HITSQUAD Special: PMD/Parish Smith Interview

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Laatste Update: augustus 11, 2010
hitsquad zwolle 21

HITSQUAD Special: PMD/Parish Smith Interview
Door: Marius Huizing
Fotografie: Jasper Suyk & Joris Kalma 11-08-2010

House of Hiphop bracht The Hitsquad naar Nederland. Hitsquad members Das EFX, DJ Scratch en PMD gaven een tweetal shows in Uden en Zwolle. PMD, die geboren werd als Parrish Smith, is echter niet alleen de frontman van The Hitsquad. Veel bekender is hij nog uit zijn samenwerking met Erick Sermon, waarmee hij midden jaren ’80 de groep EPMD vormde. Na de release van het debuutalbum ‘Strictly Business,’ met onder meer klassiekers als ‘You’re A Customer’, ‘It’s My Thing’ en ‘You Gots To Chill’, begon voor WPMS een lange reeks van successen.

 

 

 EPMD is daarbij voor hiphop van onschatbare waarde gebleken waar het gaat om innovatie in rap- en productiestijl. Dit duo was eind jaren ’80, begin jaren ’90 een van de meest invloedrijke hiphopacts ter wereld. Toch had het bijzonder weinig gescheeld of EPMD was niet eens ontstaan. Parrish was naast begenadigd artiest ook een talentrijke quarterback in American Football. Gelukkig voor ons is de beslissing uitgedraaid op het nastreven van een carrière als muzikant.

Basically I played sports all my life. But when we dropped our first tracks, ‘It’s My Thing’ and ‘You’re A Customer’, the music took over. Then the record company Sleeping Bag Records called us and wanted us to do a whole album. So after ‘It’s My Thing’/’You’re A Customer’ we did the album Strictly Business.  Then Run-DMC called us up to go on tour. So more shows came, more security came, more record sales came. The music kind of took over and before you know it I was on tour.

Zo gezegd, zo gedaan. Met het eerste album Strictly Business had EPMD zichzelf stevig op de kaart gezet met een onmiskenbare hiphopklassieker. Het hoge niveau qua lyrics kwam volgens Parrish vooral door de vriendschappelijke competitie  die Parrish en Erick er als collega’s op nahielden.

The competition between me and Erick in lyrics and writing songs was always great because you had two people from the same place competing in a fun way. We already loved hiphop. We already loved KRS-One, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane and Dough E Fresh. So when our opportunity came we were lucky to have two of us. We kind of made music for ourselves. We didn’t care what was going on in the outside world when we were making Strictly Business and Business Never Personal. That’s what propelled us to that level of actually building a rep.

Parrish en Erick waren echter niet alleen als rappers aan elkaar gewaagd in EPMD. Alhoewel Erick Sermon vaak gezien wordt als DE producer van EPMD, was Parrish de man die de beats op de eerste albums voor zijn rekening nam.

Yeah, that is kind of like a misconception. The first three albums I did the production on; ‘Strictly Business’, ‘Unfinished Business’ and ‘Business As Usual.’ Then Erick started to do production on a major level with the fourth album, ‘Business Never Personal’. 

Zo blijkt Parrish bij nader inzien een vaak onderschatte bijdrage te hebben geleverd aan de ontwikkeling van beats en sampling in hiphop. EPMD kwam al vroeg met een verfrissende samplekeuze in een tijd dat de meeste producers kozen voor OF elektronische sounds OF James Brown samples. Parrish pakte echter muziek van onder meer ZZ Tops, Zapp en Eric Clapton. Dit kwam niet in de laatste plaats door zijn ervaring als DJ.

I was DJ Easy P because I started at the turntables at the age of 13. My father had a friend that he used to go to the clubs with. So when they went out they left me on the turntables, and that’s what brought More Bounce (het nummer van Zapp dat aan de basis lag van EPMD’s  ‘You Gots To Chill’) into play. I just kept spinning it and spinning it. So at the age of 13 I became a DJ. I was around a lot of DJ’s. My brother had a deal with Tommy Boy Records. He had Smithy Dee And The Rock Squad. The song that they dropped was called The Facts Of Life, and I was the DJ.

So how I came up on the production for the first albums had everything to do with the circle I was in. I was super blessed to be connected through my older brother who was rolling with Afrikaa Bambataa. They we’re doing house parties, and music like Seven Minutes Of Funk always got the party going and was the song MC’s always rapped to.

