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[EPMD]; Bill Sienkiewicz

Original artwork by Bill Sienkiewicz for EPMD’s first Def Jam release Business as Usual (1990)

Lot Closed

July 25, 04:56 PM GMT


6,000 - 8,000 USD

Lot Details


Bill Sienkiewicz

"EPMD", 1990

Oil and acrylic paint with pastels on paperboard (40 x 40 in., image: 39 x 39 in.), signed "B. Sienkiewicz © 90" to recto

Gold, Jonathan. "EPMD "Business as Usual" [Def Jam]." Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1991. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1991-03-24-ca-1103-story.html.

Released in 1990, Business as Usual is the third studio album by East Coast rap duo, EPMD—an acronym for “Erick and Parrish Making Dollars” referencing the legal names of group members Erick Sermon ("E" a.k.a. E Double) and Parrish Smith ("PMD" a.k.a. Parrish Mic Doc). Growing up together in the same Long Island neighborhoods that produced De La Soul and Eric B. and Rakim, Sermon and Smith self-recorded their first single at home in 1988, when the older Smith was on spring break from college—"We thought you were supposed to produce your own stuff...then we got in the business and [found] out that mostly every rapper has a producer who comes in and does the music. We just put it out," said Smith in a 1991 interview. DIY defined the duo's early days, as they would only be signed to independent label Sleeping Bag Records after a day spent driving around Manhattan visiting label after label with their demo tape in tow—Sleeping Bag was their third stop.

Sleeping Bag would release this demo as a 2-sided single "It's Your Thing/"You're a Customer" that same year, with EPMD Strictly Business following in quick succession. The single, the debut, and EPMD's 1989 follow-up all found immediate success, with the two EPs rapidly rising to the top of the billboard charts. By the time EPMD released Business as Usual in 1990, EPMD established themselves as innovative voices in the genre—doing hardcore rap a little differently, preferring to rap over funk samples and rock breaks instead of the electronic, disco beats that dominated Hip Hop's first decade. production earlier in the decade. The Los Angeles Times put it simply in 1991—"To like EPMD, you’ve got to really like rap. And you can’t dance to it."

Business as Usual was the duo's first release on Def Jam Recordings after leaving Sleeping Bag, and Business was actually Def Jam's first release under the label's new Rush subsidiary that separated Def Jam masters from Sony Music's Columbia Records. The present lot—the original artwork that was reproduced on the cover of Business— was created by prominent American artist and comic illustrator Bill Sienkiewicz. Depicting the duo bathed in a pool of street light in the midst of a fantasy police stand-off, Sienkiewicz’s image is both arresting and poignant, making this cover one of the most recognizable Hip Hop artworks of the 1990s. While Sienkiewicz is largely known for his decades of illustration work with Marvel and DC comics, Sienkiewicz also developed a clientele base in the world of music entertainment starting in the 1990s and continuing through the aughts—creating not only this artwork for EPMD in 1990, but also the cover art for RZA's Bobby Digital in Stereo (1996), various covers for Spin magazine, and artwork for Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon: The End of Day (2009) and Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager (2010).