Wednesday, June 30, 2021

EPMD - Strictly Business 2xLP


Priority (2017, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

The first four EPMD records are stone cold classics and in my opinion are pretty mandatory records to have in any respectable hip hop collection.  I'm on record many times stating that my favorite of the bunch is their fourth, Business Never Personal, but each of them has something unique to offer.  For their debut, Strictly Business, from 1988 the most revelatory piece is how full and forward thinking their production was.

This was back when sampling was still the wild west and at times it feels like EPMD managed to cram their entire record collection into the beats on this album.  Of any hip hop record that came out in 1988 or earlier, I think you could make a really strong case for Strictly Business having the best beats.  Maybe you give the edge to It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, but EPMD is neck and neck on the production side.

For me, where this album falls short is the actual rapping.  While Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith would very quickly grow into incredible MCs with a dynamic back and forth style, on their first outing they sound pretty subdued.  The rhymes themselves are strong, but the delivery is so lackadaisical they almost sound bored at times.  Now, this was the early days and the album itself is so forward thinking that I definitely don't detract for the vocals too much, but that's the main reason this is probably my least favorite of the four key EPMD records.

Things improved dramatically on the next record Unfinished Business and by the time they hit with Business as Usual, it was pretty clear that they were among the very best of the golden era.

EPMD - Strictly Business:

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