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EPMD Biography

EPMD Biography

EPMD's first album, Strictly Business, appeared in 1988, spawning the massive underground hit "Strictly Business," sampling Eric Clapton's version of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff." Many critics see its first album as its most influential. The group's brand of funk-fueled sample-heavy hip-hop proved to be a major force in the genre. Unlike old school hip hop, which was first based on disco hits but eventually became more electronic, EPMD based its music mainly on lifting funk and rock breaks for samples and helped to popularize their usage, along with Marley Marl and Public Enemy. "You're a Customer" combined snippets of Steve Miller's "Fly Like an Eagle," Kool & the Gang's "Jungle Boogie," and the bass line from ZZ Top’s "Cheap Sunglasses." "Jane," about a romantic rendezvous turned bad, would be revisited on no less than five sequels; a first for hip-hop, and, perhaps, rock and roll as well. "You Gots to Chill" used 1980s funk band Zapp's "More Bounce to the Ounce," which has become one of the most enduring sample sources for hip-hop. "I'm Housin'" was covered some 12 years later by Rage Against the Machine. Managed early on by Russell Simmons' RUSH Management, the group toured with such hip-hop luminaries as Run-DMC, Public Enemy, and DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince.

EPMD signed with Fresh/Sleeping Bag Records, which eventually released its debut album, Strictly Business, by electro funk pioneer Kurtis Mantronik. Propelled by several strong singles (You Gots to Chill and the album’s title track, for example), the album was eventually certified gold, selling over 500,000 copies, as did 1989's follow-up, Unfinished Business. Financial frustrations followed when Sleeping Bag went under in 1992. The two EPMD albums and Nice & Smooth’s debut album were acquired by Priority/EMI Records before the label was sold to Warlock Records. The duo’s Sleeping Bag contract was acquired by Def Jam. EPMD returned in 1990 with Business As Usual and Business Never Personal two years later. By 1992, the group presided over an extended family dubbed the Hit Squad, which included Redman, K-Solo, Das Efx, Hurricane G, and the Knucklehedz.

In 1992, EPMD had a hit with its song "Crossover," which lamented rappers making blatant concessions to pop sensibilities (selling out) in order to get mainstream attention from music audiences.

The duo split in January 1993, under controversial circumstances. According to interviews in The Source and Rap Pages, in late 1991, Smith’s house was burglarized by armed intruders. According to Smith, in the ensuing police investigation, one of the apprehended culprits supposedly gave up Sermon’s name as having allegedly paid them to do it. Sermon was arrested and briefly detained for questioning, but no charges were filed. Still, it led to lingering tensions, and by the time of the break-up, Sermon alleged financial impropriety on Smith’s part. The duo found itself as solo artists by default: Sermon debuted in 1993 with No Pressure, followed by Double or Nothing (1995), Def Squad presents Erick Onassis (2000), Music (2001), and React (2002). Smith made his statements on 1994's Shadē Business, followed by Business is Business (1996).

The duo reunited in 1997, recording a comeback LP, Back in Business. In 1998, a remix of the song “Strictly Business” appeared by the A&R man who signed them while at Fresh/Sleeping Bag, Kurtis Mantronik. Sermon released an album with Redman & Keith Murray as the Def Squad in 1998: El Niño was certified gold that same year. EPMD’s last LP, Out of Business, was released in 1999 as both a single CD and a limited edition double CD. The limited edition double CD contained both new material and rerecorded versions of its greatest hits. Smith released The Awakening (2003) on his own Hit Squad label, and Sermon released Chilltown, N.Y. (2004) on Motown/Universal. A Hit Squad compilation LP (overseen by Smith, featuring a new EPMD track) was released on Nervous Recordings in 2004.

A reunited EPMD with DJ Scratch performed live at the Rock the Bells Tour in New York on October 14, 2006 at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, their first NYC show in eight years. The tour also featured former Hit Squad members Keith Murray, Das EFX, and Redman. YouTube currently hosts a number of videos of the EPMD reunion concert.

Two months later, EPMD and Keith Murray released a new song, titled "The Main Event," produced by DJ Knowhow. In the March 2007 issue of Swedish hip-hop magazine Quote, Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith talked about whether the duo planned to record together again. On its recent tour, the group announced that it was working on a new album, tentatively tited We Mean Business.


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