Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Artifacts - Between a Rock and a Hard Place 2xLP


Art of Facts (2018, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

Artifacts were not a group I was aware of when Between a Rock and a Hard Place was originally released in 1994.  As 1994 was a big transitional year for me when it comes to music and what I was listening to, it's not surprising to me that I missed out on this, despite the group hailing from New Jersey.  I'm going to think that if this record had been released in 1993, I would have been on top of things.  But as it turned out, I didn't hear this album for the first time until many years after it came out.

That's a shame because this is an album that is exactly the sort of hip hop I was listening to back then.  The soulful funk beats produced by T-Ray, Buckwild of the Diggin' In The Crates crew and even by Redman on one track provide the perfect template for Tame One and El Da Sensei. To me, the beats straddle the ground somewhere in between EPMD and Black Sheep.

As lyricists, both Tame One and El Da Sensei can hold their own with some of the best of their time.  Their flows both tend to be more straightforward than some of the more out there folks of the golden era, but at the same time they are definitely a step ahead of of the paint by numbers MCs that were starting to be more common by the time 1994 had rolled around.  Artifacts put out a followup album in 1997 that I've actually never listened to.  It's really one I need to check out, but for whatever reason it's always been on the back burner.

Artifacts - Between a Rock and a Hard Place (YouTube full album playlist):

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