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

EPMD “You Gots To Chill” (1988)



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

Erick Sermon: “Me and Parrish were building that 1968 Camaro that we talk about in the 'It's A Demo' record. And Parrish's father had a Zapp cassette. So Parrish was like, 'Yo, check out this record.' So when I heard it, I was like, 'This record's crazy.' It was funky. EPMD, as you can tell from the albums, our song selection was always kind of ill, from David Bowie to Eric Clapton to Phil Collins. We didn't sample the regular James Brown records.

“We come from Brentwood, Long Island, so we had a multicultural [upbringing]. Even though there might be 70 percent whites, it's still blended in with Puerto Ricans and blacks. All our friends were [mixed]. I loved AC/DC, I loved Led Zeppelin. I knew who The Who was. I knew about all these groups because that's what we heard. There was a whole world of music that I had in my head.

 

We used one microphone, meaning that we didn't have different [vocal] tracks. Parrish would rap, and then move over, then I would rap. People can't really understand the recording process of EPMD because you wouldn't believe it. We probably could have used two tracks, but we were just used to rhyming together. 'You move, then I move.' And it sounded the same as if we used two different tracks. That would be unheard of now.

 

“We weren't [consciously trying to sample different bands that other rappers weren't sampling]. If something is funky, you rock with it. Even though Bob Marley did 'I Shot The Sheriff,' Eric Clapton's version was funkier. Whatever had the groove to it, you sampled it. We didn't care where it was from. If something was hot, [we used it]. Don't forget, every break beat is a rock band playing drums. It's a band.

“We [first] went to the studio in 1985, and it didn't turn out right, as far as our first time going in. And then, Parrish was playing football, quarterback, for Southern Connecticut. So we had to skip a year. EPMD probably would have come out in '86, but he was playing football. So when '87 came around, we made 'It's My Thing' and 'You're a Customer.' That was the first record we ever made. But when it was time to go in and do the album, that was the next cut we made, 'You Gots To Chill.'

“That was the first single off the album. The label was like, 'That's hot,' [so it became the first single]. When we made records back then, there weren't records to choose from. Whatever we made in the studio went on the album, because we didn't have that much money then. We made the records, and put them on the album.

“All the [early] recordings were done at Charlie Marotta's studio, which was a house studio. We went in upstairs, and there were wires all over the place with milk cartons and egg cartons for soundproofing. We made the records on eight tracks.

“And we used one microphone, meaning that we didn't have different [vocal] tracks. Parrish would rap, and then move over, then I would rap. People can't really understand the recording process of EPMD because you wouldn't believe it. We probably could have used two tracks, but we were just used to rhyming together. 'You move, then I move.' And it sounded the same as if we used two different tracks. That would be unheard of now.

 

EPMD was big, period. We're the only group to have four No. 1 albums in a row. That never comes up in conversation. And we're the most sampled hip-hop group in history. You hear stories about Biggie rhyming to our beats on demos. Or Jay-Z using 'Ain't No Nigga,' and 'Get At Me Dog' with DMX. I could go on forever with singles that people used from EPMD that set them off and began their careers.

 

“The reason why EPMD was so dope is because we battled each other. It was friendly competition. Like, if Parrish says something dope, I want to say something iller. That's what made us so dangerous. The friendly competition, and going back and forth, made it so the rhymes were just crazy from both of us.

“EPMD was big, period. We're the only group to have four No. 1 albums in a row [Ed. note: their first three albums went No. 1, the fourth peaked at No. 5]. That never comes up in conversation. And we're the most sampled hip-hop group in history. You hear stories about Biggie rhyming to our beats on demos. Or Jay-Z using 'Ain't No Nigga,' and 'Get At Me Dog' with DMX. I could go on forever with singles that people used from EPMD that set them off and began their careers.

“'You Gots To Chill' was big, because it was the first single from the album release of Strictly Business. But 'It's My Thing' and 'You're A Customer' were just as big in the streets. Those took us everywhere too.”

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