The Return Of The Artifacts: Audio History!!

May 24, 2011 7 min read

The Legendary Artifacts will rock the Twin Cities this Saturday at The Nomad! Get your tickets at Fifth Element Now!

Perhaps the most significant difference from the early 90s to the mid 90s is how separated the audience started to become. On one hand, there was a heavy rise in commercially successful rap from the late 80s/early 90s leading into the mid 90s. It ranged from Playful "Pop Rap" (EX: Hammer, Vanilla Ice, Tone Loc, Young MC, etc...) to the development of "Street Rap" with a more "commercial" sound (EX: Snoop & Dr Dre, Notorious B.I.G., etc...). Plus there was an explosion of rap spin-offs getting labeled "Hip Hop", much to the dismay of many within the Culture (EX: C&C Music Factory, P.M. Dawn, Technotronic, etc...).

All of this lead to increased debates of "Commericial" Vs "Underground" and one of the ways that Hip Hop fought back was with a strong return to the roots approach (IE "Return Of The Boom Bap"), lots of "back in the day"/reminiscing tracks and a influx of "throwback" groups. To Name a few; Stony Island, Jurassic 5, The Arsonists, and among the best of 'em, The Artifacts.

Although, The Artifacts first recorded and released work was a guest appearance on "Do You Wanna Hear It" by the Nubian Crackers, like many upcoming groups of the time, a key building block to their buzz was their numerous appearances on the "Stretch Armstrong Show, Hosted By Bobbito". There's a fine collection of classic radio moments, dating back to their first appearance in 1991, with The Artifacts alongside like-minded groups such as H2O, Total Pack, and others.

Nubian Crackers featuring The Artifacts-Do You Wanna Hear It? (Big Beat '93)
[audio:|titles=Do You Wanna Hear It]

Hard To Obtain (H20) featuring Raquel & The Artifacts-A Lil Sumpin (Atlantic '94)
[audio:|titles=a lil sumthing feat Artifacts]

Even when they won "Unsigned Hype" in The Source (Apr '93), the article referenced their original "claim to fame" as winning a phone-in rap battle on The Stretch Armstrong Show. The article reviewed an original version of "Wrong Side Of The Tracks" Produced by Lord Jamar, "Check Da Fine Print" featuring Brand Nubian, and a T-Ray Produced track called "Wicked Lyrics". The first two of those demos have been circulating online for awhile, but I've never come across the "Wicked Lyrics" joint...

Artifacts featuring Brand Nubian-Check Da Fine Print [Produced by Lord Jamar] (Demo '93)
[audio:|titles=Check Da Fine Print]

Not long after that, the announcement for the debut album, "Between A Rock And A Hard Place", on Big Beat Records was the hype on the streets. The buzz was strongly supported, plus eventually solidified and elevated by a very impressive lead single; "Wrong Side Of Da Tracks" (new version), "Flexi With Da Tech(nique)", and "Whassup Now?". "Wrong Side" laid the foundation for a ongoing theme in their music, Graffiti. While the other two tracks were strictly focused on showcasing mic skills.

Artifacts-Wrongside Of Da Tracks [Produced by T-Ray] ('94)
[audio:|titles=artifacts-wrong side]

Artifacts-Flexi Wit Da Tech(Nique) [Produced By T-Ray] ('94)

Dropping such a strong 3-song single set a high precedence for the album, but "Between A Rock And A Hard Place" dropped and did not disappoint. They showcased that they had a plenty of additional weapons in their arsenal with tracks like "C'Mon Wit Da Git Down", "Cummin Thru Ya F-kin Block", and "Whayback". Eight of the twelve tracks on the album are magnificently produced by T-Ray, with the remaining contributions handled by Buckwild (3) and Redman/Rockwilder (1). While many crews were neglecting the DJ at this time, The Artifacts represent the original element with Dr Butcher and Grandmaster Roc Raida (R.I.P). Vocally, El Da Senseihad this unique flow and ill rhyme structure. Tame One had incredible energy and is one of the most quotable MCs of the era. He drops ill lines like:

-"I got pull like Magneto rolling celo with steel dice"
-"I'm up late like Leno playing demos from my shoebox"
-"F**k the no nots, whose techniques are weaker than the graphics on the go-bots"
-"All my s**t is fatter than the pads on MPC 60s/Hit me, you got five seconds to jet G"

Artifacts-Whayback [Produced By T-Ray] ('94)
[audio:|titles=07 Whayback (LP Version)]

Artifacts-Cummin' Thru Ya F-kin Block [Produced by Redman] ('94)
[audio:|titles=09 Cummin' Thru Ya F-Kin' Block (LP Version)]

EL The Sensei describes the crews vibe perfectly with on "C'Mon Wit Da Git Down" with "Styles we make, never fake/Broke breaks in every crate/Old Freestyles and dirty ass copied over tapes/Notify that The Artifacts never slack/While crews are on stage wack, we just play the back."

The second and third singles for the album displayed that they were intent on knocking out new material, with each featuring remixes with new beats and rhymes; "C'mon On Wit Da Git Down" Remix with Busta Rhymes and "Dynamite Soul" Remix With Madskillz. Plus the previously unreleased "Who I Am?" on the b-side of the latter.

Artifacts-C'Mon Wit Da Git Down Remix Featuring Busta Rhymes [Produced By Buckwild] ('94)
[audio:|titles=14 C'Mon Wit Da Git Down feat Busta Rhymes (Remix) (Hidden Track on LP)]

Artifacts-Dynamite Soul Remix featuring Maddskillz [Produced by EZ Elpee] ('95)
[audio:|titles=01 Dynamite Soul II - Lip Service Remix Featuring MAD SKILLZ (radio version)]

In between album they released a few tracks to keep the momentum going with a track on the High School High soundtrack ("The Ultimate" original) and a single on Rawkus under the name Brick City Kids.

