EPMD’s Erick Sermon (left), Parrish Smith like Phil Collins.
EPMD with KING REIGN at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Friday (May 28). $24.50. rotate.com.
A long-running character named Jane appears on EPMD albums as early as their 1988 debut, Strictly Business (song name: Jane). She's one of those "you're my rock" female archetypes, with an Anita Baker haircut.
"Jane is that girl who is there for you at the end of the day no matter what," says Parrish "PMD" Smith from his New York residence. "She started out as a concept but became a reality [for me], oddly enough."
Even though he's now got a girl with Jane's qualities, don't expect Smith to divulge names. But a whopping 24 years after he and Erick "E" Sermon formed EPMD, he is happy to reflect on his influential hip-hop group's experiences, one temporary breakup and seven records - 2008's We Mean Business (EP) is their latest.
Birthed in the genre's late-80s golden age, EPMD took a hard left away from rap's growing consciousness and toward cutting records about making money, getting girls and having a good time. They regularly opened for Run-DMC, Public Enemy and Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.
"Man, those were learning experiences, for sure," says Smith. "We grew up listening to groups like Krush Groove, and suddenly we were taking pointers from them. [Those shows] shaped how we sound today and shaped our live show."
In their heyday, EPMD's good-times vibe stood out against the Afrocentric message of groups like Stetsasonic and X-Clan. That not-so-serious-style of rap is still popular today.
"I wouldn't say we passed the torch," says Smith, "but we definitely passed down that form of rapping. We have longevity."
A fitting descriptor, considering that EPMD may be the most sampled rap act in history. DMX borrowed a snippet of Get The Bozack for his 1998 Get At Me Dog single. Notorious B.I.G. lifted a few bars from You Gots To Chill for his Going Back To Cali tune. Oddly, Sermon and Smith took their influences from the classic rock and funk world.
"I grew up playing football and working on cars," says Sermon. "[I hung out with] a bit of a diverse crowd of people. I used to listen to ZZ Top, Steve Miller Band, Genesis, Emerson Lake and Phil Collins.
"In The Air was my jam."