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EPMD "Business as Usual" Def Jam ***

March 24, 1991|JONATHAN GOLD

EPMD's main subject, getting paid, seems a little obtuse compared to the grand Afrocentric aims of X-Clan and Brand Nubian. Its mild gangsta flavor, which is more reminiscent of Public Enemy's first album than the reality rap of N.W.A., is hardly enough to get the FBI all worked up. Even the group's name--which stands for Erick and Parrish Making Dollars--seems mercenary. To like EPMD, you've got to really like rap. And you can't dance to it.

But in a genre--hard-core hip-hop--where most rappers have a shelf life about that of a carton of yogurt, EPMD's three solid albums are almost unprecedented, its fiercely loyal following almost without peer. Neither obscene nor political, revolutionary nor poppily commercial, EPMD could be the most underrated group in hip-hop, pumping direct, honest, simple B-boy rhymes over slow, deadly, bass-heavy beats, pretty much defining the New York rap sound.

Erick Sermon, EPMD's most distinctive rapper, sometimes sounds as if he's rhyming through a mouthful of marbles: It's an unmistakable, deliberate style that imbues his lyrics with power. KRS-One and Big Daddy Kane might get lip service, but the laid-back EPMD jams are what you hear blasting out of Jeeps.

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