May 16, 2008

EPMD - Strictly Business (1988)

EPMD released their debut album Strictly Business, on Fresh/Sleeping Bag Records in 1988. It spawned multiple hit singles and escaped from the clutches of retailers to the tune of over half a million sold. It is generally considered to be one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time, but sadly, that distinction seems to primarily come from critics and bloggers these days, as the kids these days, what with their not having respect for their elders and all, seem to have absolutely no idea who EPMD is.

If you fall into that category, my two readers, then allow me to take this opportunity to learn you something.

-EPMD is made up of Brentwood, New York resident emcee/producers Erick Sermon (if you've read this blog with any regularity, you have to have heard of him) and Parrish Smith. The group name allegedly stands for Erick & Parrish Making Dollars, but that doesn't explain why Erick only gets one letter in the group name (he alternates between the aliases E Double and the Green Eyed Bandit), while Parrish's rap name is PMD.

-They produced the entirety of Strictly Business, and are often credited with being among the first rap artists to pilfer rock and funk tracks to create their beats, which resulted in hip hop moving toward a completely different sound. Erick Sermon, especially, would parlay this ability into a long-lasting career as a producer that is still in full force today.

-EPMD created many of the classic songs that your favorite rappers cite as influences. In fact, if you just sat down and listened to Strictly Business, I guarantee you will have heard of at least four of these ten tracks if you follow hip hop at all, as they continue to receive airplay during old-school programming blocks.

-EPMD discovered Reggie Noble, which is but one of their many lasting contributions to the musical genre we know and love. To a lesser extent, they are also responsible for Das EFX, K-Solo, Hurricane G, and Keith Murray, but we shouldn't hold that against them.

-EPMD will perform at mitzvahs, both bar- and bat-, for a set fee, plus all of the bologna they can eat, which usually causes tension with the party hosts, as bologna isn't usually on the menu.

End refresher.

No useless rap album intro here: Strictly Business gets straight to, um, business. Once the beat, featuring samples from Eric Clapton's "I Shot The Sheriff", kicks in, I swear to God you'll actually feel both amped and relaxed, with the knowledge that Erick and Parrish know what they're doing. I imagine this even sounded like a classic rap song back in 1988.

I never cared for this track.

If you hated Nas's "Nastradamus" as much as I did (and you should, because it sucks), rest assured that EPMD got to the beat first and handled it as best they could. Nice touch with the Beastie Boys sample.

This song, one of the no-bullshit classics in their catalog, was inexplicably left off of their greatest hits compilation (the one that was packaged with their last album to date, Out of Business), replaced with an inferior remix commissioned by the powers that be at Def Jam in 1997. That's a fucking shame, but I guess that was the label's sneaky way to get listeners to seek out the back catalog.

Two songs that rap producers never tire of sampling are "Seven Minutes Of Funk" by Tyrone Thomas and the Whole Darn Family, and Bob James's "Nautilus". While you can clearly hear the sample from the former, I'm convinced that "Nautilus" is chopped up and inserted into every rap record ever created, so I'm sure it's here somewhere. I always enjoy hearing Erick Sermon telling off a competitor by advising him that "you ain't jack".

Could have done without the "Fly Like An Eagle" sample, but otherwise, this song rocks. The back and forth between E and PMD is entertaining as shit, and for anyone that didn't already know, PMD's final verse on here was re-utilized as his hook contribution on Def Squad's "Countdown".

PMD does his best to create a new dance craze based on, of all people, my favorite author/comedian Steve Martin, and fails miserably. Not because the song is bad, mind you; in fact, it's quite good. It fails because PMD (in a tongue-in-cheek fashion) instructs dancers to act like the title character in The Jerk, which nobody would ever want to do, even if they were drunk.

The beat fucking rocks, as it is the perfect accompaniment to Erick and Parrish's denouncing of fairweather fans. I had to play this song three times in a row, since I kept getting too caught up in the song to actually write this commentary.

A showcase for the duo's deejay. Loved the fact that he cut some of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" into the mix, specifically samples of Vincent price's creepy-ass laughing.

10. JANE
Ah, the beginning of an era. The conceit of this track is that PMD was just about to deliver the masters of Strictly Business to the label, and Erick stops him at the door because he still needs to talk shit about a girl. I laughed out loud at how PMD doesn't even bother to try and introduce the Jane character properly, hilariously mispronouncing her name just to make the line rhyme. (Although they're dissing her because she made fun of their prowess in the sack, so I'm sure it was intentional.) A pretty good way to end your debut album.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Strictly Business is considered a classic debut album for a reason. Erick and Parrish come running out the gate as cocky-ass emcees, but with the talent that backs up their boasts. The album even still sounds good from start to finish, with the exception of "I'm Housing", which I just don't like, so sue me; whatever, nine out of ten songs rock. EPMD would go on to a fruitful career, break up, and ultimately reunite in 1997, and I'm sure I'll get to reviewing the second album approximately nineteen years from now.

