5 Best Songs on EPMD’s ‘Back In Business’
EPMD’s reunion in 1997 was an unexpected surprise for fans of the hip-hop duo who’d helped define hardcore East Coast rap in the late 80s/early 90s.
From their debut Strictly Business in 1988, EPMD had been standard-bearers for no-frills hip-hop out of New York City during rap’s Golden Age. But after a string of acclaimed albums, business dealings had caused things to sour between Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith. They’d begun mentoring artists, having recruited acts like K-Solo, Das EFX, Hurricane G and Redman to their Hit Squad label. But there was grumbling about money–particularly regarding Smith’s handling of finances.
Things culminated in an attempted robbery at Smith’s home in 1993. While the rapper and his family weren’t home, it was speculated that the invasion was orchestrated by someone within Hit Squad–and rumors flew that it was Sermon. Erick was questioned by the authorities but never charged. Regardless, EPMD disintegrated.
Since their breakup, Sermon and Smith had seen moderate success with separate endeavors–most notably Sermon. Erick Sermon’s solo career had made some noise, but it was truly his skills as a producer that pushed him to the forefront of hip-hop’s sonic innovators in the mid-1990s. Following EPMD’s split, Redman had remained affiliated with Sermon and their partnership had yielded two successful Redman albums, and Sermon had also produced the platinum debut for Keith Murray.
Sparked by the deaths of 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G., Sermon and Parrish got on the phone in spring 1997. They put the negative vibes to bed and set to work on a new EPMD album.
We decided to look back at our favorite songs from EPMD’s 1997 reunion album Back In Business.
“Last Man Standing”
With hints of the kind of apocalyptic rhetoric that would become popular on rap albums as Y2K neared, EPMD flipped a sample of The Love Unlimited Orchestra (and a snippet of Mobb Deep) for this warning shot to all comers. Erick and Parish weren’t taking prisoners.
“K.I.M. (Keep It Movin'” feat. Redman, Keith Murray
By the mid-1990s, Sermon’s Def Squad homies Red and Murray had significant star power, and they bring the noise on this standout track. Redman in particular always had kinetic chemistry with Sermon, and he’s the show-stopper here. One of the most underrated posse cuts of the era.
“Never Seen Before”
Erick and Parrish always played off of each other well, and despite five years of silence and acrimony, cuts like “Never Seen Before’ proved that EPMD’s chemistry was intact. It’s one of the best tracks in their entire repertoire. And the remix is fire, too.
The second single from Back In Business was a banger. With E-Double and Smith once again reigniting the balance they’d brought to EPMD’s early days, the thumping beat is a perfect example of late 90s Sermon productions.
With that slow-rolling groove, and Erick Sermon and Parish Smith’s lackadaisical raps, this was the perfect way to announce the return of EPMD in 1997. Sermon had become one of hip-hop’s most distinctive producers, and with “Da Joint,” he teamed with Rockwilder and laid out one of his all time best beats. EPMD was back–and this time they had no chill.