Preface: most of this review was written before word of the untimely passing of Tame One broke. It’s a brutal loss for the hip hop culture and community, and also for El Da Sensei who lost DJ Kaos just a few years ago and now has to say goodbye to his partner-in-rhyme. I haven’t altered the review despite knowing this will be the last time we get a project such as this. The truth is I didn’t have to, because this is a flawless return to the game from emcees who haven’t lost a step lyrically or with their chemistry on the mic. So pop the album on, read the below review and enjoy this now extra special audio journey from icons of the hip hop scene. R.I.P Tame One.
The much anticipated release of the Artifacts album completely produced by Buckwild finally made its way into my headphones and hasn’t left for the last few weeks. Whenever the Artifacts drop music, I’m all over it because their flow, the undeniable chemistry between El Da Sensei, Tame One and the late DJ Kaos, the content – they just make hella dope music that resonates with me on a multitude of levels. ‘No Expiration Date’ is a fantastic hip hop album, blending the iconic Buckwild production with the collaborative flows of the always appreciated, never duplicated Artifacts. The synergy between the various elements inherent within this album inclusive of featured artists is seamless and there is an energy that you can feel through the headphones. The listener is part of this album – which makes sense because we’ve been part of this journey since the 90’s.
Straight up, Buckwild dominates this production, bringing that instantly identifiable early 2000’s kind of vibe which certainly suits the bars and flow of the New Jersey rhymeslingers. However, even digging into his bag to bring that vibe back, there is nothing about this project that feels dated or out of place 25 years after the Artifacts sophomore release. The album kicks off with ‘Ask N****s’ which straight from the jump brings that boom bap vibe with delightful piano keys dancing all over the drums and it gets you head nodding immediately. El and Tame demolish the mic reminding people who they are and with the celestial vocals singing over the top – it’s a BANGER. It gets even more raw with ‘The Way I Feel’ – the drums are sharp, the keys are menacing but triumphant simultaneously and DJ Hush cuts it up to perfection. El and Tame take their lyricism up another notch on this one, just in case you forgot the quality of their pens.
Buckwild brings some soul into the mix on ‘Better Music’ with a smooth sample underpinning the production on this joint which ensures hip hop heads know that the Jersey duo are two of the best to do it and won’t ever lose it, before ‘Facts’ unleashes an energetic, horn-laced track with cuts and killer bars with the ‘Facts ensuring you know what the deal is! Big Joker joins El and Tame for ‘Come Alive’ which is one of the best joints on the album! The energy on the beat is colossal and the trio make the most of their moment on the mic by straight up delivering. The hook is catchy as hell and Big Joker sets this off with his well-timed, baritone, ad-libs.
It gets a little darker and grimier with both the soundtrack and the bars as Ras Kass teams up with the Artifacts and Big Joker to deliver ‘Real Rap’ which is an ode to the more traditional, authentic, boom bap. Ras’ flow and energy are all over this track as he slots in seamlessly next to the Dirty Jers duo and the bars seemingly level up yet again, and delivered with authority you can’t question. ‘Contagious’ is an interesting track with somewhat of a ‘Chinese Water Torture-esque’ undertone apparent in the audio which makes this feel menacing, while A-F-R-O and DJ Hush ensure they leave their imprint on this joint. ‘Raw Garden State’ makes the neck snap with the crispness of the drums while the flow of El and Tame fill out the audio, their rugged flow acting as an additional instrument to support the concrete commentary.
‘Take A Trip’ brings a really positive energy throughout the track, with strings echoing throughout the joint and providing an uplifting angle as the emcees cogitate on their journey of before, and then ‘Three 4 The Crew’ blows the hinges off to close out this project. The piano on this track is delightfully forceful while El and Tame drop bars that are ‘written like scripts’ and hit the headphones with poised supremacy. It’s a killer joint that makes you feel like you never want it to end, but also captivates you and ensures you press play and spin this from start to finish the second it stops. It’s crazy.
Bangers: Come Alive, Ask N****s, Real Rap, Facts, Raw Garden State.
Score: 10 / 10. There is no faulting this album, other than the fact it took so long to make it into our headphones. While the loss of DJ Kaos isn’t ideal, the enlisting of Buckwild and the production and energy and style he brought to this album, is the perfect solution to a tragic problem. From a rhyming point of view, El Da Sensei and Tame One are still incredibly intelligent with their pen, and their ability to flow and deliver with varied cadences to match the fluidity and energy of each track is exceptional. This is not just a fantastic listen, it’s a FUN listen and brings a really dope energy to your mental.