EPMD Knew They Had Customers In ’88. In 2016, People Are Still Buying In (Audio)
In the ears of many, EPMD’s debut Strictly Business is a 1980s Hip-Hop masterpiece. Erick Sermon and Parrish “PMD” Smith merged to exude a style, sound, and attitude in the genre that has withstood nearly 28 years since. Released on Fresh/Sleeping Bag Records, the independent album from the Long Island, New York duo (with then-DJ K La Boss) would earn its gold certification in just four months. “Erick and Parrish Made Dollars” and earned the respect (and increased interest) of the industry in one fell swoop.
Despite its independent release on a small, New York City-based Dance label with a Hip-Hop wing, Strictly Business had the trimmings of the times: music videos, breakaway singles, and touring. Still, at only 10 tracks—like Nas’ Illmatic or Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle, the 45 minute LP has beloved songs that never had the benefit of music videos, radio pushes, and so forth.
“You’re A Customer” is one. The braggadocious single was a bold claim from a group who had only released “It’s My Thing” in late ’87. By late June, Erick and Parrish were willing to risk it all, and show their arrogance. Even before ’88 was over, they clearly backed up their claims.
The song blessed nursery rhymes with extensive echoes, interplay from the two MCs, and a bunch of confidence. With Steve Miller Band and Kool & The Gang riffs cued up, this beat is notably sparse for the two production double-threats. Whereas E and P often chopped melody and Funk into their records, a sound that would undoubtedly influence everyone from Dr. Dre to Jermaine Dupri, the keyboard effects of “You’re A Customer” crutch a sound that’s distinctly closer to movements in the South and West. Credited to the duo, the track was just an early reminder of how vicious EPMD could be on the mic and the boards.
In summer 2016, Drake apparently heard something special on Strictly Business. While Warren G remade “Strictly Business” in 1997 with his own homage to “I Shot The Sheriff,” Jay Z’s breakthrough “Ain’t No Nigga” played to “It’s My Thing,” Drake focused on “You’re A Customer.” Arguably, the most important 2016 record not on VIEWS is “4pm In Calabasas.” Within, the bass line appears to have the same sounds and stutters as the E and P ’88 jam.
This stream of consciousness moment unloaded some of the shots at Puff Daddy and Joe Budden that will forever alter the history books and Wiki pages. Drake, with a keen ear for things of the past that are back in vogue, honed in on that synth bass line and did his thing.
Last month, Parrish (with Erick) responded to the gesture in an interview with HipHopDX. “I think it’s the true essence of what ‘You’re A Customer’ means. It transforms through so many different generations. And it’s self-explanatory. Look how it came through, to the Golden Era, through the era after that, and the era after that, and the era after that. And now that me and [Erick Sermon] is really back on our square, it’s used by one of the [sic] hugest artists. It’s a sign of respect, and also it’s a sign that at the end of the day, everybody wants to be associated to real authentic Hip Hop. To us, that’s a compliment and reassuring that we made our mark.”
As Erick Sermon recently produced a new video single for Bell Biv DeVoe, perhaps OVO may keep Erick and Parrish on speed-dial for some freshly cooked flavor.