Hey we’re back. Was down in Xiamen for a bit, swimming in the ocean, eating worm jelly (not as good as it sounds), and falling asleep on the beach and waking up to a typhoon. I avoid computers/screens on trips hence the lack of posts, but let’s get right back into it with this week’s Tuesdays With Hip Hop. More on Xiamen soon.
When you think of late 80s hip hop, NWA, Schoolly D, KRS-One, or even Too Short may spring to mind first, but don’t forget about one of the funkiest and most influential groups ever – EPMD. This rap and production duo* from Long Island had the illest sample game, taking bits from Bob Marley, Steve Miller Band, David Bowie, and Zapp and Roger and dropping boastful rhymes with a mellow flow. At the time, other producers were either rhyming over James Brown breaks or disco samples, leaving the beat stripped back and raw like Rakim and Eric B, or getting all electronic with the drum machines a la Afrika Bambatta, Egyptian Lover, and Miami Bass.
*they had a third guy but Erick Sermon and Parrish, aka Eric & Parrish Making Dollars (EPMD) are the core, and who people remember.
Whereas the aforementioned NWA rapped about the police, the ghetto, the bitches, and other “hard” topics, EPMD were classic East-coast boasters, mostly flexing about all the wack MCs in the game and the girls they were gonna steal. To be fair, the rhymes are simple and sound elementary in 2013, but they’re clever, well-delivered, and complement the beats. The beats do outweigh the rhymes, but they aren’t wack by any means. EPMD as rappers were more about sounding cool, smooth, and in control than doing feats with diction – strictly business. Rhymes and beats that will definitely go off at a party.
“MCs look me in my face and their eyes get weak/pulse rate descends, heart rate increases. It’s like beam me up Scottie/I control your body/I’m as deadly as AIDS when it’s time to rock a party.”
EPMD – Strictly Business (1988)
EPMD – You Gots To Chill (1988)
EPMD – Crossover (1992)
As a group they put out two solid albums with a game-changing sampling techniques, Strictly Business and Unfinished Business, plus a few great tracks like “Crossover,” but other later efforts don’t compare. They split in 1993 then reunited and released an LP in 1997 and other music I haven’t listened to or care about (probably a few gems). Cool fact that all their LP titles use the word “business,” e.g. Back In Business, Out Of Business. But much more importantly than these mediocre team efforts, Erick Sermon went out to make a grip of classic beats for rappers like Redman, Keith Murray, and Method Man. Here’s some of my favorites, and there’s loads more. This first one from 1994 is insane.
Keith Murray – The Most Beautifullest Thing In The World (1994)
Classic uptempo rap track here by Redman. Compare this 103 – 106 beats per minute to Chief Keef at 64bpm. People gonna dance differently. We need more uptempo rap in the 2013.
Redman – Time 4 Sum Aksion (1993)
If you’ve got YouTube access, check this rare footage from a 1993 interview with Redman where he briefly comments on the EPMD breakup at the end.
And for a bit more of what was happening with hip hop around this time, check out The Rub’s History of Hip Hop mix for 1988. That mix series comes highly recommended.
That’s all for this week. We’ll be checking out The Egyptian Lover and more 80s electro in next week’s edition.