Photo By Karen “InchHigh” Dabner McIntyre
Venue: The Jazz Cafe, London Date: 7 June 2012
After the Hit Squad reunion show in NYC earlier this year, I for one was hoping that particular line-up of EPMD, K-Solo, Redman and Das EFX might have seen fit to bless their European fans with their combined golden-era glory. Unfortunately, however, that was not to be, with only the Green-Eyed Bandit and the Mic Doc reaching UK shores recently for their second visit in just over a year, this time choosing to perform two shows at the brilliant Jazz Cafe venue.
After DJ Scratch had tested the turntables and amused the crowd with his reserved “jazz voice”, Erick and Parrish rushed the stage to the 90s jeep beats of the pounding “I’m Mad”, both decked out in all black with E sporting his standard head sweatband and PMD rocking the trademark fisherman hat.
Barely giving the crowd time to breathe, the duo dropped their timeless true-school anthems “Strictly Business”, the Zapp-sampling “You Gots To Chill” and their debut 1987 single, performing both “It’s My Thing” and the flipside “You’re A Customer”, with that particular track’s crisp production sounding particularly fat over the Jazz Cafe’s crystal clear sound-system.
Pausing only to give each other a pound and revel in the crowd’s enthusiastic reponse, the pair’s wide smiles and playful behaviour indicated that, even after a quarter of a century on wax and a dramatic early-90s break-up, the childhood friends still possess an undeniable bond that obviously goes deeper than simply hitting the road every once in awhile to dust off the EPMD back catalogue and pay some bills.
The constant good-natured banter between the duo also extended to their interaction with the crowd, with E-Double persistently reminding the audience “I’m Erick Sermon and that’s Parrish Smith” for the benefit of any “youngsters who might have snuck in.”
Leaving the stage for a short time to allow DJ Scratch to impressively showcase some of his well-known turntable tricks, the Long Island lyricists soon returned and continued working through banger after banger. The twosome play-acted their way through the 1988 skeezer tale “Jane”, gave a forceful performance of “So What Cha Sayin'” and preceded the bass-heavy “Gold Digger” with a sermon from Sermon about the 1990 single being the inspiration for Kanye West’s hit of the same name.
Taking a moment to address their solo careers, Erick stated that the pair don’t usually perform their own individual material at EPMD shows, but as fans had apparently made requests as they entered the venue he encouraged PMD to drop his head-knocking 1996 single “Rugged-N-Raw”, following which Smith joked, “Yo, E, can you perform “Hostile” now?”, referring to the track that introduced Keith Murray to the masses on Erick Sermon’s 1993 solo debut “No Pressure” (the Funk Lord did in fact perform a track of his own, the Marvin Gaye-sampling crowd favourite “Music”, later in the show).
Although the legendary partnership stuck to the usual script of encouraging the crowd to “continue supporting real Hip-Hop” and repeating how much they loved performing in the UK, the intimate atmosphere of the relatively small Jazz Cafe did lend the performance a spontaneous, improvised feel.
Following the night’s finale, a short two-man version of the Hit Squad posse cut “Head Banger”, the pair should have left the stage to the sound of DJ Scratch cutting up the 1970 Roy Head breakbeat “She’s About A Mover”. But as Erick made his way up the venue’s stairs to the comfort of the dressing room, PMD just couldn’t tear himself away, staying to drop verses from “The Symphony 2000” and “Get The Bozack” as Scratch went back-and-forth on the turntables.
Personally, I would have also liked to have seen Erick and Parrish performing their “Juice” soundtrack banger “It’s Going Down” and the 1992 b-side sureshot “Brothers From Brentwood L.I.”. But when virtually every track on the night’s set list was a certified Hip-Hop classic, EPMD, once again, didn’t really leave people much to complain about.
Strictly underground funk, keep the crossover.
EPMD performing “Jane” at The Jazz Cafe.