridiculously meta with the sample from The Notorious B.I.G.'s classic paranoia anthem“Warning”, which plays during the chorus, driving the entire track, since Biggie specifically dropped Lil' Fame's name on that track; if you'll recall. Fizzy Womack is one of “them n----s...up in Brownsville” that Puffy mentions, and Fizzy, of course, is one-half of M.O.P.) Aside from the fact that the guest stars don't get free reign (Billy Danze's final verse is even cut off prematurely), this wasn't awful, although PMD isn't exactly high on the list of artists that I would actually want to see collaborate with M.O.P. on any given day.
11. NUTTIN' MOVE (FEAT. DAS EFX)
A quick listen to “Nuttin' Move” proves without a doubt that this is clearly a Das EFX song that features PMD (who is even announced as a fucking “special guest”). So this song obviously came from some aborted Das EFX twelve-inch single (since they boast about this shit being a b-side). DJ Scratch's production sounds okay (it actually fits our host better than it does his underlings), but this song wasn't memorable in the least bit, which explains how I could have forgotten about all of that “special guest” horseshit.
12. I'M A B-BOY
After listening to this song, with its dank DJ Scratch instrumental that doesn't fit the subject matter (but wouldn't sound bad when played all by itself), I'm not convinced that Parrish Smith even knows what a b-boy even is.
13. RUGGED-N-RAW (REMIX) (FEAT. DAS EFX)
See? I told you we would be getting back to this track. This remix, which chops off the ridiculous intro but utilizes the same banging beat otherwise, shoehorns Das EFX into the proceedings, making this sound like an alternate-universe take on the same material. PMD, Skoob, and Krazy Drayzy bounce off of each other as though they were locked in a padded room, and our host sounds comfortable, much more so than he did on the majority of Bu$ine$$ I$ Bu$ine$$. Also, the inclusion of Das EFX on the hook only increases the likelihood that the listener will shout along. This was an excellent way to end things.
I don't plan on making this a regular thing, but shortly after releasing Bu$ine$$ I$ Bu$ine$$, Parrish Smith unleashed a twelve-inch single for “It's The Pee '97”, a remix of the album track mentioned above. Said twelve-inch single actually contained several tracks, including two unreleased songs, which categorizes it more as an EP than as a single release. As such, I felt that it was worthy of inclusion in this post.
(Note: the phrases “radio”, “street”, and “instrumental” included with the titles below are indicative of the tracks being radio edits, proper cuts chock-full of curse words, and instrumentals (duh), respectively, and are not intended to imply that they are a part of the actual song title. Besides, naming a track “Many Often Wonder (Radio)” would be fucking silly.)
1. IT'S THE PEE '97 (RADIO) (FEAT. MOBB DEEP)
2. MANY OFTEN WONDER (RADIO)
3. KNICK KNACK PART 2 (RADIO )(FEAT. DAS EFX, L DA PRO, & NOCTURNAL)
4. KOOL KAT (RADIO/CLEAN)
5. IT'S THE PEE '97 (INSTRUMENTAL)
6. IT'S THE PEE '97 (STREET) (FEAT. MOBB DEEP)
For the single release, Peemdee decided to hook up with the other guy in hip hop who keeps referring to himself as “P”. (Please note that Skateboard P, also known as Pharrell Williams, has to not exist in order for that previous sentence to make logical sense.) Over a driving Havoc instrumental that sounds much better than the original version, Parrish Smith and Cellblock P (Mobb Deep receives the actual credit, but Prodigy is the only one of the duo to make an vocal appearance, as Havoc was probably happy enough to stay behind the boards) trade verses that share no relation to the source material. This was recorded way back when Prodigy actually was a good rapper, so it isn't surprising that the dude sounds hungry enough, even though he's ultimately saying nothing, but the real shock comes directly from our host, who easily holds his own. This wasn't bad. At all. Huh.
7. MANY OFTEN WONDER (STREET)
The hype beat, handled by our host, gives an old-school flavor, but luckily, it's reminiscent more of an EPMD throwback than it is a Shade Business clone. Parrish unleashes three verses over the never-changing instrumental, but he matches the energy of the music, which is all that I can ask of him. “Many Often Wonder” may or may not have made for a decent album track, but it shouldn't have been kept aside as a b-side, as it isn't good enough in a standalone way to be marketed as such.
8. KNICK KNACK PART 2 (STREET) (FEAT. DAS EFX, L DA PRO, & NOCTURNAL)
Parrish Smith and his various weed carriers tackle an EPMD classic in the only overt nod to our host's past, music-wise, of the entire write-up, with varying degrees of success. The Charlie Marotta beat is catchy (utilizing the same Joe Cocker “Woman To Woman” sample as the original will do that), but the artists involved aren't anywhere near the level of EPMD and K-Solo were back in 1989. Besides, L Da Pro sounds like he's trying too hard to be a certain Reggie Noble during his verse: it makes complete sense that most of PMD's Hit Squad brethren fell by the wayside once Erick Sermon came knocking on the man's door to kiss and make up.
9. KOOL KAT (ALBUM VERSION)
This was, ridiculously, the only song from Bu$ine$$ I$ Bu$ine$$ that was deemed worthy enough to be included on an EP-slash-single that was ostensibly designed to promote more sales of Bu$ine$$ I$ Bu$ine$$.
10. MANY OFTEN WONDER (INSTRUMENTAL)
And we're done.
FINAL THOUGHTS: PMD's Bu$iness I$ Bu$ine$$ is a far more successful effort than Shade Business could ever aspire to, since it was recorded by a man who wasn't still angry at his former partner, but by a man who had matured, reconciled his past, and was looking to the future with a clear head and the intention of remaining viable in this rap shit. Yes, there are a handful of potshots taken at Erick Sermon's expense, but far less than there were on his debut, and Parrish himself even seems to have moved beyond cheap insults and shit-talking. Not every song holds up: the 1990s street sound was a skill set that not every producer was capable of replicating, and even fewer could craft timeless compositions out of that era. But PMD does his best to hold the listener's attention, and for the most part, he wins you over; Parrish Smith has always been the more lyrical (to a point) half of EPMD, and he just wasn't able to prove that he was deserving of that title with Shade Business. PMD fares much better on here, even if most of it still isn't really what I would consider "essential listening".
BUY OR BURN? A burn is sufficient, but if nothing else, you should definitely check out the songs listed below, as they represent a solo Parrish Smith in his prime.
BEST TRACKS: “Rugged-N-Raw (Remix)”; “Bu$ine$$ I$ Bu$ine$$”; “Rugged-N-Raw”; “It's The Pee '97” (from the single)