Erick Sermon Tells All: The Stories Behind His Classic Records (Part 1)

EPMD “It's My Thing” (1988)



Album: Strictly Business
Label: Fresh/Sleeping Bag
Producer: EPMD

Erick Sermon: “That was a break beat that we heard because [Kool DJ] Red Alert played it all the time. It was from Ultimate Break Beats. Everything back then in hip-hop was all break beats.

“[The loop] is a little off. That's why when you hear Jay-Z telling the story of 'Ain't No Nigga' to Angie Martinez, he's saying how he told Jaz, 'Why can't you loop the beat like Erick did it?'

“We spliced it, and looped the quarter inch tape around the room. There would be a chair here, with the tape, and we would [literally] loop it around that, and record it. We didn't know about samplers. Charlie Marotta, the engineer that was there, taught us how to do that. It was like nothing you'd ever seen before.

“That was our first real time in the studio, and we used that song to shop our demo with. We got turned down twice. We went to RCA, and somewhere else. Then we finally went to Sleeping Bag Records, which is Fresh Records, which put out Jay-Z afterwards too.

 

It was also the first song we ever did. We were over at Parrish's father's house, in his apartment. I think Parrish was drinking a Beck's beer. It was 11 o'clock, and Red Alert goes off at 11. We heard the beat played a lot on the radio, because it was a break beat, but ours came in with the helicopters [sound effects]. So we heard the helicopters, and we tried to call people, and everyone's phone was busy. We were trying to call them, they were trying to call us. It was the most exciting moment in our life, hearing those helicopters come in.

 

"We got stopped by them, met this kid named Virgil Simms that was inside. And Virgil let Ron Resnick and Juggy Gayles [hear us], and Will Sokolov, who put out a lot of albums [including] the Reasonable Doubt album. So they liked it, and Fresh Records was who we were signed with.

“The [demo version of] 'It's My Thing' didn't have a chorus. So the label called Special K and Teddy Ted in. And after watching them [make the chorus], that's how I became a producer. They indented the chorus from the record on another track.

"There was no sampling machine, so they flew it in live, on the turntables. They slowed it down and sped it up, until they got it, live. That's what showed us how to make a record. Before that, we didn't know what a producer was. We thought everyone on the radio made their own records. We thought every record you heard on the radio was made by that artist.

“We would come in with the record [we wanted to loop] and the engineer would [help us put it together]. But the label knew something was missing from the record, because we didn't have anything on the chorus. The beat was just going plain with nothing to break it up.

“That was [the first song we ever had on the radio]. It was also the first song we ever did. We were over at Parrish's father's house, in his apartment. I think Parrish was drinking a Beck's beer. It was 11 o'clock, and Red Alert goes off at 11. We heard the beat played a lot on the radio, because it was a break beat, but ours came in with the helicopters [sound effects].

"So we heard the helicopters, and we tried to call people, and everyone's phone was busy. We were trying to call them, they were trying to call us. It was the most exciting moment in our life, hearing those helicopters come in. It was fantastic. That was our shit.

“We went to the Latin Quarters where Red Alert used to spin at, and gave him the record [there], but he didn't play it there. We waited all night, but he didn't play it. By the next weekend, it came on the radio.

“EPMD took off from there. The story of us is unreal. We blew. We blew fast. We popped. Once it got out the first time, it was over.

“I remember having our first show. Chuck Chillout booked us in the Bronx at the Stardust Ballroom. EPMD, Public Enemy, Biz Markie brought out Big Daddy Kane for the first time, Super Lover Cee & Casanova Rud. EPMD was phenomenal. We were brand new, young bucks, sitting there stiff, the whole nine. Boom. When I walked outside, I could hear cars playing 'You're A Customer,' the B-side of 'It's My Thing.'”

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