Friday, June 12, 2009
Combat Jack vs. Unkut: EPMD > M.O.P. Pt. 2
I don't know whether I should be apologizing to or should be angry at some of ya'll. Apologizing in not realizing that a lot of ya'll might be a bit too young to fully appreciate the greatness that was EPMD, not being able to experience first hand how legendary this duo is. Or angry at how (and with no disrespect) ya'll have the nerve to side with Robbie on how M.O.P. outshines Eric and Parrish Making Dollars. Some of ya'll even felt ballsy enough to throw OutKast's name in the ring. No diss to the Atliens, Andre 3000 spits his heat, but I prefer rappers that aren't Dandies. Maybe I'm too old school and gully for rapper dudes to be dressing like Prince. No shots.
But as promised and with no further delay, here are the incontrovertible reasons proof as to why EPMD is the Greatest Hip Hop Duo Of All Time:
1. Four consecutive back to back classic albums.
Strictly Business dropped the summer of '88. When that other rapper dude was busy moving weight and 1/2 of Mobb Deep was knee deep taking ballerina classes. Some claim that 1988 was the best year for rap albums, especially since that year was crowded with top tier legendary groups like Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. & Rakim, N.W.A., Eazy E, Jungle Brothers, Slick Rick, Run-DMC. Ultramagnetic MC's, Too Short, Biz Markie, Ice-T, Stetsasonic, DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, Kid 'N Play and MC Hammer dropping classic albums. Shit, even rapper chicks like Salt-n-Pepa and MC Lyte were busy getting it in with album heat rocks. Truth be told, when I started hearing "Strictly Business" blasting out of drug dude's Suzuki jeeps and b-boys boom boxes, I was unimpressed, being that I was too deep into BDP and fighting the power with P.E. Plus the fact that my ear was unaccustomed to hearing rappers spit over funk oriented beats. Then there was the duos' seemingly monotonous flow, Parrish Smith coming off a little bit more aggie and battle oriented while Eric Sermon's extra lazy lisp laden flow was more than off putting. Still, the more I listened to the album, the more I was drawn into how the seemingly on surface simple rhymes meshed brilliantly with the funk laced tracks. From the gate, EPMD established themselves as the masters of the funk, even before Dr. Dre, DJ Quick and the rest of the West Coast took over that sound. EPMD also established that they were from this album on, the architects of underground hardcore rap. They built the house that M.O.P. currently resides in. They also kicked off a series of songs about a chick called Jane, a series which would continue throughout their next three albums. Them starting said series in their albums was a first for rap as well as for rock albums. Hailing from Brentwood, Long Island, EPMD proved themselves to be worthy of being counted amongst their fellow rap peers as being on top of their game. Fans didn't lie either. Within 30 days after the album dropped, "Strictly Business" sold over 500,000 units earning the group their first gold plaque. I remember seeing EPMD perform with Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J and RUN-DMC down in Washington, DC. It didn't matter that they shared the stage with other rap icons, EPMD made sure they left an effin smoking crater where they stood, just to let both peers and fans know that they were no effin joke. And not with having 100 of they man's an' em clutter the stage like so many of today's so-called cRap acts do. Nah, these dude was official. Go ahead and cop that. Listen to this bitch right here with no interruptions and tell me I'm lying. I dare you.
Unfinished Business, their second album, dropped in 1989 and came out fucking swinging. Once the bass from the first cut "So Wat' Cha Sayin'" bangs, it was clear that these dudes amped up that booom bap hardcore shit. That song's beat was one of the hardest, and at this point Eric Sermon and Parrish Smith cold mushed the sophomore jinx in the face by demonstrating that at this point, they had mastered their whole slow flow show. Not only had their delivery and production improved, but dudes managed to remain thoroughly hard core whilst at the same time feeling completely comfortable in showing how funny they could be. Tracks like "Please Listen To My Demo" had listeners laughing as the group walked fans through how they ended up getting a record deal and going from broke unknowns to the rap superstars that they were. In addition to the back and forth exchange and chemistry, dudes proves to be adept at story telling as well. So comfortable in their hardcore underground persona, Eric Serman p/k/a "The Green Eyed Bandit" let it be known that in the midst of slaying sucker emcees and busting caps, he was prone to break out in song mid rhyming. One of the stand out cuts is "Knick Knack Patty Wack" featuring the first of many dope rappers EPMD would discover and put on. Guest starring K-Solo, a rapper who killed game by spelling out words in his raps, the three traded verses and mics as they killed the beat bloody. It didn't matter even that K-Solo misspelled the word "bird" as "b-r-i-d", the song still rocked. The weakest song on the album "You Had Too Much To Drink", featuring a cheesy '80s electro rock sounding beat still comes off with the comedy as the duo drops a cautionary tale about drinking and driving. Guaranteed to be one of the funniest rap songs ever. Like "Strictly Business", "Unfinished Business" sold over 500,000 units, earning the group their second gold album. Cop this album as well and tell me it ain't a classic.
