Issue 48 (2003)
Who you think made it so cool to shout New Jeruz? If your answer ain’t Artifacts then Tame One’s got beef wit ya. In the Mid nineties the duo of Tame One and El Da Sensei ripped through the underground littering the scene with classic tracks like “Cmon Wit the Getdown,” “Dynamite Soul,” and the timeless graffiti anthem “Wrong Side of The Tracks.” From being named to Unsigned Hype to collecting a gold plaque for the single, “The Ultimate” The Artifacts made a name for themselves and helped put New Jersey on the hiphop map. While those accomplishments are common knowledge to true heads, Tame feels like the crew hasn’t received the credit that they deserve.
“We aren’t even a trivia question or in the crossroad puzzle in the back of the Source,” jokes Tame. “I just feel overlooked, slept on, call it what you wish. I don’t see any acknowledgements to any Artifacts achievements at all. As far as the media is concerned from what I’ve seen in magazines it’s like we made no impact. Our contribution to hiphop was totally ignored and I think we held the strongest spot in people’s hearts.”
Labels weren’t quick to support the group either as the Facts’ were dropped from Atlantic Records following their second release. Internal strife developed between El and Tame and after a short resurfacing under the name Brick City Kids the two eventually split in late ’97. No longer partnered up with El, Tame set out to record his first solo effort, “One Flew Over The Cookooz Nest.” The album wasn’t well received when Tame shopped it around and decided to shelve it. After appearing on several projects such as Rawkus’ “Hiphop For Respect” EP and few singles with his crew, The Boom Skwad, Tame decided to take a hiatus from the game. After a few years off the scene Tame-One linked up with Mighty Mi and company, signing a two year deal with their imprint Eastern Conference Records. After contributing a couple tracks to the Eastern Conference All Stars compilations, Tame set out to develop his newest creation, “When Rappers Attack.” “When Rappers Attack” takes it back to the roots of hiphop when straight up mcing and lyrics were the norm. Tame purposely kept the LP short and to the point avoiding long winded rhyme marathons and filler cuts in favor of 12 solid songs.
“I was thinking more along the format of cassettes,” explained Tame. “I didn’t shorten songs or anything like that, mostly I was just feeling it out. When it came down to it I didn’t have a set number of songs that I was going to do. I was just recording and when I started compiling them and playing them I was like it just feels right at this level cuz I didn’t want any skits on it or an intro or outro none of that. There is no glitz or glamour it’s just hey here it is.”
Lyrically Tame kept to the direct approach. Each song is relatively straight forward and consistent style wise. Instead of experimenting he stayed true to his standard flow to test out the waters. After being off the scene for so long it’s his way to see where he fits in.
“I didn’t want to go over the top lyrically and be a dictionary rapper,” explained Tame. “I didn’t want to come out and be like look I’m super style man. I tried to keep it as direct as possible. To me my earlier work was kinda sporadic I was screaming for no reason. On certain songs I was just yelling, but what for the song does not require that much hype. My style has definitely matured like a fine wine. In the early 90s your happy to be on you got rhymes from the sixth grade that you want to use, now I took the approach of I don’t want to sound like I’ve been gone for six thousand years and you can notice. I didn’t wild out style wise on this album, I took a straight course and most of the beats were headbop beats anyway I need a little speed to start freaking the flow.”
From start to finish “When Rappers Attack” reflects Tame’s personality. Tracks like “Tame As It Ever Was” and “Iz It Me” both touch on his frustrations with the industry and the lack of creativity that has become popularized in the some mainstream circles.
However, he took time out to pay homage to graffiti writers and remade the Slick Rick classic “The Moment I feared.”
“I just always played that song. When that album was out of course I bought the whole shit but that was my personal album cut. While the whole world was going the “Children’s Story” is hot I was bumping “The Moment I feared” in the crib.”
Another song that steers off the direct course of the LP is Tame’s favorite cut, “Concerto,” where he introduces his Acid Tab Vocab style.
