Relax Relate Release
Record label: Seven Heads
Format: 2xLP/CD
Release date: 15 October 2002

In 1993, a two-man crew from Newark, New Jersey emerged and became one of the defining symbols of hip-hop music and culture. The Artifacts, which consisted of Tame One and MC El Da Sensei, repped their hood, graffiti, break dancing, and the art of emceeing with a raw, unique sound and dope lyricism. A second album (That's Them) came and went, then the duo unceremoniously split due to contract and personal issues after its release in 1997. Both artist would begin to construct solo careers over a six-year period and establish their own followings in the newly formed "independent" hip-hop movement. After many collaborations and 12-inch singles, El Da Sensei has emerged with his first solo album, Relax Relate Release.

Consistency. That is the one word definition of this very solid album. Receiving production from various producers such as Sebb, Koolade, Cankick, J. Rawls, Da Boy Wonder, P. Original, Shawn J. Period, and Joe Money, Relax Relate Release has a steady mood and tempo throughout the album. Being in the game for so long has not satisfied the hunger of EL as told by his powerful presence and on-point wordplay. If there is a message EL is trying to send, it's “don't forget what this hip-hop culture is all about." With almost every track, El reminds you what hip-hop music is, was, and should be - whether he breaks it down in the verse or just in the mood and presentation. This is a B-boy album for backpackers and lovers of hip-hop in general.

“Relax” is the first track off the album and to epic, upbeat horns El announces his arrival, letting you know that "Straight up, I got that early nineties flow / slam up on tracks like Booker T on Monday Nitro." The album's underlying themes of hip-hop history, music vs. industry, and being true to self are all over tracks such as “On And On,” “Questions And Answers,” “In The Lab,” and “Focus.” Unfortunately, the release didn't capitalize on the potential of the summer anthem "Summer Time Bluez" featuring Twizz. El and Twizz take you through the hood during the summer breaking down their observations of the heat, the weed, the beer, and the shorties. J-Live and Asheru join El on “Whatyouwando” with straight up lyricism and a beautiful string sample loop by Joe Money. Kaos weighs prominently throughout the album as well, handling a couple of the interludes and wrecking shop on “Speakin’” and “So Think Again.” The latter highlights the career of the rapper briefly alluding to his falling out with Tame, as well as how and what happened to the Artifacts in the nineties.

There really isn't a skip as far songs are concerned (the intro and “Word On The Street” are interludes) on the album. Each song gives you a little insight into El and hammering home his love and devotion to the art of hip-hop. Without question, Relax Relate Release is a dope album that shows that one of the knotty-headed niggas from NJ is alive and kicking, and that the legacy of the Artifacts will certainly live on.

{mikal lee (hired gun)}

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