May 6, 2009

EPMD - Unfinished Business (1989)

After striking gold with their 1988 debut release Strictly Business, Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith, who perform together as EPMD with the assistance of DJ Scratch (their former partner in crime), quickly recorded the follow-up, Unfinished Business, which hit store shelves less than a year later. Like its predecessor, Unfinished Business featured songs that used so many samples from other compositions that I'm surprised that Erick and Parrish managed to retain writing credits, and also like its predecessor, it sold over half a million copies, which made their label, Fresh/Sleeping Bag Records very happy for approximately five minutes, before the financial strains hit: EPMD's contract was later sold to Def Jam Records, who would release their next four albums.

Unfinished Business hit the scene at a time when hip hop was not about bragging about your past as a drug dealer or getting the chicks on the dance floor, so many of you two readers may be prone to avoid music such as this. Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith built their careers off of feel-good music (made so thanks to the varied samples they utilize) that are chock-full of boasts and Vitamin C. Hopefully, the Strictly Business review actually connected with a few of you, but if you think you already know what to expect from their sophomore effort, you're dead wrong.

That was a bit dramatic, I know.

Take away Erick Sermon's newly-formed confidence behind the mic, and this song sounds like an outtake from Strictly Business. The lyrics sound good (there's nothing of substance here, but the presentation is remarkable), but musically, the track seems to be about five or six samples short of a full house.

DJ Scratch's, um, scratching of the PMD vocal sample sounds awful: it seems the intention was for the vocal, which doubles as the hook for this track, to sound a bit ominous, but the sound wasn't cleaned up, and it ends up coming off as simply distorted, as if I were listening to Unfinished Business through speakers made out of two tin cans and some chicken wire. Subtract that weak-ass element, though, and this song is really fucking good, even if the first boast provided by both artists (about you being a “NR”, a “non-rapper”) falls pretty flat.

One of the things that Dame Grease did well when he produced DMX's “Get At Me Dog” was bring the B.T. Express sample (from "Everything Good To You (Ain't Always Good For You)") that was also featured in “Get The Bozack” to the forefront, so that it blasts out of your speakers, becoming the epitome of a Tunnel banger. (Or, at least I assume so, since I don't live in New York.) In contrast, this song lets the rappers dominate, as the music plays in the background almost as an afterthought: considering the confrontational feel of the track (and the numerous amounts of bozacks being gotten by individuals), a few tweaks would make this song a classic. It still isn't bad, though.

Hearing Erick Sermon alternate between playing himself and “Jane” is pretty unsettling (and awfully ridiculous, if you think about it: Erick Sermon is no Positive K). Due to the short running time, this track doesn't really advance the Jane storyline much, but it sounds alright.

Over an instrumental that, oddly, lifelong fans of Kris Kross may recognize from their blue period, Erick and Parrish get serious for a bit, giving listeners an idea of what they had to go through before copping that record deal. It's short, sweet, to the point, and not bad at all.

Raise your hand if you remember what Cappadonna's “Love Is The Message” sounds like. (You realize I can't see you while you're reading the blog, right?) Here's the same MFSB sample (from their own "Love Is The Message"), with some extra effects layered in, which do their darnedest to convince you that, yes, it is time to party. While the final product sounds decent enough, there are also long chunks of silence from our hosts, leaving the song sounding incomplete.

Absurd title aside, I didn't care much for this track.

This is one of those undisputed EPMD classics, and for good reason: this shit is great. It may not get as much airplay as “You Gots To Chill” during flashback lunch hours, but in many ways, this is the better song, especially since E and PMD rip shit in their own special way.

This track's sound is slow and low, and awfully simple, but I've always dug it. The beat is perfect for punctuating the braggadocio from our hosts, even after you realize that they aren't doing anything on here but threatening people with the titular act of violence.