“Me and my homie / producer Geo was high as hell one night in the studio banging out joints for the “One Flew Over The Cuckooz Nest” project and I went into the booth and just started spazzing out. It wasn’t just babbling, the things I was saying and touching on was catching him out there and started taping me somewhere in the middle of it and the style just happened. He played it back and kept playing it back and we were like that’s crazy ass style. Throwing darts out of nowhere, touching on certain subjects that may or may not mean something to somebody else, but affected me in some type of way or brought my attention to it and hit on it.”
With a lot of people submitting beats to Mighty Mi, Tame had numerous choices to sift through before deciding on using ones from J-Zone, Mhz’s Camu Tao, Mighty Mi, and RJD2 among others. Although he stuck close to the usual line-up that has been used on previous EC releases he purposely chose music from that was not considered by the other artists on the label.
“I knew for sure that I didn’t want to come out and just have a “Eastern Conference” sound,” explains Tame. “I made sure that no one else wanted these beats. I would play the same beat tape for Cage and say you didn’t pick none of these and he was like nah I didn’t pick none of those, so I was like great let me start with this pile right here.”
Unless you have a prior working relationship with the producer it could be difficult to get the exact sound you are looking for. Tame dipped into what was available, but after he made his choice the producers were more than willing to work to make the best backdrop for his lyrics. Camu Tao and J-zone are perfect examples.
“J-zone can give me a whole album,” exclaims Tame. “He makes his own changes. I’d lay down the vocals and then two days later he would have it mixed already like peep this with all types of changeups and breakdowns in the appropriate places so I didn’t have to make changes. Camu hooked me up [as well]. His was tailor made to fit damn near. He hit it right on the head what I was after. He would ask me what type of tempo, etc. plus he had a feel for my rhymes already so it was relatively simple.”
While this would seem to be the perfect set up don’t expect the trend to continue on the next album. Tame is not one for sticking to one set of production rules and plans on switching the sound on future releases. The production lineup would have been different this time around as well if Tame had his way. While he wouldn’t approach big names like the Neptunes, he would have showed love for his New Jeruz brethren introducing a lot of up and coming Jersey producers. However, after signing up with Eastern Conference certain people he was working with stopped seeing a potentially great opportunity to showcase their work, only concentrating strictly on dollar signs. Tame found out that working with local unknowns can be just as difficult and expensive as getting a top name.
“I had like a half of an album worth of material from Jersey producers alone, then all of us sudden for one reason or another dudes just started flipping,” claimed Tame. “It’s just that most of the producers in Jersey they start changing on you once you get a deal like I want ten thousand dollars. One cat was like I want five grand a track and I want it now! He was like I know you can break me off something because this ain’t no [su]spect deal. [Certain heads in] New York wasn’t trying to show love they was like Tame One you ain’t gonna make no album or oh you don’t got a big budget then I can’t fuck with you.”
When the album drops Tame hopes that he will be well received and all those doubters will realize his potential and pay more respect to his ability. And open a few eyes up and let the fans know he’s back.
“I want to create a slight stir,” insists Tame. “The way the system is set up now I honestly don’t know where I fit in. Being that I’ve been off the scene for so long I hope they are just happy to hear from a motherfucker. Maybe after they hear it they will take it up a notch and start hitting me with beats. You can’t even get somebody to let you listen to beats anymore.”
If you gain fans with this effort are you worried that you will lose them by flipping styles
“I don’t know if its ego but if they are really listening to what I be saying, how im saying it or just gonna stick with Tame One for being tame one they know what’s up. At any given time I might spaz out lyrically and it’s expected. If I keep coming at somebody the same way in the same fashion that’s not Tame like.”
With El releasing his solo LP off of Seven Heads earlier in the year and Tame now back on the scene with “When Rappers Attack” successful or not the question will remain and be asked countless times, when are the Artifacts going to settle their personal differences and get back together?
“I just can’t see that far into future. You can’t rap with someone you can’t talk with. That’s just my personal opinion. If you can’t talk to me you can’t rap with me or else the whole meaning behind it is fake and forced. Now if somebody throw up a check its real simple to front and smile for the camera and be a real dickhead about it and say we’re back together love is love we gonna do this for hiphop only wanting the check. I think it will show in the work.”