Def Jam Records had made some of the most iconic Hip-Hop albums of all-time during the 1980s. After some sluggish years in the early 1990s, the label started by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin rebounded in a major way in 1998. That was the same year that the imprint forecast its future with the Def Jam 2000 campaign. A string of albums included #1 releases. DMX’s It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot and same year follow-up, Flesh Of My Flesh Of Blood Of My Blood topped the charts. So did JAY-Z’s Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, Foxy Brown’s Chyna Doll, and Method Man’s Tical 2000: Judgement Day. With the irons hot, Def Jam returned to focus on an act it had been working with for a decade: EPMD.
Released on July 20, 1999, Out Of Business was the sixth album for Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith. Standout single “Symphony 2000” gave the listeners a taste of raw lyrics and futuristic production featuring haunting strings from “Uccellacci Uccellini” by Italian composer Ennio Morricone. A previously recorded version of the song originally called “Symphony” featured M.O.P. and is also present on Out Of Business. Decisions were made at the label to push a version with more of an in-house, Def Jam feel. Erick Sermon protege (and Def Squad band-mate) Redman was recruited, along with Method Man, an artist who the Green-Eyed Bandit also worked closely with. Newer Def Jam act Lady Luck was chosen to spar in the Rap ring in which some would call the grand finale of what would be the last release of an EPMD’s historic Def Jam run.
EPMD Take Care Of Business At The Roots Picnic In New York (Video)
With direction from Steve Carr, the visual for “Symphony 2000” is based on the theme of Horror movies where all artists are present in a warehouse and also shown in scenes were they are dressed as his or her favorite scary movie character while releasing virulent lines to their victims.
PMD, as “Michael Myers,” starts the track off prepared for lyrical warfare as he spits, “I grab the mic and grip it hard like it’s my time to shine / I want the chrome and the cream so I can put it down for mine / Ill cat / Slick talk / Slang New York / To break it down to straight English / What the f*ck you want / Remember me / You punk fa**ot / Crab MC / Get your sh*t broke in half for f*cking with P / Hey yo’ strike two / My style Brooklyn like the zoo / Hey you / Look ni**a / One more strike you through.” Part of the delivery and style seems to salute Meth’s Wu-Tang Clan brother Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
Erick Sermon & Parrish Smith Are Still In Business. They Have An EPMD Sneaker (Video)
Next up to carry the devilish torch is Erick Sermon as “LeatherFace” from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While having a woman tied to a chair screaming, he taunts her with his gruesome family members while rapping, “Time to rock / The sound I got / It reigns hot / Making necks snap back / Like a slingshot / E hustle / And muscle my way in / The tussle for days in / On my own with guns blazing / Not for the fun of it / Just for those who want me to run it / Then leave them like / Who done it / Sucka’ duck / I do what I feel right now / When I spit the illest sh*t / Cats be like wow!”
One of the most memorable parts of the music video is when Funk Doc channels his inner Jack Nicholson while showcasing his own version of The Shining’s famous scene when “Jack Torrance” has become possessed and begins to chase his wife while hacking through walls and doors with an axe. After Redman breaks through the bathroom window, he shouts “Here’s Reggie!” Red then proceeds by starting his verse with a melody familiar to R. Kelly’s “Did You Ever Think.” Did you ever think you would catch a cap? / Yo, did you ever think you would get a slap? / Yo, did you ever think you would get robbed? / At gunpoint, stripped and thrown out the car?/ It’s Funk Doc, you know my name, h*e / My style dirty underground, or Ukraine po’ / When it hit you, pain pumps Kool-aid, through the vein and sh*t / Snatch the trap / Then I dash, like Damon did.”
Method Man And Redman Are Still Kings Of The Rap Jungle (Audio)
Method Man dressed as “Dr. Giggles” takes a stab at the track and his patient as she lays on an examination chair in pain with agony written all over her face. While dancing around and playing with surgical tools, Iron Lung hits the listeners’ head with, “Youth on the move / Paying them dues / Nothing to lose / Street kids, broken and bruised / Eyeing your jewels / Bad News, baring they souls through rhyming blues / Hardcore, to make them brothers act a fool / Hands on the steel, flip your heads over heel / Smell the daffodils / From the lyric overkill.”
When it comes to “Symphony 2000,” it seems the team gave way to a hungry MC. Seventeen-year-old Lady Luck channels “Carries.” At one point of her verse the Englewood, New Jersey rapper spits, “It’s written / We in the game, but I ball different/ Point game like Jordan, y’all play the role of Pippen / Style switching / Like tight ass after sticking / Man, listen / Stop your crying and your b*tchin’ / Like E and P’s last CD, You’re out of business.” Even with another high-powered appearance on Pharoahe Monch’s “Simon Says (Remix),” Lady Luck was never able to deliver a Def Jam release in the changing climate. These days she appears on Bravo’s First Family Of Hip-Hop reality series.
Other Ambrosia For Heads Do Remember Features
While Method Man is putting the finishing touches on The Meth Lab II, Redman is wrapping Muddy Waters Too. As for EPMD, Ewing Athletics recently paid tribute to Strictly Business with the release of a limited edition sneaker themed after the classic project. Additionally, the duo is said to be down with JAY-Z’s Roc Nation, working on a conceptual album of all two-artist crews, called Dynamic Duos: Big Business. Mobb Deep, M.O.P., Black Star, Salt-n-Pepa, and Capone-N-Noreaga are said to be some of the guests. “Symphony 2000” shows that Red’ and Meth’ should get that call too.