It was August of 1988 and I was still a kid wrapping up Summer vacation since school started AFTER Labor Day. The Orioles were in the midst of their worst season in the Major Leagues and life was pretty chill back then. It would be a few years before my official relationship with hip-hop would begin but I would watch MTV, The Box or BET just to see what was the latest music videos hitting the airwaves. Two guys in particular from Brentwood (Long Island), New York would drop their debut album on August 30th of 1988. Twenty-five years years later, Strictly Business being heralded as a classic hip-hop album. Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith Making Dollars was the name of the duo and they went by EPMD.
The debut single was the title track of the album. The samples on this track is Eric Clapton’s cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff” and Kool & The Gang’s “Jungle Boogie”. And from the gate, these two show the opposition that it’s not a game with them.
“Total chaos — no mass confusion
Rhymes so hypnotizin known to cause an illusion
Like a magician.. who pulls a rabbit out a hat, son
I pull them all like a .44 Magnum
MC freeze stop look and listen, and try to imagine
It’s travellin the speed of light, but everything’s motion” – Parrish Smith
The second single was “You Gots To Chill”, which sampled Zapp’s “More Bounce To The Ounce“. On this track, it’s pretty much the same boasting and I’m better than you rhymes.
“The E-R-I-C-K is my name, I spell
Thanks to the clientele, yo I rock well
I’m not an MC who talkin’ all that junk
About who can beat who, soundin’ like a punk
I just get down and I go for mine
Say ‘check one-two’, and run down the line” – Erick Sermon
The third and final single for Strictly Business was “I’m Housin'” which sampled Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady“. This fit the house music vibe that was also a big part in East Coast hip-hop in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Looking back on it, “It’s My Thing” is still one of my favorite hip-hop cuts. One of those classics that will get you up and have you thinking that you’re an MC. The track used a sample of “Seven Minutes of Funk” by Tyrone Thomas and The Whole Darn Family as well as mix in’s of “It’s My Thing” by Marva Whitney. Erick and Parrish stakes their claim as being the best in the rap game, as you were supposed to do back then.
“Style of the rap, makes your hands clap
Take care of myself because the lines are strapped
Day mean business, no time for play
If you bite a line, we’ll roll your way
The more you bite, your body gets hot
Don’t get too close, because you might get shot
Gnawin at my rhyme like a poisonous rat
Don’t play Dumbo, you’re smarter than that” – Erick Sermon
One thing that I miss from hip-hop albums is when the DJ’s would get a chance to showcase their skills. On “D.J. K La Boss”, EPMD’s very own DJ serves up some scratches that when you listen to it today, you feel nostalgic about how hip-hop used to be. Strictly Business was a great launching point for the legacy of EPMD and it’s great that we are still able to listen to this amazing album that I’m sure hip-hop heads from that era will say that it’s still as dope as they day it dropped.