The Artifacts are a duo from Newark, New Jersey consisting of El Da Sensei & Tame 1. Their 1994 full-length debut Between a Rock & a Hard Place that just celebrated it’s 28 year anniversary last Tuesday is widely considered to be a hip hop classic & their sophomore effort That’s That in the spring of ‘97 happened to be a great follow-up also, but wouldn’t be until 2013 where they officially got back together by landing features on other artists’ projects. But with DJ Kaos prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve have decided to enlist New York producer Buckwild of D.I.T.C. behind the boards for their 3rd full-length album & their 1st in a quarter of a century.
“Ask N****s” is a stellar way to start it all with it’s piano-infused boom bap instrumental with some pianos & angelic vocals so El & Tame challenge to question anyone how they bring it from the Bronx to New Jersey whereas “The Way I Feel” has a more rawer approach to it as Sensei & Tame flex their lyrical prowesses. “Better Music” works in a soul sample acknowledging that everyone knows they be movin’ leading into the strained “Facts” talking about how they ones you gon’ call & the horn sections.
Moving on to “Come Alive”, we have the Artifacts & Big Joker boasting that they’re too fresh just before Ras Kass joining the trio for the grimy “Real Rap” telling y’all that’s exactly what you’re listening to as such. Now I totally understand where they’re coming from, but I respectfully feel the term “real hip hop” is nonexistent because music is subjective & a lot of heads I know have their own interpretations of what “real hip hop is”. A-F-R-O however comes into the picture for the crazed “Contagious” informing y’all that the format is sickening. The song “Raw Garden State” comes through with a rugged ode to their home state while the penultimate track “Take a Trip” weaves some strings in to reminisce. “3 4 the Crew” is an upbeat closer acknowledging that this was overdue.
I really had no worries going into No Expiration Date considering how great their last 2 albums are in their own rights & sure enough, we got a near-perfect comeback from the revered Jersey duo here & it’ll confidently go down as one of the best. Not just because I personally feel that El & Tame haven’t lost a step in terms of their lyricism & chemistry at all, but Buckwild reveals himself to be the perfect person for them to get behind the boards since he produced a couple of my favorite songs of theirs & brings it as raw as them.
Rasheed Chappell is a 44 year old MC from Passaic, New Jersey who’s been making music for a little over a decade now. He just dropped an EP produced by 38 Spesh this past spring called Ways & Means but to follow it up, Rasheed is enlisting Buckwild for his 3rd full-length album.
The opener “Tour Bus” with Che Noir & 38 Spesh finds the trio comparing Trust Gang to the Wu over a piano instrumental whereas the title track is essentially Shannell Griggs rapping from a penitentiary phone line. The song “Rock Bottom” with Ransom sees the 2 talking about the struggle over a melancholic instrumental while the track “Mass Media” takes a jab at news outlets over a boom bap beat with a sample kin to “#OkBye” off of KXNG CROOKED’s 2011 EP Million Dollar $tory.
The song “Crime & Punishment” talks about never letting down over a harp-inflicted instrumental while the track “Bredren” with Planet Asia sees the 2 flexing their prowesses over a soulful beat. The song “Dyckman” with The Musalini finds the 2 getting romantic over an instrumental with some beautiful vocal harmonies & after the “Post Game” skit, “The Blue Hood” tells the story of a corrupt cop over some demonic string sections. The penultimate track “C.E.O. Shug” talks about how “everybody can’t go” over a glistening beat & then closer “Black Owned” talks about doing it himself over a grim instrumental.
Personally, I think this is Rasheed’s finest body of work to date. The concepts that he brings to the table all come in together like an audio documentary series as Buckwild provides him with some suiting soundscapes.
This is the 8th EP from Queens emcee Flee Lord. The man has proven himself as one of the most most hard-working dudes out today by constantly dropping projects like Loyalty or Death: Lord Talk, it’s superior sequel Loyalty or Death: Lord Talk 2, Gets Greater Later, Later is Now and Loyalty & Trust. He just dropped an EP with DJ Shay a month ago entitled Lucky 13 & now he’s tapping Buckwild in for Hand Me My Flowers.
After a jazzy intro, we get right into the first song “Plug Talk”. Where Flee obviously discusses dope slangin’ over a bleak instrumental. The song “Beethoven Wit a Stick” with TF sees the 2 talking about going bar for bar over an uncanny instrumental while the track “10 From This Clip” talks about reaching top dog status over an orchestral beat. The song “Can’t Fuck Wit Flee” might have the weakest beat on the entire EP despite Lord showing off his rapping prowess very well while the track “On My Deen” talks about going from selling drugs to touring over a boom bap beat with a faint string loop.
The song “Toast to My Neighbor” is full of vicious shit-talking over a boom bap beat with some horns & even though the track “Gathering My Thoughts” is only a minute long, I really enjoy how gritty it is over. The penultimate song “From the Change Jar” talks about being the people’s champ over a set of strings & then the EP finishes with “Shooter Tappin’ on Ya Window”, where Flee talks about being happy with his life now over a luxurious instrumental.
Of all the projects the dude has put out in 2020, this is easily my favorite so far. I wish he would drop something more full-length, but he maintains himself as one of New York’s dopest MCs whereas Buckwild reminds us that he’s one of the greatest producers of all-time.