Issue 39 (2002)
Creative differences, miscommunication, and egos all play roles in disintegrating bonds once thought unbreakable. As fans we don’t get to see what goes on behind the scenes and all the inter workings of our favorite crews. What’s important to us is for them to put any issues aside and continue to produce great work. However, life isn’t so cut and dry and groups like Digable Planets, Pharcyde, Arsonists, EPMD, and Tribe have either completely broken up or have had some form of split in the past. Unfortunately, you can add The Artifacts to that list. The duo of Tame-One and El Da Sensei helped put New Jeruz on the map with their unique flow and graffiti inspired lyrics. In the mid 90s they released two memorable albums in the way of “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” and “That’s Them”. After recording the Boulevard Connection gem, “Haagan Daz”, the two went their separate ways. With a patented formula, in place and a nice track record of success, why didn’t things stay on course? I contacted both El and Tame to get the full story on the separation and find out what’s been going on after the ‘Facts.
Saturday 8:00 P.M : Words From the Brick City Minister
“I think we were just burnt out,” El calmly remarked, reflecting on the breakup. “In between doing the albums we were always on tour and overseas trying to stay in the light. Once we got off the label I knew we were gonna be free to do what we wanted to do, pretty much what I’m doing now (working with various labels). I thought that was what we were going to do together.”
That didn’t happen. They never got a chance to settle things before they got off the label to decide which direction they were heading and instead chose to call it quits on the group effort. Not prepared to leap into the solo frame of mind, El decided to take some time off and stay at home with his son. A year later he hooked up with producer P. Original and started creating songs for a demo. In the midst of recording Matt Fingaz from Guesswhyld (in contact with El since his Artifacts days) approached him with a proposition, resulting in the release of the Shawn J. Period produced, “Frontlines”. “I said if you got the dough right now to do something I’ll snatch up Organized (Konfusion). Mike Zoot and F.T. (of Street Smartz) were with him so we all collaborated and put a joint me and P did on the B-side”.
After “Frontlines” dropped, the calls started coming in and the tracks originally recorded for El’s demo were now being released as singles. The “Sensei from NJ” was a bona fide free agent signing exclusive one-year contracts with different labels. After awhile the business aspect became overwhelming and he reached out to Wes Jackson of Seven Heads Entertainment to conduct his business. Wes’ similar industry vision, promoting prowess, and strong roster including J-Live, Unspoken Heard, and Mr. Complex made El’s switch a sensible one. The relationship has been a positive, providing him with his best management to date. Sounding like a seasoned industry vet, El points out how his patience has paid dividends. While he waited on the right deal to put himself in the best situation, Sensei saw potential labels like JCOR fall by the wayside before he had a chance to sign with them.
Subsequently, by continuously putting out singles and the mix CD, “Then, Now, and Forever,” he has been able to satisfy loyal heads anticipating a solo LP, while building a new fan base. The response has been a pleasant surprise. “I know there are cats that didn’t look at me like they looked at Tame. They didn’t look at me as the lyrical one, but I had to concentrate on a lot of shit. Tame wasn’t the one to do the business part. I couldn’t concentrate on writing all the time because once we got out of the studio or a show I had to go right to the label (to let them know what was going on). It wasn’t my choice to go solo, I didn’t think I would be the one to step away from the Artifacts and have a good career. I thought it would be the other way around.” But he has been successful and its been by staying true to his roots, and those include graf. While El admits he doesn’t get up as much as he used to because of the consequences, the art still plays an important part in his music and future business. “I know too many artists, I’d rather make money helping them out by giving them a job they like to do, whether it be writing, drawing, or painting. I got DJs for hire to do shows, parties and mix tapes, producers on deck for beats, and we got studio time if anyone wants to do an affordable package deal.” It doesn’t stop there as El plans to incorporate web and logo design along with the aforementioned services to provide a one-stop shop of sorts for up and coming MCs.
Pick up the new El Da Sensei single, “So Easily” b/w “Eternally”, which should be out by press time. Stay tuned for the solo album, possibly early fall, 17 tracks deep featuring a mix of producers including Shawn J. Period, J.Rawls, Usef Dinero, P.Original, and Malito, among others. On top of that expect future collabs with Seven Heads label mates J-Live and Asheru. To stay up on El’s exploits and upcoming tours with Seven Heads Entertainment, log onto www.sevenheads.com.
