Business Never Personal

Business Never Personal

Rugged Long Island slick-talkers EPMD closed out the greatest run of hip-hop’s golden era with 1992’s Business Never Personal—a final taste of the duo’s unhurried cool, neck-snapping grooves, and uncompromising devotion to stripped-down rap. It would prove to be yet another chart hit. But, more importantly, Business Never Personal would represent a landmark moment in elemental, back-to-basics east coast hip-hop. The album’s two smash singles could serve as mission statements for the entire EPMD enterprise. “Crossover,” emerging at the very end of the pop-rap era, took umbrage with rappers using commercial sounds for mass appeal, and found EPMD’s Erick Sermon and Parrish “PMD” Smith pledging allegiance to “the hardcore sound” and “mackadocious funk material” (“You wanna go pop goes the weasel?” asks Sermon. “You know you should be rocking the fans with something diesel”). Using a vocoder hook from Roger Troutman’s recent single “You Should Be Mine,” the song was a full-on attack on modern radio—yet wound up being EPMD’s biggest hit. Meanwhile, the album’s follow-up single, “Head Banger,” celebrates hoodie-clad hip-hop at its most rough and raw. Featuring the always dexterous K-Solo, and a closing verse from a spotlight-stealing Redman, it was the ultimate showcase of the Hit Squad—the hip-hop collective that had been formed by EPMD—and that would usher in a new style of hardcore New York rap. As Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon once noted: “When we was building the Wu, we was emulating the Hit Squad, because the Hit Squad was hard.” The rest of Business Never Personal finds EPMD at its meanest. “Chill” turns a sample from a Foreigner B-side into a dystopian electronic fanfare; “Cummin’ at Cha” features an absolutely elastic guest verse from Das EFX; and “Who Killed Jane,” part four of EPMD’s ongoing Jane saga, puts Smith at the center of a police drama. The duo would acrimoniously disband shortly after the album’s release, leaving at the height of their success. They’d mend fences by the late 1990s, with more albums to follow. But Business Never Personal would be the capstone to a still-legendary run—as well as a defiant middle finger to hip-hop’s mainstream aspirations.

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