There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Of EPMD’s E-Double and PMD there is no question who has had the more successful solo career. While brothers have been filing missing-person reports for PMD, E-Double (aka Erick Sermon) has continued to be a force in hiphop. While he isn’t the most creative lyricist in the world, Sermon is still a dope producer, and with a little help from his partners Keith Murray and Redman, he has managed to keep himself on the map. Given the lyricists he’s produced (Redman, Murray, K-Solo, Das Efx), you’d expect Sermon’s compilation album, Insomnia, to be off the hook. Yet while Sermon gets props for high-quality production, the MCs on this album don’t even approach most of the ones Sermon produced in the past. In fact, the phattest cuts come from the two artists already well established in Def Squad’s camp, Murray and Redman. Murray brings his avalanche-style flow to “It’s That Hit.” Backed by some keys and laid-back drums, the result is pure butter. But the album-stealer is Redman’s “Funkorama.” Staying true to its name, the cut features a funky drum track and some vocals to embellish Redman’s flow. Redman goes ballistic with lyrics like “I’m top notch/Naw fuck that, that notch’s topped/I’m off the meter/I make computers catch amnesia.” He invokes the hiphop establishment as he raps, “My style is def like Row/Or def like Jeff/Def like Squad, like Jam/Or def like Meth.” The shit is one of the illest cuts Redman has released. But after that, it’s a long road downhill. Jamal and Calif give forgettable performances on “Beez Like That,” as do most of Sermon’s other MCs. In all fairness, it really isn’t Sermon’s fault—almost all the beats are phat. But next time out, he should be more careful about who he puts on his album. —Ta-Nehisi Coates