Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Artifacts - That's Them 2xLP


Big Beat / Atlantic (1997)

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 thirty 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.

I missed the boat of Artifacts back in the 90s.  Their first album, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, came out in October of 1994.  That's a time were I was definitely starting to put more focus and energy into punk and indie rock than hip hop, so it's not entirely surprising it flew under my radar.  But I found it later on in life and adored that album by some of New Jersey's finest.

Their second album, That's Them, didn't come out until 1997.  That is typically far past the expiration date for a hip hop album being released that still appeals to me.  At least, that used to be my stance; that the Golden Era ended in 1994.  I still feel that is true, but I have learned over the years that there we some sneaky records released after 1994 that still hit the way I want a hip hop record to hit.  Chalk up That's Them as one of these exceptions.

While I can't say I love it the same way I love their debut, there is still a lot to like about what Tame One and El Da Sensei put together for their sophomore effort.  Lyrically, I would never be worried about these two, but the typical production of a 1997 record is suspect at best.  I'm happy to report that the vast majority of the album still retains a similar vibe to what Artifacts captured on their debut.  We've got hard hitting kick and snare, rolling bass lines and a warm, full sounding array of beats that feels right.  There's a few trappings of later 90s era sounds popping up here and there, but those are sounds mostly utilized in the burgeoning indie scene of that time.  There's no jiggy, puffy nonsense here.

Smoke On records put out a fancy reissue of this in 2018 with a few bonus tracks.  I really wish that was the version I was able to track down, but the prices on that guy make it just out of reach for me.  Luckily I was able to find an affordable copy of the original pressing from 1997 in wonderful condition.  It'll have to hold me until there's another repress or the costs come down on that version with the extra tracks.

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