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"WTR meets WYDU presents: "I Love The 90's" (1994, Pt. II)

by Eric on March 2, 2008

“Between A Rock And A Hard Place-Artifacts (Big Beat, 1994)

After reading one of Dan Love’s (From Da Bricks) posts regarding the productions of beatmaker T-Ray (Double XX Posse, MC Serch), I couldn’t help but think to myself (I know there’s Discogs, but I have about an hour each nite to post..each minute is CRUCIAL) “didn’t T-Ray do some beats on the Artifacts joint as well?”. Well, I finally did break down and revert to Discogs and yes indeed he did do 7 tracks for the Artifacts’ 1994 classic believe it or not. For some reason, I’d always thought that “Between A Rock & A Hard Place” was a Buckwild helmed production…..not so. If someone approached me and said “Eric, give me an album that represents the East Coast sound in the mid-90’s” this would be one of a select few along with “Illmatic“, “Dah Shinin” & “Enta Da Stage”. Tame One & El Da Sensei proved to be more than deserving of all the hype and attention that they received in anticipation of their debut. With more than competent lyrical content and an undeniable chemistry, Tame & MC El where destined to put New Jeruzalem (Jersey) on the map much like their predecessor fellow Brick City native Redman had done so admirably before them.

With Classic singles like the graffiti laden “Wrong Side Of Da Tracks” and the Buckwild produced “neck snapper”, “C’mon Wit Da Git Down”, “Between A Rock & Hard Place” was filled to the rim with quality product and catchy lyricism from both of the aforementioned emcees whom would later part for solo paths of their own. I’ve always wondered why this album is often overlooked when conjuring up a list of definitive East Coast albums. Maybe it was it’s untimely release, for some reason I want to believe that this came out around the time Pete & CL dropped “The Main Ingredient” and Brand Nubian dropped “Everything Is Everything”, on the other hand a part of me thinks this came out around the time “Ready To Die” dropped. Whatever the case, with tracks such as the reminiscent “Whayback” and my favorite track.. the ode to the herbal “Lower The Boom” (damn, that beat is hard!!) fueling this release, it’s safe to say that if you’ve never heard “Between A Rock & A Hard Place” you truly need a late pass. Do yourself a solid, pop this in the headphones and you’ll soon hear why I’m so big on this album. Sh*t, I’m just embarrassed I let it slide this far down my list when I did my “Top 100″ albums of all-time!

“Wrong Side Of The Tracks”-Artifacts


“Project: Funk Da World”-Craig Mack (Bad Boy, 1994)

Bring it on folks, I’m armed and ready for the backlash that I received from a select few of you in regards to my opinions on Milk’s “Never Dated”. I can hear it now “Damn dude! How can you put Craig Mack in your “Top 100″ then go and bash a legend an innovator in Hip Hop (Milk Dee)? Well, let me just state the facts, when Craig Mack dropped a major bomb on your ears with much thanks due to Easy Mo Bee who supplied one of the illest beats ever with “Flava‘ In Ya’ Ear” (or the remix, you pick em’), admit it….you’d never heard anything like it at that time. Much like the first moment you heard Keith Murray spit on “The Most Beautifullest Thing In This World”, there just weren’t too many cats out in 1994 that where doin‘ it like Craig & Keith did it. Please, let’s disregard Craig’s sophomore “flop” (and boy, I mean FLOP), “Operation:Get Down”.  Craig’s debut on Bad Boy is by no means “ground breaking” or “earth shattering” but it is filled with block rockin‘ beats and very good production.

Forget Biggie, forget Mase, G Dep, Loon, etc….It was Craig who was the first rapper to shine on the Bad Boy label. While Craig will never claim a spot on your “favorite rapppers of all time” list he was…much like Biz Markie, one of a kind with an unmistakable voice and candor on the M-I-C. I’ve always been a HUGE Easy Mo Bee fan (which is one of the reasons that I’m skeptical of listening to his 2000 compilation released to very little fanfare) and it doesn’t hurt matters that all five of the beats that he contributed to this album knock for blocks with the most obvious banger being “Flava‘ In Ya’ Ear”. Plus, at only 11 tracks deep “Project: Funk Da World” does a fine job of keeping the listener “listening” rather than reaching for the fast forward button. Damn, this album will no doubt have you reminiscing of the days when Bad Boy was droppin‘ dopeness and not Danity Kane!

“The Most Beautifullest Thing In This World”-Keith Murray (Jive, 1994)

Who here can recall the first time they heard Keith Murray spit on E Double’s “Hostile”? I remember hearing that ish‘ and thinking “damn this dude is bugged, but he’s gonna’ be big!”. Was I somewhat accurate? Ehhh…bugged? Definitely! Big? Somewhat, even though in the earlier days of this blog I may have mistakenly deemed Murray’s sophomore effort “Enigma” as a slump, I’m now man enough to admit my misjudgement (after a few nudges to give the album a second chance from your e-mails, I can see and hear that is is clearly not a “slump”). With “The Most Beatifullest“, Keith Murray bounded from the starting blocks with the lead single of the same title. I mean C’mon, who out there in the winter of 94′ was comin‘ fresh out the box with their government name?..No alias, no BS..just Keith Murray at his finest. With wordplay and diction that was far and above even Keith’s grasp (see the “Mary’s Joint” interlude off Mary’s “My Life”…”Catch this boobonic plague in ya’ head..chest, arms, back & legs”….huh??)..Keith was definitely on some other sh*t!

