PMD conducted by Todd E. Jones  

PMD Interview: Waking Up The Hip Hop Business


PMD, Parrish Smith (aka the Mic Doctor of the classic hip-hop group EPMD), has been traveling on a long road of rocking mics, releasing records, and keeping his mind on business. From classic EPMD tracks like "It's My Thing", "Gold digger", "Crossover", to "You Gots To Chill", PMD has dropped legendary verses and flows all throughout hip-hop history.

PMD's smooth, mellow voice along with his rugged style and b-boy attitude make him one of the most well respected old school hip-hop legends of today. The classic EPMD album "Strictly Business" had deep funky jams and a strong attitude. Other incredible EPMD albums like "Business Never Personal" and "Unfinished Business" were constant favorites of crowds, DJ's, and fans. With his partner Erick Sermon (The Green Eyed Bandit), EPMD formed Hit Squad. One of the first hip-hop squads, The Hit Squad gave birth to now legendary emcees like Redman, Das Efx, and K-Solo. Due to many different problems, EPMD broke up in the mid-90's and the future looked extremely bleak. PMD's first solo album "Shade Business" was considered a luke-warm effort while his sophomore LP "Business Is Business" did better.

Then, a miracle happened. EPMD reunited for the "How To Be A Player" soundtrack. They released 2 more albums ("Back In Business" and "Out Of Business") that spawned hard-hitting hip-hop tracks like "Richter Scale", "Never Seen Before", and "Symphony 2000". Since then, many well-respected hip-hop artists have made hits by jacking classic EPMD tracks. Jay-Z's first big hit "Ain't No…" used the beat from EPMD's "It's My Thing". DMX's bombastic debut "Get At Me Dog" used a straight-jacked loop of "Get The Bozac". The list goes on an on. Everybody from Nas to Wu-Tang Clan to Foxy Brown has used classic EPMD hits to make their own hits.

Today, EPMD (Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith) have left Def Jam. Erick, the E Double E, has formed Def Squad with Redman and Keith Murray while PMD maintained Hit Squad. Erick Sermon signed to J Records while PMD made an alliance with the underground and indie label Solid Records to make his own Boon Dox Records. Also, his professional and friendship relationship with Japan's own DJ Honda cemented many ill collaborations.

With a brand new Hit Squad, a new label, and a brand new attitude, PMD just released his 3rd (and best) solo album "The Awakening". While his other solo efforts were not as focused, "The Awakening" is overflowing with thick, funk beats, hardcore rhymes, steady production, and many well respected guests. It is his most focused and strongest solo LP to date. Kutmasta Kurt, DJ Muggs, Alchemist, Pete Rock, Ghetto Pros, and DJ Honda handle production on the LP. Guests include Fat Joe, Erick Sermon, K-Solo, Das Efx and more. PMD also has time to play the mentor role by signing protégés like 275 and Don Fu-Quan.

Still, Parrish Smith is not done. After he releases "The Awakening", he plans to release a collaboration album with DJ Honda titled "Underground Connection". While the future of EPMD may not be 100% certain, Parrish Smith's future is. He will be rocking mics. PMD has redeemed himself. He has awoken from the coma of the industry and music business. Today, PMD's business IS personal. Parrish Smith, the mic doctor, the PMD of EPMD, is back and better than ever. You better wake up.

MVRemix: Your new album is called ‘The Awakening'. What's the meaning behind that title? Tell us about it?

PMD: Well, after 16 years in the game, being young from Brentwood, Long Island, and having a dream to going to meet Run-Dmc and selling a lot of records, I'm one of the few who can still be in the game. I can rock from the old school and the new school at the same time. So, I learned a lot, traveled around the world, and did my music.

MVRemix: Who is doing the production on ‘The Awakening'? Who are the guests on it?

PMD: As far as production-wise, I got production by Pete Rock, DJ Muggs, Alchemist, DJ Honda showed me some love. I have Kutmasta Kurt, Ghetto Pros, and myself.

MVRemix: Do you have a favorite song on ‘The Awakening'?

