August 02, 2020

EPMD "Unfinished Business" (1989)

"I was working a lot for a label called Sleeping Bag Records and I had photographed EPMD on a few occasions. They were already a legendary duo, Erick 'E-Double' Sermon and Parrish 'PMD' Smith, or 'Erick and Parrish Making Dollars' as they are commonly known. They told me to meet them at a specific spot near where they lived in Babylon, Long Island: 'Go down this road, you're going to hit the water, and we will be there at noon.' "So, I got there at noon with my assistant, and they didn't turn up. It was winter, probably November, so the sun was setting pretty early. I was used to rappers being late, but the guys were really late. At 3:00pm the light started to go down, and we had been waiting for several hours, so we finally went to find a phone box to call their manager. He told me they were getting their rims polished up in the Bronx and I'm like 'The Bronx! That's hours away and the sun is going down!' "Just as I was finishing the call, I heard the V-8 engine roar and they came roaring down the road. I got them to form a V-shape with their cars, which I thought would showcase them well for the shoot. They they got out and they were wearing these outfits that looked like pajamas. That look ushered in this new style of casual sweatsuits and a whole new look for hip-hop. We didn't have stylists or hair and makeup people back then, so it was purely their own unique style. The whole session took about half an hour and turned out to be a really important shoot, especially since the cars, a Mercedes 300SL & a Chevy IROC-Z, were considered a status symbol in car culture. The rims matter, they're a culture of their own, and that's why they were up in the Bronx for so long getting theirs rims polished. I'm glad I waited..." - Janette Beckman

I've read conflicting research on the official release date for EPMD's Unfinished Business. Some say August 1, 1989 and others have it at July 25, 1989. I've even seen April 1, 1989. I'd read an article in Spin that promoted the release date to be "mid-July," but it could have been pushed back, so to this day, I am not 100% certain if it's August or July, 1989. What I do know, however, is that "So Wat Cha Sayin'", "Get The Bozack," "Please Listen To My Demo," "Knick Knack Patty Wack" and especially "The Big Payback" got a ton of burn from a younger Sav in Queens, NY. Their style was extremely influential, and their singles on cassette and vinyl, as well as their LPs were a guaranteed purchase! As an aspiring DJ at 10-11 years old, you can picture me in the basement practicing DJ Scratch's cuts to "The Big Payback" like my life depended on it. I'm thankful I had opportunities to meet and build with E-Double and PMD over the years, show them love and appreciation, and humbly receive their support in return. Revisit Unfinished Business below and pick up a copy of Contact High, which has incredible images and stories from the photographers who've helped document the culture.