EPMD’sUnfinished Businesswas released July 25, 1989 on Fresh Records. The effort is the follow-up to 1988’s critically acclaimed EPMD debut album,Strictly Business,and it features “So Wat Cha Sayin’,” one of the duo’s biggest hits. Twenty five years after its release, HipHopDX looks back at the album’s reviews, singles, awards and the group’s history following the 1989 album release.
EPMD’s Unfinished Business‘ Reviews Revisited
Critics praised Unfinished Business for upholding the quality of EPMD’s debut, while continuing to give the two emcee’s a platform to further establish themselves. One reviewer wrote that the album improves upon its predecessor in the fourth edition of The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, which gave the album a four out of five. “Unfinished Business is more professional,” they wrote. “Still strictly breaks and beats, their sophomore album isn’t much of a departure, but it does find them settling into their lyrical personas, Smith the straight-faced heavy and Sermon the comic relief.”
AllMusic gave the album half a star more than Rolling Stone, highlighting some of the similarities between Unfinished Business and EPMD’s debut. “For the most part, EPMD’s lyrics aren’t exactly profound — boasting and attacking sucker MCs is still their favorite activity,” AllMusic said. “However, Erick and Parrish do challenge themselves a bit lyrically on ‘You Had Too Much to Drink’ (a warning against drunk driving) and ‘Please Listen to My Demo,’ which recalls the days when they were struggling. But regardless of subject matter, they keep things exciting by having such an appealing, captivating sound. Comedian Chris Rock even placed the album on his Top 25 Hip Hop albums list for Rolling Stone. ‘Before Eminem made “Lose Yourself,” ‘Please Listen To My Demo’ was the best record about wanting to become a rapper ever made.”
Unfinished Business Singles & Awards
On “So Wat Cha Sayin,” the opening track and sole single of the album, Erick and Parrish rap, “The proof is in the pudding/ Yo, check the Billboard.” The single peaked at #5 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles chart and 23 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. Unfinished Business’s performance on the charts mirrored this as well, peaking at #1 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums charts. In just under three months after its release, Unfinished Business was certified Gold by the RIAA.
The album also made an appearance as #39 on The Source’s 1998 Top 100 Rap Albums of All Time list, just behind EPMD’s Business As Usual and Strictly Business at 37 and 38, respectively.
EPMD Releases Following Unfinished Business
Continuing the motif of “business” titles, EPMD has released five albums since Unfinished Business. EPMD switched labels from Fresh Records to Def Jam Records, and immediately followed up with their last #1 album, Business As Usual, in 1990.
While recording their next album, Business Never Personal, Sermon and Smith had a falling out. Sermon reportedly hired a group of people to rob Smith’s house. As a result, both artists embarked on a solo career.
Unfinished Business’s legacy can be measured by its influence on later Hip Hop records. The track “Knick Knack Paddy Wack” was one of the first to sample Joe Cocker’s “Woman To Woman,” which was later sampled on Tupac’s “California Love,” and spawned Tha Dogg Pound’s cover on In The Beginning…There Was Rap. Beanie Sigel and Memphis Bleek also delivered their own rendition of “So Wat Cha Sayin” on the Just Blaze-produced “So What You Saying” in 2001.
2008 saw the release of EPMD’s latest album, We Mean Business. DX gave the album a four out of five, highlighting the duo’s retention of quality over time. “We Mean Business is a contemporary album that upholds ’80s emcee codes of honor, and the ’90s tradition of collaboration,” DX said. “From the very beginning, EPMD has never made a poor album. No longer with Def Jam and big studio and sample budgets, they still haven’t. Moreover, after Out Of Business felt like a fulfilled label obligation, along with a steady offering of good, traditional New York rap, the real takeaway from We Mean Business is to see E and P together for them and the fans, and have it feel as sincere as it did in 1987.”