BUY OR BURN: Seriously? You need to ask? Any reader of this blog that considers themselves to be a serious hip hop fan needs to buy this album. Give it a spin and reminisce about a time when hip hop was about the music, not the negative stereotypes. I realize I just asked my two readers to possibly reminisce about a time in which they didn't even yet exist, but that's your damn problem.

BEST TRACKS: All except "I'm Housing"



  1. This album was one of the reasons why I needed so many 'AA' batteries for my walkman back in high school. Also, one of the reasons why a teacher took my walkman in class as I was listening to it, but hey, ish happens right? This album still gets a lot of play in my car today. I can't believe this came out 20 years ago and hasn't been reissued this year with some bonus cuts.


  2. I been a hip hop fan since age 14 when I heard Stetsasonic and this shit sucks monley balls just like you Max

  3. Undisputed Classic...

    Still on the bandwagon.

  4. Your 3rd ReaderMay 17, 2008

    LOL Haters are in full affect!

    Kinnda funny...The CD droped 1 year after I was born.

    Good review!

  5. Stetsasonic isn't a bad way to get into hip hop, but I've never heard of a monley. I guess I missed that day in biology while I was listening to some GOOD music.

    I love the fact that I actually write about an album that is still very fucking good today, and no matter what, someone is going to comment that my opinion is wrong.

    Oh well, can't please everybody.

    Thanks for reading, everyone!

  6. AnonymousMay 17, 2008

    A great album! Even if I'm born a year after this was released, I can feel it.
    Btw.: very nice blog, like your reviews and appreciate the work you invest in it. Keep up the good work, you got a 3rd reader in me.

    I got a question. The spoken part in the hook of "steve Martin" is the same as in Roots' "Get Busy". Is it Slick Rick? The liner notes in the "Rising Down" booklet doesn't say anything about it. Who Is This?

  7. Aw man I like "I'm Housing".
    Dope review tho, otherwise I agree 100%.
    Keep 'em comin' homie.

  8. AnonymousMay 17, 2008

    Dude, why wold you let your comments section turn into the walls on a bathroom stall ......?

    just put a disclaimer or something

  9. To the first Anonymous: it's not a Slick Rick sample - it's Joeski Love's "Pee Wee's Dance". But it kinda sounds like Slick Rick, so I can see where you were going there.

  10. AnonymousMay 17, 2008

    I remember dudes in their peuguots(or however you spell it...I aint perfect) and sidekicks pumping this all throughout the neighborhood while mu uncle had his little hunydai excel,classic... good review Max...

    mr. childs

  11. its my thing...first epmd tune i ever heard, of a fresh records compilatin tape...still funny to me how eric can sound so retarded with the nasal slowflow...and stil sound dope at the same...
    monley balls are apparently a failed knockoff of BenWas..

  12. Love this album. Released one year before I was born but still very fresh.
    I actually don't really like the DJ track so much, but the album is excellent.
    I think it's hilarious that Erick calls himself "the Rap Goddess".

  13. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessMay 26, 2008

    Never heard of them.

  14. I was actually 16 when this came out, and I bought it. The fact that most hip-hop shit at the time wasn't even imported in Italy makes it even more special.
    And Strictly Business is indeed the shit! Still better than 90% albums produced today...

  15. God damn... I can't believe I didn't write a comment on this album.

    It's a 100% classic, a real one, an album (along with Too Short albums)that influenced other rappers to get into funky grooves.

    I like all 10 tracks!

  16. FUN FACT: when EPMD 1st came out it actually stood for 'Eric Parrish Making Duckets'.

  17. i can't believe nobody pointed out that the sample in strictly business was from bob marley's version of i shot the sheriff

  18. Classic indeed. Bought this back in '04 when I was a freshman in high school and played it countless amount of times. Flawless from beginning to the end...

  19. Some knowledge for your ignorant asses:

    This song was the first to sample '7 Minutes of Funk', or at least so according to Sermon;

    The 'Steve Martin' song was created in response to the popularity of their dancer Stezo's moves in the 'You Gots to Chill' video, PMD wasn't starting nothin';

    I doubt Eric Clapton would chase up the duo for royalties if they sampled Marley's song... ;

    It's Housin' dammit, think ignorant.

  20. One of the greatest hip-hop groups ever!!

  21. AnonymousJuly 11, 2013

    Aww...This is ten years older than me :( Hey I still love it though! :)

  22. Wow! This album is incredible, top 5 hip hop albums of all time...

  23. AnonymousJune 03, 2014

    I friggin' LOVE this album!!

    But I disagree with you, Max, in saying that it's their best album.

    I think that their career is a master class in consistency.

    Well, at least until Out Of Business, which, at most, doesn't suck balls.