Monday 9:04 PM : Enter the Notty Headed Terror
After speaking with El, I had some pieces of the story surrounding the Artifacts split. However, everything has two sides, and a few days later I got a call from Tame to get the other half. “I didn’t feel we were catering to the same crowd anymore. I wouldn’t say thugged out, but I was more street oriented with mine,” Tame bluntly stated. “It was like we were rapping to two different people. It seems like he wanted to stay with the backpackers forever and I saw it was more to it than that”.
After the breakup, Tame was excited and ready to embrace his newfound freedom as a solo artist. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as smoothly as planned. “I just thought the entire world would be waiting (for me) and found out differently. After a one year personal hiatus, I started over from square one.” After recording “Tryfe Type Times” (released by Fat Beats) and almost recording an entire album independently, Tame received a lukewarm reception from the heads he played it for. They claimed it wouldn’t be a smart move to go in the direction he had intended. He refuses to let the album he cites as “just a bunch of bitching,” die out though, and plans to release it one day when the time is right.
After a few successful guest spots, including projects such as “Hip Hop For Respect” (“A Tree Never Grown”), Govna Mattic’s “Family Day” LP, and Milkbone’s “U Got Milk” LP (“A Few Good Men”), Tame hooked up with High and Mighty, signing a two-album deal on their imprint, Eastern Conference Records. The new album, “When Rappers Attack,” veers off in a different direction than his first effort. This time Tame is concentrating on freaking certain styles and attacking beats differently rather than personal issues. The lyrics won’t be as graffiti inspired as earlier works and Tame points to the lack of this element these days as the reason. “It will always be a factor because I attribute that to making me what I am today, but it’s not as prominent as it used to be. As I got older it started making less sense to take that risk. The jail time started to get a bit extensive, it used to be a slap on the wrist, or at most an overnight stay and a fine. But now they’ll throw you up in there with killers.”
While you may not see his tag displayed as frequently through New Jersey blocks, Tame is still bringing fame to his name and keeping his skills sharp, performing with The Boom Skwad (Mellow Max, JayBurnzJaya “the Hiphop Slaya”, DJ Porno, and The Boom Skwad president himself) doing radio spots, shows, and a 12”every here and there. He’s also the newest member of the indie powerhouse, The Weathermen. “Cage was telling me how it’s gonna be the world’s super group with no weak links in it. He broke down the roster and it had some heavy hitters in it. The next day he called me up and asked how would I feel about repping the crew and I told him I was all for it.”
Lookout for Tame-One’s album, “When Rappers Attack,” off of Eastern Conference Records around late spring including tracks from J-Zone, Buckwild, Vic from the Beatnuts, and possibly a few special guests on the mic. The all-star Weathermen project is also being planned down the line. Until then, you can check out Tame and the Boom Skwad at www.Tame-One.com for the latest updates, news, and exclusive music.
With so many plans in the future for both MCs what’s the likelihood of an Artifacts reunion? According to El, “If the opportunity came up in the correct manor, I would have no problem doing it. But the chemistry would have to be there first, and I wouldn’t want to tolerate certain things that happened in the past. If everybody wants that, then that’s what they should pray for, because I wish the same thing too. I ain’t gonna lie and say I wouldn’t want to do another one, but everything would have to be correct.” Tame’s response, however, was not as positive. “I don’t see Patrick Ewing coming back to the Knicks anytime soon. He (El) talks to everybody but me. I don’t know if he’s just satisfying the critics ears or what, but this phone ain’t ringing about it.”
For anything to happen its evident a lot of personal issues would have to be resolved, and one stipulation from Tame would be the backing of a major label, but don’t expect to see a collab between the two anytime soon. I wish both Tame and El the best of luck in their respective endeavors. In time we might forget the legacy left behind by the Artifacts in favor of their individual grandeur. However, as a fan I can’t help but desire for some sort of reconciliation. I know there are a lot of heads like me who believe the crew will make amends and that another album is simply a phone call away. Maybe we’re just fooling ourselves.