How ill is the cover to Business As Usual, (1990) their 3rd album? Already managed by Russell Simmons' superstar management company RUSH Management, this album was their Def Jam debut. Signed initially to Sleeping Bag Records, the group was at this point, widely recognized as being unfuckwitable as far as being on top of their rap craft. Once the record company folded, it was a no brainer for Def Jam to sign them as they had already proven themselves to be rap superstars. Having famed comic book artist Bill Sienkiewicz illustrate the album cover further proved that EPMD was now certified as being in the big leagues, bigger budget and all. Still, the group maintained their hard-core underground aura with tracks like "I'm Mad", "Hardcore" and "Underground". So authentic were they that other rap icons pledged allegiance or claimed to be down with them. Most evident of this was rap legend LL Cool J who realized he desperately needed EPMD in his life in order to extend his rap shelf life. Featured on the track "Rampage", LL spits like he's so happy to be down and appear on the track with EPMD. Around this time, he also cops a bit of Parrish Smith's slow flow battle rap style and it shows on his own classic album "Momma Said Knock You Out", especially on the cut "To The Break On Dawn", which featured a brand new LL sounding very much like Parrish, the Mic Doc's student. Not deviating from their prior albums, EPMD continued to bring their brand of funk, gully, story telling and pure dopeness to fans ever hungry for more. Another highlight is on the track "Hardcore" which finds the group introducing the latest member to their growing posse, a young and very deadly Reggie Noble p/k/a "Redman". Like the first two, this album ended up selling over 500,000 units earning the group their third gold plaque. At this point, are some of ya'll still even considering M.O.P. as even being equals? Grab this up, let it bang on your cerebellum some, then let me know if you still wanna maintain such blasphemous thoughts.
Business Never Personal, (1992) the group's fourth album was with no question, the hardest one they dropped. Darker than the prior three and clocking in as their shortest (under 40 minutes), this was true black hoodie rap at its best. Maintaining underground status, EPMD took more creative chances with their story telling and concepts. "Who Killed Jane" proved to be the best of the series. "Headbanger" once again featuring Redman cemented these dudes as the best in the hardcore genre. "Cummin' At Cha" featured another collabo with the latest members of their squad, Das-Efx. Short and sweet, this album sadly resulted in the end of the EPMD era as the group disbanded shortly after it dropped, due to infighting, reportedly over money. As producer of most of the groups material, Eric Serman had been receiving the lion's share of dollars and allegedly both members of the group were allegedly involved with gun play and violence towards each other. Fucked up shit!!! Even though they would later put aside their differences and regroup in 1997, "Business As Usual" proved to be the group's last classic album, the fourth of four consecutive stellar joints. Like the prior three, this album also went on to sell over 500,000 units, earning the group their fourth gold album. Few duos kept it as gully, as hardcore, as underground as EPMD while at the same time getting their commercial props on. Peep the album here. Then let me know who in your top whatever ever dropped four consecutive classic albums in a row. Other than maybe A Tribe Called Quest, all I'm hearing is crickets. I took a drive from New York to Ohio several years ago with my former business partner. On the way down, I decided to play the four albums from front to back and back to back. By the time we landed in Ohio, dude was like, "wow, I didn't realize EPMD were that dope." No kidding asshole. As fires as they are, there's no way I'm listening to four M.O.P. albums back to back. Them dudes scream so much hardcore that I might end up cold punching my moms dead in her mouth. And that's where the genius in EPMD lay. As other groups straight strained their vocals to position themselves as being all rough, tough and stuff, these dudes did it on that mellow tip, jokes, singing and all. Everyone still knew they might get shot if you tested them. I lay the greatness of their albums out for you here. Feel free to play them all front to back and back to back. Then get at me. I'm waiting.
2. Showmanship Like I mentioned earlier, these cats knew how to rock a show. I saw them several times and they always killed it. Small venues as well as large arenas like Madison Square Garden. Didn't matter. They always delivered. Peep this lil clip here and tell me M.O.P. can do this shit. Rap, dance, breath control and maintenance of gully. Go head, show me. Dudes were true masters on stage and as a customer, you knew you were always going to get your monies' worth.
3. Impact On The Genre Not only did they build the house that hardcore underground rappers like M.O.P. claim, EPMD also affected the language that rappers and fans alike spoke. Phrases like "Audi 5000", "Swayze", "Ghost" are stiil used in certain circles of this here rap thing. That's crazy being able to add slanguage to a peoples' vernacular. EPMD did it several times, and with ease. They were that dope.
4. Rap Spin-offs K-Solo, Das-Efx, Redman, Keith Murray. At the end of the day, EPMD alone remains responsible for introducing us to a slew of incredible artists. All I'm counting from M.O.P.'s end is Teflon. And he's awright.
5. Most Influential I can go on an on, but I'll end this here. Guaranteed, ask your favorite rap duos out, M.O.P. and OutKast included, who influenced them the most. Other than Run-DMC and maybe a couple of others, I can bet they'll all say EPMD. Ask Robbie even, as he goes in and continues to kill the game in them exclusive interviews he drops over at Unkut. Ask him to start asking rappers who influenced them, who fathered their style, who made them wanna be as dope as they wanna be, most cats will say without hesitation, EPMD. I see him at Unkut throwing jokes about the group's history, about their storied break-up, abot how Eric Sermon jumped out the window, literally, and how he stays as a prime suspect over at the Pause Police. But in the end, how relevant is all that extraneous activty when compared to the legacy that the group left us with? Like comparing apples to oranges.
Not trying to come off preachy, but not trying to let shit fall through the cracks, give this group the effin respect and credit they deserve. EPMD remains the best rap duo of all time, bar none.
This was a Combat Jack, Daily Mathematics Public Service Announcement.