PMD: All of them are dope because they all represented pain. I'm going through something on each song. I don't care, man. I wanted to get my album done. So, all of them, to me, are phat.

MVRemix: Why did you choose Solid Records?

PMD: Well, because one, I was able to do what I wanted from an independent standpoint. I didn't want to just sign with some major, go into Manhattan, and put out a demo, like I'm trying to drop a solo. That's not the purpose of ‘The Awakening'. The purpose of ‘The Awakening' is coming back to the game like this - Hit Squad was the 1st squad of all squads. Follow that, and you got it. Now, the game has changed so much that you can't just bring a demo tape to Manhattan anymore. They want to see you put your vinyl together. They want to see you put your artwork together. They want you to get the buzz. That's the whole purpose of ‘The Awakening'. Come and put an independent situation together so you don't have to sell out like ‘The Crossover'.

MVRemix: How did you meet Erick Sermon and form EPMD?

PMD: Well, in 8th grade, Erick moved to my neighborhood. I had turntables. I was DJ in The Rock Squad. Everyday, after school, we would meet in the middle of the hallway and we would freestyle. Out of all the people free styling, Erick was the illest. He was always saying these wild rhymes where people would say, ‘Oh! That's ill!'. I had the turntables set up and the equipment in his basement. So, after school, we would cut and mess with rhymes. We always said that if we had a chance to get on, we would attack the game. We went to the studio, looped up ‘7 Minutes Of Funk' and dropped ‘It's My Thing'. That's when EPMD was introduced to the world.

MVRemix: Will there be another EPMD album in the future?

PMD: Yes! Definitely! We have one in the works called ‘We Mean Business'. But we're not rushing it. We dropped ‘Back In Business' when we got back in business together. But, you know what, we just rocked on dope tracks. Then, we dropped ‘Out Of Business' and people were like ‘How can you go from being back in business but then go out of business?'. There comes a point where you have to call a time out and show some respect for the people who respected you from day one. That's why ‘We Mean Business' is coming straight over the plate. We have around 7 songs. We're just letting the industry go through whatever it has to go through before we drop it.

MVRemix: Out of the EPMD LPS, do you have a favorite?

PMD: Nah. Definitely not.

MVRemix: Out of your solo LPS, which one is your favorite?

PMD: This one right here. My favorite is ‘The Awakening' because on the last 2, I wasn't taking it serious. ‘Shade Business' was going through a lot. ‘Business Is Business' was going through a lot. I started feeling myself a little on ‘It's The Pee 97' when I got with Prodigy. Then, from there, EPMD got back together. So, on ‘The Awakening', I was fortunate to really get a look at who I was while I was in the hood. I stepped in the same studio and vocal booth as EPMD and Das Efx, Redman, K-Solo with the first Hit Squad and really come out with some dope tunes. This is just one of like 100 albums that I plan on doing. You know how that go.

MVRemix: As an emcee, who were some of your major influences?

PMD: Run-Dmc of course. Rakim, Krs-One and Biz Markie. Out of today's era, I like 50 Cent, and a lot of underground groups. I like The Lox. I like Sheek's solo effort and stuff like that.

MVRemix: DJ Honda is an important part of your music these days. How did you two meet and what has this collaboration been like?

PMD: Me and Honda have been dope! Before I got up with DJ Honda, I wanted to work with somebody from Japan. Then, I was fortunate to have a mutual friend that told me that DJ Honda was working on his ‘H3' album and he wanted to get up with me. I was like ‘cool!'. The DJ Honda situation was basically, I wanted to work with somebody form Japan but I didn't know it was going to be on this level. I just knew that hip-hop was growing and we did what we could do in the states but outside the country, they still wanted the music and still wanted to learn about the culture. I'm still the only one out of the Hit Squad and Def Squad that hasn't been to Japan. So, that's sort of wild. So, when I got DJ Honda, we knocked out ‘H3' and did like 3 songs. We looked at each other and was like ‘You know what? We should do an album'. So that's where ‘Underground Connection' came from.