Samples from the ZZ Tops I used to find because I was at school and into football. We were around a diverse dorm with all nationalities, black/white etc. So I could wake up in the morning and hear songs like Cheap Sunglasses. I would be like “Yo, what is that?!” And that would be the dude next door from Stanford, Connecticut, blasting the ZZ Tops. So I always was around a wide variety of music like Phil Collins, Genesis, Eric Clapton and stuff like that. So when the time came for the music, it just came natural.
 

 

 

Binnen hiphopkringen is de laatste jaren steeds meer een discussie ontstaan over de voor- en nadelen van geavanceerde productietechnieken en verbeterde apparatuur. Veel klassieke hiphopplaten ontlenen hun briljante producties vaak juist aan de uitdagingen die producers moesten overwinnen door de gebrekkige apparatuur waarmee ze moesten werken.

The question is if not having the type of equipment and technology that they have now actually pushed us to be better.  Yeah, and it actually shows how ahead of time we were. We heard the music and we knew what we wanted to do with it. We didn’t have the tools to get it there so we had to improvise, kind of like MacGyver. We were around great engineers that could tape it on a half-inch tape, loop it and  once it’s looped go back to the original reel for 4 minutes for us to rap over it. So those are true stories from when there were no sampling machines. We used to tape to two-inch, get the splice right and loop it for 4 minutes. That’s how we were making music.

Het resultaat is bekend. Anno 2010 zijn EPMD 7 albums verder. Opvallend genoeg komt het woord Business voor in alle 7 albumtitels. Niet geheel ten onrechte blijkt overigens, aangezien EPMD vanaf hun begindagen bij Sleeping Bag Records hun muziek al als ‘independents’ uitbrachten. Waarom zijn Erick en Parrish met EPMD altijd de onafhankelijke weg blijven bewandelen?

In your career you don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. So you got to pay attention and not put your career in the hands of a manager or somebody else to come tell you you’re over. In the beginning, when we dropped the first song, you want to be noticed. But what you noticed is that the artists were in the hype, but the labels and the independent people were making the money. So why do you wanted to be in the hype? Why do you want to go through a major label, give them your music and just receive a royalty? That’s the difference. If you go to a major label you’ll get 80 or 90 cents a record. But if you go independent, you’re working with at least 7 to 10 dollars a record. So even if you sell less records, you’ll end up better, making more money. So with that being said, our first album was called Strictly Business. That’s what it was always about. And then putting out other artists like Das Efx, Redman and Keith Murray.

Parrish noemde zojuist enkele namen van artiesten die onder de vleugels van EPMD zijn begonnen aan succesvolle solocarrières. De eerste act die via EPMD opkwam was Das EFX in 1991. Slechts enkele jaren nadat EPMD in 1988 hun solodebuut uitbracht waren Erick en Parrish al in de positie om andere acts aan een platendeal te helpen. Hoe zijn ze zo snel in een dergelijke positie belandt?

I got into the business at a young age but I never looked at it like that. I just was having so much fun with the business and the music as well. You didn’t want a homeboy there and just pay him, taking care of him like a son. You want to put artists on so they could feel what you feel, like when you’re in the vocal booth. Make them get a tape out and get that suspense like “yo, what am I going to sell?” You make them get a mic on stage and rip it. So that was the purpose of putting the crew and the clique together. This way each artist did sound different, but we went on tour together and took the world by storm like we did.

Ondanks het vroege succes van de independent labels (bijvoorbeeld; de zuidelijke labels No Limit en Ca$h Money hebben grote independent successen geboekt in de jaren ‘90) vallen veel artiesten vandaag de dag nog steeds ten prooi aan major labels en hun zogenaamde three-sixty deals, zeker nu de verkoopsresultaten de afgelopen jaren sterk zijn teruggelopen.

 It’s a game though. It’s a sad game that people can’t see. Nobody can predict who’s going to sell records. So basically majors give you $ 1.500,-. And then you give them your product that turns around sells a million, times ten. He paid just $ 1.500,- to make 10 million dollars. That’s all it is. But as an artist coming from the hood you can’t see. And when there is pressure and a whole lot of stuff going on, you think it’s something it’s not. They be like; “Yo son, I need my crew, I need a manager.” And before you know you can’t think. You can’t create and get back to the basis that actually got you there in the first place. So those three-sixty deals are worse then you actually think because you got to give away your publishing, give away your merchandise. Kind of like Billy Joel when he was young. He sold away all his stuff to where he’s just getting it back now, so you got to be careful. The point is; if you incorpororate yourself, open your own label and give yourself a shot instead of being the middle-man, then everything comes back to you!

 

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