For those that know me, I’m a huuuuuge Artifacts “Stan”. After falling in love with the grit and ruggedness of the Artifacts’ debut “Between A Rock And A Hard Place”, I’d be a bold-faced liar if I didn’t admit that I was slightly disappointed with Tame One & El Da Sensei’s sophomore outing “That’s Them”. At least, until after a year or so of letting the LP “sink in”. As you already know, the production found on the Artifacts debut couldn’t have been any crispier, Buckwild and T-Ray laced Tame and El with some of the most timeless production, that seemingly gets better with each listen.
With “That’s Them”, even though the production was handled by V.I.C., Lord Finesse, Showbiz and The Beatminerz, something just seemed different, even after the release of the “set it off” single, Show’s remix to “The Ultimate”. Couple that with the fact that 1997, to me, was just a sh*tty year. I was kinda’ lost in the sauce trying to find my place in life. Plus, being from a small town, I wasn’t quite hipped to the “underground” releases from the likes of the Rawkus & Fondle ‘em camp. I didn’t have access to that underground flavor, all I had was The Source and BET, and with that being said, Hip Hop in 1997 had already begun to shift (see: The Bad Boy Camp, Busta, Missy, etc.). So, some of the acts that banged in 1994, the ‘Facts, Beatnuts and nearly Jeru (“Wrath Of The Math” dropped in ’96) just seemed out of place to me. I know, hard to believe right? Yet, over the year’s “That’s Them” has almost surpassed “Between A Rock..” as my favorite Artifacts LP.
Here’s where it gets weird, and my brethren Travis Glave can tell you, once my evening is settled in (Wife is an R.N. working 12 hour shifts most of the week) and I have my two daughters squared away for the day ahead and off to bed, the Ipod goes in the pocket, the headphones are on and it’s usually coupled with a few rounds of NBA2K…whatever year it is, lol. I can remember the evening exactly: I’d say it was late summer 2007 and I just couldn’t get this release that found one producer and one awe-inspiring emcee, the next Nas (..then), outta’ my headphones or outta’ my car. Yep, you guessed it Blu & Exile’s “Below The Heavens” was in HEAVY rotation, but for some odd reason, I needed something new. So as I scrolled through my Ipod, heading directly for one of my go-to albums..let’s see “should I go with “Stress”, “Word..Life”, “The Main Ingredient” or “Between A Rock..”? Wait a minute, “That’s Them”? Ok, I’ll give that some burn.
So, after listening to “That’s Them”, and revisiting what are now classics to me such as “Art Of Facts”, “Collaboration of Mics” and “This Is Da Way”, I arrived at the oft-overlooked “Ingredients To Time Travel”. Simply put, I’ll make no bones about it, “Ingredients To Time Travel” is one of my Top 5 beats and well-constructed tracks EVER. Listening/bumping “Ingredients..” in your car just doesn’t do the track proper justice! I’m telling you, this sh*t gives me goosebumps each time I listen to it.
As the track opens with the Keith Murray track from Mary J. Blige’s “My Life”, you know, the one with the “Who Shot Ya” beat, coupled with a few Redman vocal samples, a thundering bassline shreads the speakers and and a deep, and I mean DEEP horn sample travels from East to West in your headphones. This track is so masterfully produced, it’s really jaw-dropping.
Here’s the kicker though, so just who in the ‘uff is Gruff Rhino, who is the producer of “Ingredients..” (Tame One is also listed as a Co-Producer)? Well, for one, he’s the man responsible for THIS mixtape, and judging from other posts associated with this “blog”, I’m assuming he is the blog’s author or has a direct association with whomever is responsible for the website, as the profile is set as “Rhino CMZ”. Needless to say, there is no “contact” button listed under the profile and we all know what has happened w/Megaupload, of which the link for “The Loose Tape”, which features Gruff’s producton prior to the release of the Artifacts cut, is down.
So, the ? Remainz, who exactly is Gruff Rhino? Well, I think I have it figured out. Judging from THIS soundcloud page, which is under the alias of Rick Rhino, I can scroll to the bottom of the page and see a few tracks that are supplied with the cover art for “The Loose Tape”. Secondly, there’s a track with Tame One on Rick’s page titled “Smokin’ MC’s” (which I’ve posted below) and according to discogs the pair linked up again in 2000 for Tame One’s “Crazee”. This morning, I contacted Rick via his Soundcloud with the hopes of him re-upping the link for “The Loose Tape”.
One can only hope that the production on “The Loose Tape” is half as good as “Ingredients To Time Travel”, but we shall see. It’s just a damn shame we didn’t hear more from Gruff Rhino back in the 90′s because “Ingredients..” is just straight up mind-blowing to me! Stay Tuned…..