Long before there was Kanye, Jay Z and Auto-tune, there was a period during the mid-eighties when hip-hop musicians were making some of the most creative sounding records you could find anywhere.
LPs like the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique and De La Soul's Three Feet High And Rising not only featured deliciously dirty grooves and bass lines fatter than a Louisiana catfish, they also made old records new again through the use of sampling. Listening to these records, and picking out all of the obscure bits and pieces of music history woven into their mosaics of sound was like a music-geek's wet dream.
These days, you don't hear a lot about EPMD, but this wildly innovative rap duo was right up there with the best of them. Even today, their debut album Strictly Business is regarded as a hip-hop classic, and rightly so. Anchored by its rich, thick grooves and even fatter sounding beats, EPMD were crunk before there even was such a thing. As the homies might say, they shit was crackin'!
The thing is, EPMD (which stands for Erick and Parish Makin' Dollars) sound just as good now as they did back in the day. Reissued as part of Priority Records, "Snoop Dogg Approved" U.S.D.A. series, Strictly Business is now out in a remastered version.
Now, here's where it gets a little dicey, because to my ears at least, it doesn't sound like they've remastered or changed anything at all. Which is perfectly fine by me, because the deep, bottom-heavy production of the original album is one of the biggest reasons it remains such a classic today. Leave the tweaking to someone else, just don't funk with that bottom.
Joints like "Strictly Business" (and its clever use of "I Shot The Sheriff"), "I'm Housin'" and especially "You Gots To Chill" still rumble the speakers with big bass grooves thicker than a jar of day old molasses. The way "You Gots to Chill" cuts up the old school Roger And Zapp joint "More Bounce To The Ounce" still gets those butts a shakin' every damn time! So if there wasn't any tinkering done here, so be it. You can't improve on what is already perfection.
The Snoop Dogg connection is still somewhat curious to me though. Outside of lending his name (and "approval") to the project and scribbling a few liner notes, I really can't tell what role, if any, Snoop actually plays here.
But you know what? It's a minor point. The pleasure of giving my bass woofers the best workout they've had since my old school days as a rap DJ more than compensates, "Snoop Dogg approval" or not.