In 1993, as the combined members of both EPMD and their Hit Squad collective amassed sales of over 3 million albums, it was announced EPMD was breaking up. Once the dust settled, allegations of shady business practices and alleged threats of physical violence between Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith began to surface. At that point it was clear that Sermon and Smith were both literally and figuratively out of business.
Few people like to admit it, but every breakup has clear winners and losers. And while there were allegations that Smith initially pocketed more of EPMD’s profits, Sermon set himself up pretty nicely for a solo run.
“After that, I knew that I had Redman, and I had Keith Murray; those were the people that I signed,” Sermon would later explain. “We signed Das EFX together, but something went wrong. After [EPMD] broke up, they split and left. But they went downhill too.”
The 12-inch single “Hittin’ Switches” made it clear that Sermon was still capable of being a dominant producer and a more than capable emcee. Unless you were a New Yorker privy to his battle with Big Daddy Kane, you probably didn’t know about Murray. That all changed with “Hostile.” Fellow Long Island native Murray had a high-pitched, raspy flow. He flashed a razor blade in his mouth and said his dialect came “straight from the slums.” But he sounded equally comfortable threatening to do you bodily harm, making up words like “beautifullest” or breaking down the different regions of the human brain.
For fans of the “Golden Era,” it was great to eventually see EPMD reunite. But “Hostile” set up the formal, nationwide introduction to Keith Murray, and set off arguably the most underrated solo debuts, with Sermon’s No Pressure album.
“After the [EPMD] breakup, I dominated this game as far as production and records,” Sermon added. “I looked up myself one time, and someone said, ‘Yo Erick, I Googled you. There was like 700,000 pages because of the work you’ve been doing the past 20 years.’ I produced everybody’s records in both R&B and Rap music.”