Artifacts-The Ultimate [Produced By Baby Paul] ('96)
[audio:|titles=15 The Ultimate (Featuring The Artifacts)]

Brick City Kids a.k.a Artifacts-Brick City Kids [Produced by Ghetto Pros] ('97)
[audio:|titles=Brick City Kids]

The second album finally dropped in '97 and despite not having the same hype as the debut, it's arguably a better album. To further cement that they were looking to push forward by digging from the past, they titled the new album "That's Them" which was their original name before Artifacts. They maintained their keen ear for great production, with beats contributed by Shawn J Period, V.I.C, Beatminerz, Lord Finesse, Showbiz, and Gruff Rhino. DJ Kaos was now on decks as their official DJ, handling all cuts (with the exception of one track each handled by Dr Butcher and Myke Loe).

In all honesty, besides the different producers, the sophomore album is very similar to the debut, but that's certainly not a bad thing when you already have a great formula. However, while the production takes a similar approach as the debut, there are some more musical elements, mainly courtesy of Shawn J Period's style. I think this helped Artifacts better craft complete songs, without sacrificing their raw edge, as evidenced on tracks like "Art Of Facts", "31 Bumrush", & "Where Yo Skillz At ?" [All Produced By Shawn J Period].

Artifacts-Where Yo Skillz At? [Shawn J Period] ('97)
[audio:|titles=05 Where Yo Skillz At_]

Other highlights include the Lord Finesse Produced "Collaboration Of Mics". When I saw the line up for that one it was way unexpected; Artifacts, Lord Finesse and Lord Jamar...then when I heard it, wow! At time when the "posse cut" was becoming more and more uneventful this was a pleasant surprise.

Artifacts-Collaborations Of Mics featuring Lord Finesse & Lord Jamar ('97)
[audio:|titles=06 Collaboration of Mics (feat. Lord Finesse, Lord Jamar)]

Being a huge Showbiz fan I was excited to peep his remix of "The Ultimate". He came thru lovely with some lo-fi dirty drums and effectively used minimalism. I love how Tame One describes his crews position in the game, "Picture this like it's a cinema flick/We're in the midst of taking over this/Half of you crabs don't even notice this/Scope this/We know the risk and still take it/We can make it/We've already been the under-rated/if I shine I just shine, If I break I just brick/If you diss, we can take it to the curb like dog s**t/I'm not in it for the gimmicks, satisfying critics/I just want my own like the Hasidics"

The Artifacts-The Ultimate [Showbiz Remix] ('97)
[audio:|titles=16 The Ultimate (Showbiz Remix)]

At the time this album dropped I was doing my radio show, "Time Travel", at WNUR in Chicago so I definitely considered "Ingredients To Time Travel" a theme song for a minute.

Artifacts-Ingredients To Time Travel [Produced By Gruf Rhino] ('97)
[audio:|titles=13 Ingredients to Time Travel]

In '98 The Artifacts were featured on the Boulevard Connection 12" on Fondle Em Records, which I believe was a result from The Artifacts recording while on tour in Copenhagen.

Boulevard Connection featuring The Artifacts-Haagen Daz ('98)
[audio:|titles=Haagen Daz]

After classic radio freestyles circa '91, impressive demos in the early 90s, two solid, and arguably classic records in the Mid the late 90s The Artifacts had when their separate ways and unfortunately not on good terms. The next several years would remain tense with both taking shots at the other on tracks and in interviews. Regardless, they both continued to record material and build their fanbase on their own.

El The Sensei connected with 7Heads, the home to J-Live and Unspoken Heard, and dropped his debut solo, "Relax, Relate, and Release" in 2002. That album was the build up from a steady string of 12" singles from 2000, leading up to the albums release. I actually completely forgot until I just pulled this CD back out, but I'm actually featured on the intro. It starts off with "mock radio show piece" detailing his history in the game and they use a portion from "Tribute To Artifacts" radio show I did on Time Travel Radio around the time of their second album....

Then in 2006, EL The Sensei connected with Fat Beats to release his next solo, "The Unusual" which helped define his sound as a solo artist.

EL The Sensei-Speakin' [Produced By J Rawls] ('02)
[audio:|titles=03 Speakin']

EL the Sensei-Crowd Pleasa [Prodcued By IllMind] ('06)
[audio:|titles=01 Crowd Pleasa]

Tame One remained extremely active with various solo albums, collaborative projects, and things of the sort, including projects with and/or member of Weathermen, Eastern Conference, Leak Brothers, Slow Suicide Stimulus, and most recently a album with Del that I think is super slept on titled "Parallel Universes".

Tame One-Tame As It Ever Wuz [Produced by J Zone] ('03)
[audio:|titles=04 Tame az It Ever Wuz]

Tame One-Freedom Of Speech [Produced By Custodian Of Record] (Believe this is a officially unreleased cut)
[audio:|titles=Tame One-Freedom_of_Speech_MP3]

Del & Tame One-Special [Produced By Parallel Thought] ('09)
[audio:|titles=10 Special]

In 2008, there was a unexpected appearance of The Artifactson stage at Rock Steady Crew Anniversary during a solo set by DoItAll of Lords Of The Underground. At that time, a reunion wasn't planned or in place, actually things were still tense between the two and they rocked the quick set with minimal words and when they left stage they went their separate ways and that was it.

Apparently sometime after that communication took place and the makings of a reunion started to finally form. They rocked together at SXSW 2011 and have done a few shows since then. Now the Artifacts Reunion Tour brings them to the Twin Cities!! Don't sleep this show is bound to be action-packed!

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