Saturday, February 07, 2009

EPMD Means Business on Latest

Artist: EPMD
Album: We Mean Business
Label: EP/Fontana

We Mean Business is the seventh studio album from hip-hop veterans EPMD. In the midst of the glaring absence of Golden Age hip-hop personalities, EPMD attempts a bailout for the boom-bap. Erick Sermon and Parish Smith seek to prove that there is still a place for hip-hoppers whose careers date back to the Reagan White House. Nine years since their last effort (1999’s Out of Business) E and P are still issuing smackdowns to sucker MCs, only now it’s under the premise of elder statesmen showing the young guns how it’s done.

Some standout songs include “Bac Stabbers” (where the pair address rumors of falling out with each other) and “Puttin Work In” with Wu-Tang’s Raekwon. On “Actin’ Up”, Sermon and Smith trade lines like “I’m the blueprint for those who can’t lose/ I wrote them checks so I paid them dues.” In keeping with their self-contained tradition, the LP is mostly self-produced by Sermon & Smith, but 9th Wonder avails himself on “Left 4 Dead”, in addition to work by DJ Honda and newcomer JFK. They maintain the group’s East Coast funkateer roots without sounding dated.

Guest rappers are overly ubiquitous on today’s hip-hop albums, but EPMD manage to make the most of their features here, mostly sticking to longtime associates like Redman (“Yo!”), Keith Murray (“They Tell Me”) and Method Man (“Never Defeat ‘Em”). The best guest-appearance is easily “Run It” featuring fellow classic-schooler KRS-One. Here, a chopped-up-and-revised Just-Ice groove provides the backdrop for the Teacher to drop knowledge: “Y’all are young so you need to be gangsters/ while real g’s want to sit home and read the paper/courtside view at the Lakers/ but there’s always some young’un you gotta send to his maker..”

Teddy Riley manages to not be annoying with Auto-Tune crooning on “Listen Up”, but “Jane” seems like a throwaway interlude more than a fully realized song. The duo’s early turntable collaborator K-La-Boss (now called DJ 4our 5ive) returns to add scratches over the rhythm tracks, something that has also been missing from most contemporary hip-hop.

With radio play increasingly rare for any rap act with 10 years or more under their belt, EPMD probably aren’t trying to hook the Plies and Soulja Boy audience. E-Double and the Mic Doctor act as if a day hasn’t gone by since their heyday, and the album is better for it.

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