Before Wu-Tang Clan, before MMG, before YMCMB, The Hit Squad were hip-hop’s most dominant crew. Led by pavement Godfathers EPMD, the collective which also featured Redman, K-Solo and Das EFX reigned supreme with vertebrae shattering classics and several lucrative record label deals.
A little over 20 years since the Hit Squad’s formation, the now disbanded unit reunited in New York City last night for a reunion concert where they not only brought back their timeless hits, but paid tribute to fellow legends.
With DJ Scratch on the wheels, Erick Sermon and Parish Smith were the first MCs to hit the stage. P, wore a “fisherman’s hat,” one of the group’s trademarks, while E rocked a headband over his bald dome. The first record was “I’m Mad,” replete with duo’s beloved, flagrant posturing. “You looked the other way, that’s when I knew you was on my dick kid,” Parish rhymed.
K-Solo then joined his one-time mentors on stage for “Nick Nack Patty Wack.” Solo has been the Hit Squad’s least heard or seen members over the past 15 years, so the reaction for him was that of shock, even though he had been advertised.
EPMD and Solo exited, making way for the most energetic performer of the night, Keith Murray. When EPMD broke up in the early 1990s, Murray became a franchise player of Sermon’s Def Squad. Murray went through “I Shot Ya” and his interlude off of Mary J. Blige’s My Life LP, where he rapped over the track that eventually became the soundscape for Notorious B.I.G.s “Who Shot Ya.”
After Das EFX’s “Straight from the Sewer,” Redman got the loudest initial reaction, coming out and teasing “Tonight’s Da Night.” After telling DJ Scratch to bring the record back, the crowd roared the Funk Doc’s famous line, “I walk around the street with the street with the black tech nine on the waistline, kicking they hype shit!”
Throughout the night, each act in the Squad would interchange sets, with each having their own signature highlight. Keith Murray crowd surfed and stage dove during “The Rhyme,” Redman, who also reunited with DJ Twins onstage, brought out Method Man for “Da Rockwilder.”
EPMD and Scratch paid homage to Run DMC and Jam Master Jay, all wearing fedoras and gold chains. Erick and Parish also wore Adidas track jackets.
“I do this for De La Soul, for Big Daddy Kane, for Mos Def and Talib Kweli” Sermon said after acknowledging Run-DMC were heavy influences on EPMD. In fact it was JMJ who introduced Scratch to Sermon and Smith in the late 80s.
The Hit Squad reunion ended with the entire collective and all their friends onstage melting the mic with “The Headbanger.” —Shaheem Reid