Some lyricists are blessed with the ability to rock mics and move crowds. Even fewer have perseverance. Tame One and El Da Sensai, who form the Newark, New Jersey-based rap duo, Artifacts, imbed their verbal skills in the minds of listeners like buried treasures. They are the kind of emcees recognized for their crafted talent rather than a flashy image- the kind placed in the category of true hip-hop.
Resurfacing from deep beneath the fertile soil of what Tame and El refer to as “New Jerusalem,” this respected duo returns with That’s Them , their long-awaited follow-up to the critically-acclaimed 1994 debut, Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Known primarily for a steady string of strong singles like the heart-felt graffiti homage, “Wrong Side of Da Tracks,” and “C’mon Wit Da Git Down,” (whose remix by Buckwild featured the boisterous Busta Rhymes), and “Dynamite Soul,” Tame and El have kept their hitting streak alive with a vinyl-only buzz single, “Art of Facts” in May, 1996. “Art of Facts” (which appears on That’s Them) elevated The Artifacts to the upper echelon of underground hip-hop with its haunting Shawn J. Period production that percolates with a mesmerizing melody and clever scratches by the group’s wax manipulator, DJ Kaos. A clear college radio/mix tape favorite, this gyrating groove reestablished Tame and El as hungry underground contenders, or, as in Tame’s words, “underdog mainstream” artists.
The album’s first single, “The Ultimate,” also featured on the gold High School High soundtrack (Big Beat/Atlantic), has airwaves that pulsate thanks to a clever hook and a phat track, produced by Da Beatminerz’ Baby Paul. Backed with a hard-hitting remix by Showbiz, this cut promises to reintroduce the duo to their old following as well as establish them amongst partying crowds across the country.
A year in the making, That’s Them, is Artifacts on the next level. Aware that many groups don’t get a second chance, the Artifacts were grateful, yet focused on doing their thing devoid of distractions that usually come with the pressures of avoiding the infamous “sophomore jinx.” The result? El anticipates this reaction to the album: “People are gonna be like, ‘Yo, these are not the same two brothers that was on the last team.'” The high level of intensity the Artifacts put into their album is audible song after song. El recalls, “The more songs we did on the album, the more amped up we were gettin’. And the songs got better.”
Indeed, the revitalized two-man arsenal lets loose throughout the duration of That’s Them. On the confrontational “Where Your Skillz At?” Tame vows to “smack that ass like Benny Hill,” while on the multi-faceted “The Interview,” he promises to “dis a nigga like a taxi.” It’s witty rhetoric such as this that best exemplifies the duo’s appeal. The album is full of key memorable lines that will cause kids on the street to shout, “That’s Them.” As Tame explains, “‘That’s Them’ was the name of the group before we got introduced to the industry. We decided to take it back to those days when people was goin’ ‘Yo, that’s those kids! That’s Them!'”
But back in the day, Tame One and El Da Sensai were not only known for rhyming. Representing the Boom Skwad, these graffiti kingpins caught wreck on the urban landscape of the East Coast. Their love for the art form manifested itself frequently on Between a Rock and a Hard Place. The saga continues with “Return to Da Wrongside,” another fitting tribute to graf. Though graffiti remains an important element in the Artifacts’ identity, there is less emphasis on this album than the first one. However, promises Tame, “We’ll probably do at least one for every album ’cause that’s where we came from.”
True to their roots, it’s doubtful The Artifacts will ever forget their Newark, New Jersey upbringing. They stress the importance of lettin’ the world know how the Brick City, infamous for leaders like Tame’s cousin, Redman, gets down. Staying in touch with their origins also led to one of the album’s tightest efforts, “Collaboration of Mics.” The song, produced by and featuring the Funky Man himself, Lord Finesse, also boasts the presence of Brand Nubian’s Lord Jamar, who looked out back in the days by helping the group record the original demo for “Wrong Side of Da Tracks” and in El’s words, “has been like a big brother to us.”
Fans can also expect the musical mastery of Mr. Walt from Da Beatminerz on the extremely bangin’ joint “Gettin’ Hot,” and V.I.C. of The Beatnuts fame who contributes two gems with “The Interview,” and “This Is The Way.” These delicious morsels are key ingredients from That’s Them, which acts like a long-lasting hip-hop memory leaving the listener satisfied and in the words of Tame One, “with a good taste in their mouth.”