One aspect of 2Pac's “California Love” that I never really understood was the clearance of the Joe Cocker sample, which also appears on here: how was Death Row Records able to release the song to radio and MTV, but unable to actually put the song on 2Pac's album? Anyway, EPMD clearly sidestepped the entire issue with their weed carrier, K-Solo, who sounds better on here than both E and PMD combined. Or, at least ,he does until all respect for him goes out the window when he starts spelling shit (this is the infamous track in which he misspells the word “bird”). Curiously, one of his “fucks” appears on the song, but the other is censored. And his verse fades out before the song is over. Groan...

This track is about seven minutes and nineteen seconds too long. This public service announcement, disguised as an EPMD song, about the dangers of drinking is fucking stupid, and not only because I like to drink. I don't wish this song to be inflicted upon even my worst enemy.

Erick and Parrish present precautionary tales about the perils of fame (in their own way), but the entire six-minute-plus song is derailed by the use of the David Bowie sample (if you re-read the title, you'll be able to guess which song is used, and no, it isn't “Hallo Spaceboy”), which works for David Bowie, but not for anybody else. Oh well.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Unfinished Business plays as, well, an unfinished album. I would be convinced that the disc was cobbled together using Strictly Business outtakes and Bazooka Joe chewing gum, had Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith not insisted on referencing the success of their debut on nearly every fucking track. In the case of approximately one-third the album, the songs sound like some important element is missing; another third comes off as overproduced. EPMD manage to find a happy medium with a handful of tracks, but, sadly, this disc isn't as consistently entertaining as Strictly Business (and that CD had a fucking house song on it), which makes it a surprising disappointment.

BUY OR BURN? Even with that last paragraph, though, I would recommend that you purchase this, but just barely. The great songs on here are actually enough to override the bullshit, but be forewarned: there is a lot of that on here.

BEST TRACKS: “The Big Payback”; “Strictly Snappin' Necks”; “Total Kaos”


EPMD - Strictly Business


  1. 'It's Time to Party' and 'You Had Too Much to Drink' can go. Those songs were horrible when I bought this in '89 and they're atrocious today. Even with those hiccups, the album is still a 4 out of 5. And do you remember their 'Big Payback' video with N.W.A. in it?


  2. AnonymousMay 06, 2009

    wtf??? so whatcha sayin "seems to be about five or six samples short of a full house."

    *shakes head in disgust*

  3. This album is good, but not as good as the debut. This time, just half of the songs are bangers, the other half is just ok.

    By the way: this IS really a classic album.

  4. AnonymousMay 07, 2009

    max - you know you just downloaded this a few days ago . i went to school with max , he was more than a few years below me. he's a white kid in his early 20's now and his first experience with hip hop late 90's jay-z stuff. it's always make's me laugh when he says i don't remember this track from when back or a forgot about this song then give's a bad review to classic albums for the 80 (kane , rakim) when deep down he knows he just downloaded a few days before writing about it.

  5. Oh, Anonymous, if only what you said were true. Then I probably wouldn't get a fucking headache and start talking about those goddamn kids and their rap music every time I turn on the radio.

    Thanks for reading!

  6. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessMay 07, 2009

    Never heard of them.

    Sorry about the lack of stalking. Still don't have a steady internet connection.

  7. This > Strictly Business

  8. Dude, "You Had To Much To Drink" is an amazing song! You'll be telling me you hate "The Steve Martin" next!

  9. I'm puzzled by your review on what I consider a pretty good album, perhaps minus two tracks. I suppose you had to be there when it came out and realize compared to what what also dropping, this stood out. With "So Wha Chu Sayin'", they came out swinging at critics, some even rappers. Personally I think that track is one of their top ten best.


  10. AnonymousMay 25, 2014


    Read this very carefully.

    Your ONLY valid points are about tracks #7 & #11.

    & I don't personally care for any of the 'Jane' songs.

    Every OTHER song on here is an EPMD must-listen. Regardless of your opinion.

    & I know it's your fucking website.

    But, I'll acknowledge that you have a fine ear for hip-hop in general.

    Thank you for CZARFACE!