Woooooo!!!! Let me just begin this post by stating that this may be the dopest album that I’ve never heard, well up until this past year, that is. Of course, I wasn’t foolish enough to sleep on the Artifacts debut “Between A Rock And A Hard Place”, especially after hearing the singles “Wrong Side Of The Tracks” (a true graf-writer’s anthem) and “C’mon Wit Da Git Down”. Since it’s release in ‘94, the Artifacts outstanding debut has stayed in constant rotation, very seldom do I ever go over a month without at least listening to a few tracks from the album, with “Lower The Boom” being my hands-down favorite. However, I, much like many of the heads in the Hip Hop community in 1997 devoted entirely too much time and attention to Diddy and his Bad Boy fam (“All About The Benjamins” was the sh*t tho’) rather than picking up the Artifacts sophomore follow-up “That’s Them”.
Simply put, this album is without a doubt a very solid 8 outta’ 10 with very little, if any, filler. With the enlistment of a plethora of bonafied hit makers on the production tip, Tame and El relentlessly unleashed verbal darts to the masses that were the furthest thing from being tagged as “jiggy”. Revealing their innate ability to harness unmatched levels of energy on wax, the Artifacts may have even topped their performance on “Between A Rock..”. The first single from “That’s Them”, “The Ultimate” was a nice first taste of what to expect from this New Jeruz duo. Hell, I even picked up the cass-single for the Showbiz remix alone, yet for reasons unknown I never actually bought “That’s Them”. Although, that all changed this week when I placed the order for a used copy on Amazon.
More important than what the ‘Facts brought to their music was what they actually choose to leave out, which in turn made “That’s Them” such a refreshingly easy listen. Void of gaudy “bling” references or illegal narcotic distribution tales, instead there is just straight emcee bravado with a hint of inebriated B-boy wit. The Brand Nubian assisted “Collaboration Of Mics” and the Run-DMC sampled “This Is Da Way” found the Artifacts unleashing a lyrical onslaught aimed at fake ass, doo-doo rappers over bonkers production courtesy of Lord Finesse (”Collabortion…”) and the Mighty V.I.C. (”This Is Da Way”). But the true “oh shit!” moment on “That’s Them” is delivered via the spacey and progressive “Ingredients To Time Travel”, on this track Tame seems to be experimenting with a new and hypnotic time-delay style over an equally mystical beat that was produced by a little-known producer who went by the name of Gruff Rhino. To truly witness the depth of “Time Travel” you’ve gotta’ bump it in your headphones… even a well assembled car stereo or a boombox just doesn’t give the track it’s due. If I was to do a “Most Played For The Week” post, this track would have the #1 spot on lock, no question! And the lyrical wordplay on this joint is strictly “rewind” material!!
Even though “That’s Them” may not have been conceptually as tight as the duo’s debut, the album makes for a formidable follow-up that is not only refreshing, but it also served as a reminder of Hip-Hop’s more innocent, care-free times. Do yourself a solid and don’t miss out on this…..uh, hum….CLASSIC!
In 1993 Ice Cube and his Street Knowledge imprint unleashed the philosophical yet hardcore musings of a young Kam, with aspirations of following in the long line of success to emerge from the upstart West Coast camp (Yo-Yo, Da Lench Mob & Del, to name a few). The Watts and Compton based Kam was an unusual twist in Left Coast Hip Hop, a rapper who was raised in the surroundings portrayed accurately in films such as “Boyz N The Hood” and “Menace II Society”, with a heavy Islamic influence that was very prevalent throughout much of 1993’s “Neva Again”. However, unlike many of his so-called “Muslim” brethren with Hip Hop, Kam touched on Islam from a “hood” perspective, rather than touch on the “hood” from an Islamic perspective. In other words, at least from what he portrayed on record Kam was a real-ass dude, his lyrics are delivered with honesty and sincerity. On “Neva Again” Kam successfully discusses clear and concise topics without being “fake” or preachy and overly self-righteous. To be quite honest, the album really reminded me of a continuation of Ice Cube’s “Death Certificate”, and believe me, that’s a definite plus.
The first single from “Neva Again” that made it’s fair share of noize was “Peace Treaty”, on which Kam celebrated the new found truce between the Bloods & Crips over an ill P-Funk track which is courtesy of early Das Efx collaborators, Solid Scheme. Matter of fact, the track sounds like it could have just as well been served as an appetizer on Das’ debut “Dead Serious”. “Peace Treaty” was an accurate indicator of what could be found throughout much of the album: mid-tempo bangers, familiar breaks with plenty of added “thump in the trunk”. The album’s production is comprised of beats that are somewhat reminiscent of the Boogiemen’s work that can be found on early albums from both Da Lench Mob & Del. However, both of the Solid Scheme beats (”Peace Treaty” and “Ain’t That A Bitch”) add a nice hint of flavor to the album.
Even though many of Kam’s lyrics can be tagged as too aggressive and combative for some tastes, “Neva Again” was a much needed album during a period when the West was in total disarray. Kam gets props for not turning his cheek, choosing rather to be combative while addressing many of the problems that still to this day plague the “shitty inna’ city”. Alongside “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted”, “Straight Outta’ Compton” and “The Chronic”, Kam’s “Neva Again” should be mentioned in the same breath as one of the most integral albums that defined West Coast Hip Hop in the early to mid-nineties.