Wednesday, November 18, 2009

459. Strictly business- My favourite Rap Album.

Album: Strictly business

Artist: EPMD

Year: 1988

Genre: Hip Hop.


1 Strictly Business
2 I'm Housin'
3 Let the Funk Flow
4 You Gots to Chill
5 It's My Thang
6 You're a Customer
7 The Steve Martin
8 Get off the Bandwagon
9 D.J. K la Boss
10 Jane

This is the fifth Rap album I’ve listened to in the countdown so far (not counting the Fugees and D’Angelo which both had rap elements) and it’s definitely my favourite. While it hasn’t converted me to rap music it definitely ranked above a lot of other stuff I’ve had to endure lately. I reacted so positively to it that I decided to go back and dig out the rap I’ve listened to up to this point and give them a bit of a spin in case I’d started to develop a taste for rap music. Perhaps listening to five rap albums four times each had opened my ears to the joy of hip hop. I certainly understand what’s going on more. I know to call vocalists “MC’s” I know that a good backing is dope and a bad one is wack. So I wondered if I appreciated it more on a musical level now that I could follow it on an intellectual one.

The answer is no.

I stand by everything I’ve written about rap so far. LL Cool J is still duller than an internet forum dedicated to a the joys of fonts and all my other comments still stand. Which means my appreciation of this album isn’t related to my increased understanding of dope MCing as much as it’s about the fact that Strictly Business is a different kind of rap. EPMD are funky. They’ve got a groove on. Their beats are certainly (and I feel like a total wanker saying this but there’s no other word for it) dope. They are in fact the dopest beats I’ve heard so far. Positively toe-tapping in fact. Most of the backing behind the two MC's is made up of samples but they’ve chosen some funk-filled artists to use. The most easily identifiable was Clapton’s version of I shot the Sherrif (in the title track) but there’s also some Sly and the family stone, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and even some Pink Floyd kicking around in the background. The combined effect is obviously designed to fill dance floors more than other rap which seems designed to stand around posing to. (And you'd have to say it's the first time Pink Floyd have ever been used to get someone shaking their funky groove thing. "Hey cool! Astronome Domine! Lets get out on the dance floor and boogie!" <-- this never happened to anyone ever.)

It also helps that you get the impression that the two guys behind the microphones are actually paying attention to what’s going on around them. A lot of other rap I’ve heard seems to be distantly related to the backing. Years ago I listened to something called The Grey Album which was a mash up that lifted JayZ’s vocals from The Black Album and laid them over the Beatle’s White Album. To my ears the end result wasn’t nearly as good as The White Album but it’s just as good as The Black, which suggests the beats, dope or otherwise are kind of peripheral to the vocals. You can lift JayZ from whatever he's been laid over the top of and put him on something else that works just as well. The difference between EPMD and other rappers I’ve heard is that they appear to realise there are other musicians in the room other than themselves (even when they're not). They sound like the vocalists for a band rather than just lecturers capable of delivering rhyming rants for others to create the backing for.

The lyrical themes are pretty much standard Rap territory- we're great and you're not. We're the best thing that has ever happened to rap, women and in fact the entire human race ever and the rest of the planet only exists to give us something to be hugely superior too... oh and we're good at rhyming. The one strange variation comes late in the album when EMPD feel the need to dedicate an entire track to a new dance they've invented named The Steve Martin. Apparently they're big fans of The Wild And Crazy Guy and they're not afraid to immortalise him in dance form and then double immortalize him by immortalizing him in a song that immortalizes the dance. I have to say Steve Martin is a strange choice for a couple or MC's to be fans of but then to each his own. It's just refreshing to hear rap that praises someone rather that wishing a painful death on a rival.

Strictly Business suffers from a tendency to stack it's best tracks earlier in the album which makes it feel a bit repetitive by the midway point but there's still a lot to like. My favourite Rap album- which may be fairly faint praise but it's still praise for a hip hop album which is new territory for me.

Influenced by: Grand Master Flash and Steve Martin.

Influenced: All those more laid back Rappers like.... oh that MC someone or other guy and that other guy with the dope beats. Look I haven't a clue.

Highlight: The title track.

Lowlight: You're a Customer- the point where it starts to get a bit samey.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "yo home boys this was a fat cd you definately gots to gets this all the tracks are so dope"

-I love that. You can find reviews like this on every single rap album, which doesn't make it any less brilliant.

So is does EMPD stand for Excellent Music Perfectly Done or Evil Muck Purulent Dross? Enlighten Me Please Down (there)

1 comment:

  1. So there's good rap and bad rap - who would have thought.