EPMD know the meaning of the word “comeback.”
The legendary hip-hop group has done it twice now — first in the mid-’90s, and again a couple years ago.
If there were any doubts about Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith’s latest return to the stage they were put to rest during a series of packed shows in Boston, New York, Chicago, Detroit, leading up to an appearance in Toronto tonight.
Recently, they played to a crowd of 10,000 at the Fresh Fest in Connecticut. Many of their fellow East Coast rap legends were also on the bill: Slick Rick, Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane, and the Fat Boys.
“It felt like time travel. Reminded me of being on the Run’s House World Tour,” says Smith, a.k.a. PMD, referring to RUN-DMC’s all-star travelling hip-hop show in 1988. “It was the same vibe, too. Same camaraderie.”
Naturally, EPMD’s resurgence didn’t happen on its own. “We had to bring ourselves back, for real,” he says. They created the independent label EP Records and worked out a distribution deal. In other words, they handled their business.
Fans of the group know that “business” is a major theme for EPMD — each of their seven records has the word in its title. Their last, We Mean Business, dropped in 2008.
And while the album peaked at No. 42 on Billboard’s hip-hop chart, Smith says they’ve been more successful than many acts with major-label deals.
“You can sell a hundred thousand records and still be doing better than someone who’s gold or platinum,” he says, citing Raekwon’s success last year with Only Built For Cuban Linx II as a prime example. At times, Smith seems almost too businesslike, saying he’s excited to return to Canada because it’s “a big market and we haven’t been there in a while.”
He is, however, sincerely excited to reconnect with his fans, promising that EPMD will be signing albums after the show.
As a matter of fact, by the end of this year, PMD will likely be signing copies of his latest solo album, called — wait for it — Business Mentality. He’s excited to release it in what he considers a healthy hip-hop climate.
“I’m feeling real good about the solo album for the simple fact that now we’re back in a time where you can be yourself,” he says.
“There was a time in music where everyone felt they had to be like what they heard on the radio and what they saw on TV. Now, it’s just straight, raw, hip-hop.”