MVRemix: Is Jane based on a real person?

PMD: At first no, but now, yeah. (laughs). At first no, but when the whole thing went down, I was like ‘Yo!'. There was a Jane, man. I ain't gonna front, Todd! Cuz, you know, how many people have to walk through the fire and are still here.

MVRemix: Do you go into the studio with pre-written rhymes and themes or do you hear the beat first and write then and there?

PMD: Aw! These are dope questions! The sh*t's crazy. It happens for me 2 ways. If I have a track already, and I listen to it, sometimes I write to it but then, by the time I get to the studio and lay it down, I feel different so, I write some different stuff. Now, a perfect example is the song ‘Back To Work' that features K-Solo. I wrote a song to that track but when I got into the studio and hit the zone, I totally rhymed something that wasn't even written down. Then, when it was there and was done, and I came out of the booth, the expressions on the people's faces were like ‘I don't care what you were going to say or if you were just warming up, you cannot erase that!'. So, I kept it.

MVRemix: What's going on with K-Solo these days?

PMD: Yo! K-Solo is getting his whole situation together. He just did a song with Honda. He did ‘Back To Work' with me. He's on the road with us. We're going to do 10 cities and knock out the promo.

MVRemix: When did you start BoonDox Records?

PMD: 1996.

MVRemix: You have a bunch of new people on your new label. Who is 275 and Don Fu-Quan? How did you meet them?

PMD: 275 is a group from Dayton, Ohio that we've been working with for the last 3 years. These guys aren't just artists, I'm giving them their own label. They know how to do the independent thing. Don Fu-Quan is from the lower East-side of Manhattan. He's 20 years old. It's sort of like the Eminem situation. He got up with Dr. Dre. He knew who Dre was and Dre just had to bring it out of Eminem. That's the same thing that 275 and Don Fu is doing. Now, they rock with The Hit Squad. They have albums coming out at the end of the year or early 2004.

MVRemix: What emcee/group would you like to collaborate with in the future?

PMD: I definitely want to do a song with Sheek Louch from The Lox. I listen to this guy, man, and he's incredible. He be saying some incredible sh*t. People don't understand. When you are into real hip-hop and a real b-boy and somebody starts rhyming like that, you can hear it. His analogies are sick. ‘Sheek from the block / Look at Sheek who knows how to box. Parachute down on your front lawn.' Yo! That's crazy. (laughs). I also want to do a song with Ghostface Killah.

MVRemix: What producer would you like to collaborate with in the future?

PMD: Dr. Dre. I've done so much stuff in my music career. I did it for myself. I was self-contained. Now that I have a better understanding for the game, I want to rock with Dr. Dre because of who he is and because of Aftermath. I would want to rock with Dr. Dre because he's from way back there in the N.W.A. days and the Eazy-E era.

MVRemix: What was the last incident of racism that you encountered?

PMD: Can I be honest? I don't encounter racism. I may see it but I don't associate myself with it. I just look at it as ignorance and a lack of understanding in the world where people live. I don't associate myself with it. That's what hip-hop does to me. So, if I see something that racially happens, I just look at it and keep it moving.

MVRemix: Death Penalty - for or against?

PMD: Really, honestly, the world we live in has people so smart. They are flipping in-between the lines and bringing crap out. I think that the whole justice system should just change to an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. I've seen a funny comedian on TV and he was off the hook. He said, ‘Yo! That's the way it goes. If you do a foul act to a woman, then, chop it off.' Everybody else will be saying ‘No means no! No means no!'.

MVRemix: Where were you on Sept. 11th, 2002? How did you deal with it? How do you think it has affected or will affect hip-hop?

PMD: On September 11th, I was lucky enough to be home. Out of all the traveling I do, that day, I was laying on my couch, watching TV and listening to the radio. It has affected hip-hop greatly because before, you could just make any type of music. Now, the people went so many notches down because of the pain and the loss. You have to change your frame of mind and have some understanding about how the way the world is before you can even try to approach a song or drop an album. That's why so many other artists are catching bricks and that's why this album is called ‘The Awakening'. Sure, people are happy and having fun with the music but look at all of those people we lost and those repercussions.

