After a breakup which may have been a little foreshadowed on the Business Never Personal EP, it was time for E Double to step out of the EPMD shell and prove himself as a solo artist. Having handled a majority of the production during his time with Parrish Smith it was expected that if either of the two was going to make it by themselves, Erick would have the better chance. Although No Pressure didn’t quite gain the commercial success that the Green-Eyed Bandit previously saw while alongside his partner-in-rhyme, the album itself was actually quite well made, with that funky boom bap style Erick Sermon was known for. In fact while only a couple singles came from the release, what was critically panned as a failure was actually one of the better albums in the EPMD catalog.
Appropriately titled, No Pressure is really quite calm, as Erick Sermon was clearly confident in making the transition to solo artist. He must have known the expectations because this album never sleeps, it all flows together perfectly and the pace is such that you won’t find yourself reaching for the skip button. It makes sense really, as Erick Sermon was always the stand-out member in the duo. Even though the back and forth rhyme schemes of the two spitters made for some incredible songs (and concept tracks such as the “Jane” series), Erick’s voice and cadence always stood out more so than Parrish. And with the funky beats on lock it’s no surprise that the Green Eyed Bandit was able to create something by himself that was just as good as what he had been doing with his other half. Songs like “The Payback II” and “Stay Real” are early reminders that the EPMD sound always came from Erick first, with Parrish being a solid but not necessarily crucial element.
Does going solo mean you can’t bring guests along? Of course not, and as “Hostile” proves Erick Sermon also had a knack for picking good talent as he introduces Keith Murray, who rips apart the already hype track. The album itself is broken into two halves, and ever the brilliant mind, E-Double makes the second half more feature heavy, as if to showcase his own talents first before bringing in his squad of rappers, all of whom possess elevated rhyming abilities. He front loads his solo tracks, then gives us a couple tracks with his protégés just when we might start to think “oh he can’t do all this alone.” His use of this strategy is another reason why this album works so well. It’s a solo album but in the appropriate rapper/producer style. Part of every great beat maker’s catalog is the chemistry he has with other artists. Guests aren’t a crutch, they’re just an opportunity to expand your roster, hence we get the first official Def Squad track “Swing It Over Here” which is a precursor to that trio’s also underrated album.
My favorite joint on the album has always been “The Ill Shit” with Kam and Ice Cube. The hook is infectious, sampling Ice Cube’s famous lyric from Da Lench Mob’s “Guerillas In The Mist” (“with the boom ping PING, listen to the ill shit that I bring BRING”). All three MCs deliver top notch verses, with Cube wrapping up the track sounding as hungry as when he first set off “Straight Outta Compton” especially on the final line “so fuck all my enemies” which lets us know he ain’t forgot about all the bullshit he went through. My other favorite track is “All In The Mind” which has a hook and beat that will make you wanna throw fists and smash bottles in the club; shit is classic hardcore boom bap rap.
Even though the group split up, Erick Sermon still dropped an incredible album with No Pressure and proved he didn’t need Parrish to make a solid record. It flew under the radar partly because of the west coast rise at the time, but it was still a solid effort that plays straight through without the need for the skip button. No Pressure easily rivals many EPMD albums (especially their later work) and while it’s slept on, the album is still as funky today as it was back then.
Stream: Erick Sermon “Imma Gitz Mine”
Stream Erick Sermon: “The Ill Shit”
Stream: Erick Sermon “All In The Mind”
— C-Dub aka Classic Material