Hip Hop

EPMD “Strictly Business” (1988)

From all the rappers that came out in 1988, one of the more notable, influential and legendary is EPMD. Short for Erick and Parrish Making Dollars, the duo made up of Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith released their official debut album in 1988, named Strictly Business. As rappers, they do hardly anything more than bragging but their chemistry is so awesome and they have plenty of quotables and cool verses to rap to. They are not on the level of Rakim or Big Daddy Kane but they are pretty nice to listen to. The production for Strictly Business is what makes this album legendary though. Wanna see where funk in hip-hop got it’s start? Look no further than Strictly Business. You have heard songs like “Nastradamus”, “Ain’t No Nigga” and “Going Back to Cali”, right? Who do you think sampled them first? The answer is found right here with Erick Sermon. His funk inspired production is simply ahead of it’s time. Even though funk was a lot more popular in the west coast, it got it’s real start in Long Island with Erick Sermon. The funk samples are pretty simple and mostly looped on the songs but they are so awesome, they remain timeless. I can’t imagine this album being hailed as a classic had it not been for the great production. Funk in hip-hop got it’s real start right here (and alternatively on Life Is… Too Short from the same year). There’s also the original series of a story in song form with “Jane”, a hooker that never leaves the duo alone and would have a song dedicated to her in every EPMD followup. –Prt Cpt

De La Soul "3 Feet High and Rising" (1989)

De La’s debut really was a breath of fresh air upon release with the Daisy Age crew flipping the hip hop script big time with their fun odd ball approach to the genre. In the wrong hands it could have been a disaster – all style over substance – but these three young MC’s had something about them even then and an ace up their sleeve in the shape of producer Prince Paul. This record also introduced us to the overuse of the Skit on hip hop LP’s and after a while it is perhaps my main complaint against an otherwise fantastic debut. Sure the skits are funny and on occasion work well with the flow of the record they can grate after a while. However there are some absolute classic tunes presented too, with at least three to four essential cuts. —Jon

Kool G Rap & DJ Polo “Road to the Riches” (1989)

Back when the Juice Crew was on a roll in the late 80s, Big Daddy Kane, MC Shan and Biz Markie had already gotten their start and even had their own Marley Marl produced albums out. By 1989, all three were at album number two and the remaining Juice Crew members that were yet to start were Kool G. Rap, Craig G and Masta Ace. Masta Ace didn’t debut till 1990, but Craig G and Kool G. Rap both came out in 1989 with their debuts. While Craig G’s The Kingpin sucked and killed any potential his career could’ve had, Kool G. Rap delivered with the backup from his DJ, Polo. Kool G. Rap is the hardest rapper from Juice Crew and therefore it makes sense that he’s the most skilled too. While the smooth Big Daddy Kane had crossover appeal, G. Rap was too raw for that and this album – Road to the Riches – is evidence of that. In here, Kool G. Rap most of the time spends the album’s length to simply brag and what a braggart he is! His rhymes are simply too good to be comparable. Just give “Men at Work” a listen to see what I’m saying. Kool G. Rap is ruthless on the mic and even though Road to the Riches is often associated with the creation of mafioso rap, it’s completely false and apart from the title track “Road to the Riches”, absolutely nothing is on that side. DJ Polo does the scratches and he’s excellent but Marley Marl takes care of the production duties and he gives the album a very good late 80s hardcore sound with use of samples mostly from James Brown (an obvious source for New York albums back then). Although the beats haven’t aged all that well, they are still very good and only help Kool G. Rap’s excellent rapping. The only thing to hold back this album from perfection are the crossover tracks which just don’t fit Kool G. Rap’s hardcore, raw style. I’m talking about “Truly Yours”, “Cars” (although I like that new wave sample) and “She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not”. But with those tracks aside, everything else is pure excellence. –Prt Cpt