Backed by the funklord Erick Sermon himself, Keith shined on tracks such as the ode to herb “Get Lifted” and the outerspace directed “Escapism”. With Sermon supplying the groggiest, dragging basslines that he’s soo notable for, yet dousing them with infinite P-Funk samples..Keith displayed the most outlandish, entertaining vocabulary on this side of Central Islip. Imagine Damon Wayans‘ character on “In Living Color” where he portrayed the Muslim prisoner attempting to “enhance” his vocabulary during his stay in the bing, while failing to make a Goddamn inkling of sense. Now, multiply that times 12 and you have Keith Murray! Word on the street is Keith is back and aimed to match the success of his debut. Can it be done? I wish dude the best of luck, but it will be extremely difficult to match the freshness and originality of “The Most Beautifullest Thing In This World”. BTW, could some one please tell me what his albums post “Enigma” where like? I’ve had them all sitting on my hard drive for quite some time, but I think that “Enigma” would be the last memory I’d like to keep of Keith Murray. Enjoy this one but don’t think too hard.

“Boxcar Sessions”-Saafir (Qwest, 1994)

Headz Ain’t Ready”, can you recall the classic Boot Camp Click cut released around ’95? Truer words were never spoke, especially when it pertained to Saafir’s….”deep breath”…CLASSIC debut on Qwest Records, 1994′s “Boxcar Sessions”. Hailing from the Bay, Saafir was fortunate to have appeared on not only Casual’s “Fear Itself”, but he also played a huge role in the party that was Digital Underground’s “The Body Hat Syndrome” (thanks for ganking that from me Trav! Ha Ha!).
 With a fresh deal from Qwest, the Saucee Nomad was joined by his Hobo Junction production team (J Groove, Rational, Jay-Z..not that one and Poke Marshall) to release a phenomenal debut that was stacked with endless freestyle rhymes. Unfortunately, probably the biggest exposure that Saafir ever received was from his appearance in “Menace II Society”, you may remember him as the dude that gets shot up while sittin’ at the red light.During the mid-90′s the Bay was flooded with “gangsta” rappers and G-Funk, but not every rapper that came up in Oakland or the Bay Area was all about being “hard” 24/7/365. Saafir, for example, was the farthest thing from either of the “tags” that were usually placed upon acts such as Mac Mall, Spice 1 or Pooh-Man. “Boxcar Sessions” is an abstract, jazz influenced take on Hip Hop from the Left Coast. In terms of complexity and abstraction, Saafir’s rhymes and style (which was nothing but a bunch of freestyles) was right up there with more “well-known” acts such as A.T.C.Q., Digable Planets and The Pharcyde. Just as jazzy as the aforementioned emcees, Saafir’s lyrics are anything but “simplistic”. Unlike Digable, De La or even The Pharcyde to a certain extent, Saafir never really embraced the whole neo-hippie vibe.  Addressing the “sucker MC’s” and “player haters” in an angry, aggresive fashion, Saafir declared a war on all phony, fake emcees with his venomous delivery.  Tracks like the first single (see below) “Light Sleeper”, “Can You Feel Me” and “Worship The D (the di*ck, that is)” never seem to get old, and the Chubb Rock sampled “Real Circus” is in one word or less…..SICK!  I’ve grown to love this CD more and more over the years, even though I copped the tape back in ’94 strictly on the strength of dude’s appearance in “Menace”.  Yet, over the last two weeks or so, my take on much of the new music that’s dropping has been halted, much in part to the constant rotation of “Boxcar Sessions”.  While Saafir could have stood to trim down some of the meaningless skits on the album, it’s safe to say that there really isn’t one weak track on the album.  Even though some may find Saafir’s rhymes to be on Keith Murray’s level of complexity, I feel that this is actually a more enjoyable listen than Mr. Murray’s debut.  While, freestyling was nothin’ new in ’94, Saafir found clever, interesting ways to boast about his rhyming skills and tore down emcees, head to toe.  Whether t’s Saafir’s overall style or the jazzy, bass-heavy production, “Boxcar Sessions” was surprisingly refreshing, even today. “Light Sleeper”-Saafir


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Krisch March 3, 2008 at 7:20 am

I got all the Keith Murray albums on wax except that one from last year. Although “It’s A Beautiful Thing” and “He’s Keith Murray” are not as good as his first two LPs both have their moments (“My Life”, “High As Hell” (with that familiar Billy Brooks sample, “On Smash”, “Child Of The Streets”.)

urmoneykid March 3, 2008 at 9:46 pm

“between a rock..” & “main ingredient” both came out in november ’94. or @ least they did here (Vancouver BC) cuz i bought them on the same day. which was also the first day i ever got to mess around with some turntables. i don’t have days like that anymore.

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