MVRemix: Many artists and groups have used classic EPMD beats. (i.e. 'Nastradamus' by Nas uses 'Let the Funk Flow', 'Ain't No…' by Jay-Z uses 'It's My Thing'.) Which one is your favorite? Which artist did the song justice?

PMD: Hmmm. I think Jay-Z did it with ‘Ain't No N*gga'. I know Dmx did it with ‘Get At Me Dog'. That was big. You know? When I was getting my mind together, you go through stuff, like every other artist. You hear it and there was knowledge in it to explain what he was going through. Then, they go through it. It's sort of bugged, just like a spinning wheel. Those 2, I thought, were so phat.

MVRemix: What did you think of the Memphis Bleek & Beanie Sigel remake of 'So What You Sayin'?

PMD: I thought that was dope too for the simple fact that when you come full circle, and you're starting to get up, starting to come and you can see it, and then you hit. You get it on the radio and 2 of the hardest sounding acts get on it and do it. Then, they called us up and said, ‘You and Erick want to come and rock Nassau Coliseum or Madison Square Garden? We'll sing the first verse and you'll sing the second one. Not only did they use our song but they showed love and helped to bring us to the forefront to explain that this is where it came from.

MVRemix: EPMD have been re-making your own classic tracks. On 'Awakening', you re-made 'You're A Customer'. On ‘Back In Business', EPMD remade ‘You Gots To Chill'. What is the next re-make fans can expect?

PMD: Well, the next remake… I don't even know. All of those remakes, like ‘Still A Customer', I just did that because, wherever I was, I understood that the EPMD sound hasn't been out for a minute, so I came back with the ‘Nick Knack Patty Wack'. To be honest with you, (laughs), some of those songs that we did over, we look at them now, like ‘Yo!? Enough with the BS, let's start grinding.' (laughs). You know what I mean, Todd?

MVRemix: What happened to DJ K La Boss?

PMD: La Boss changed his name to DJ 45. He's DJ'd some shows with Puffy.

MVRemix: Word association time. I'm going to say a name of a group/emcee and you say the first word that pops in your head. So, if I say ‘Chuck D', you may say ‘Revolution'. Okay?

PMD: Alright. I'm here.

MVRemix: Freddie Foxxx

PMD: Ill cat.

MVRemix: Jay-Z

PMD: Dope rapper.

MVRemix: Eminem

PMD: That's an ill one. Total package.

MVRemix: Canibus

PMD: Nice freestyler.

MVRemix: Gil-Scott Heron

PMD: I don't even know who that is.

MVRemix: Gil-Scott Heron did ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised'. Also, he has a song called ‘Message To The Messagers' that is on the ‘Spirits' LP that is directed to rappers."

PMD: Yeah, I've heard the name. I've got to check that song out! Wow!

MVRemix: What is your favorite part of your live show?

PMD: Man, you're asking some very good questions! My favorite part of my live show is that it's all spur of the moment. It's not planned. We don't come with a set thing. We come and every show is different. When you have somebody like DJ Honda, who knows equipment and music back and forth, you can just go up in there. You can't go to a show with a set hand. You can't be in a place like California where people want to hear ‘Crossover' or ‘Gold digger' and you're like ‘Nah, nah'. We like that we come in free and spur of the moment. So, when the person says that they want to hear ‘Crossover', we're like ‘Here you go'. Boom! ‘The rap era is out of control / Brothers are selling their souls / Going, going, gone!'. You know?

MVRemix: What is the biggest mistake you made in your career?

PMD: Getting in my own way. Because, they say in the bible ‘You're not from this world, you are just of it. When you have a vision, it's up to you to carry out the vision of God, not your own.' So, when Erick and I first got together, we've seen hip-hop bleeding. We signed a contract and thought we were covered. But no matter what happened, we were still responsible for what we came forward and presented to the hip-hop community. Only, we left the game and we didn't leave the structure. A lot of people paid for that. We started thinking in a natural way. We started to do what we wanted to do like the solo projects. So, my biggest mistake was when I just let it happen, everything flowed. When I got in my way and started thinking and started to change things, that was when things started messing up. To me, from what I understand, EPMD is a great hip-hop group. The people still want to hear our music. Who are Erick and I to get in the way to mess that up?

MVRemix: What are some major misconceptions do you think that people have of you?

PMD: I don't think they have any major misconceptions. I just think that they think that I am exactly who I am. My whole image is built on me being me. When I am at my mother's house, my mother is a serious woman. My father is a serious man. The rap game is cool, but at the end of the day, when I walk in their house, all that sh*t is dead! That's what we didn't have, supervision. We were too rebellious like this and that, and this and that. But when we got that far in the game, we had to double back to see who we were and where we came from to know where we were going. So, I always came with ‘It's My Thing', ‘You're A Customer', ‘So What Chu Sayin', ‘You Gots To Chill', ‘The Big Payback', and ‘I'm Bad'. My whole life was just looking at the world regardless of what anybody says, I believe in myself and God. Why don't I have to work 16 years later?

MVRemix: On the new album ‘The Awakening', what song took you the longest to do?

PMD: Ah, man! These are some good questions, Todd! Yo!, ‘Straight From The Heart', the one Kutmasta Kurt produced, with the single and the video, took the longest. He didn't even call me PMD because he knew me from back in the days. It bugged me out that when I was coming back in the game, there was so much love. I already learned from you, today. That's what life is about… learning! I got to hear that song by Gil-Scott Heron. I heard his name in some emcee's rhymes and stuff like that.

MVRemix: What can we expect from PMD in the future?

PMD: You know me, I'm coming straight from the heart. I'm doing the same thing I did with ‘Strictly Business' and I'm trying to make a difference in the world and give back the knowledge. I had to do some work wherever I was because that's what the rap game means to me. Now, I'm getting jewels and I'm ready to move on from here. I can do a 100 more songs.

MVRemix: What advice would you give and up and coming emcee?

PMD: You should be doing yourself. If you really want to make an impact at this game, you have to learn the game first and the world you live in. Step forward so you can present yourself to the world, the way you see it. That's why many of these artists are having problems. They have one type of music or vision in their heart and by the time they get to the majors, and the major labels give them the money, the labels are like ‘This is what we want you to sound like. This is what is on the TV right now. We want you to wear this. You hear that record on the radio? We want you to rhyme and sound like that.' The Hit Squad always dissed that. Be yourself! If you come from the hood and rep, we'll give you the flag, rep it all the way out.

MVRemix: Why did EPMD leave Def Jam Records?

PMD: Well, when EPMD broke up, we did ‘Back In Business' and ‘Out Of Business'. Then, Erick wanted to do a solo album with another record label. I don't know. Something happened with the name Sermon and before you know it, Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen did us a favor. They could've charged us money to go to J Records but they were like ‘Nah, go ahead, you're good'.

MVRemix: Will the new EPMD album come out on J Records?

PMD: No, not even. EPMD is just chilling right now. We can sign to a major label for distribution but right now, Erick is rapping up the Keith Murray album and my album is just coming out. We have too much magic.

MVRemix: Any final words for the people who will be reading this?

PMD: Yeah. I'm just happy that I'm still reading things about EPMD because I really went and lived life. I understand what life is about. I understand how God works and Jesus Christ works. If you really want to live life, you should live free. Do not live in bondage. You shouldn't be married if you're not happy. If you have children, take care of your children. You can't expect good things to happen if your children are suffering. Look at what we went through. Everybody involved in hip-hop has to have something. That's not right. When you step to hip-hop, it's always that positive light. Be yourself! When you project up into the future and you're looking back in your 60's, you'll be happy with all of the decisions you've made. Life ain't all roses but it is what you make it and it is what you believe in your heart. It starts with faith.

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