When Tame One passed away on November 5, obituaries summarily focused on his reputation as a graffiti writer, his longtime participation in 90s duo the Artifacts, his subsequent wanderings in New York’s rap underground and participation in collectives like the Weathermen. Then there’s “Haagen-Dazs,” a track he and Artifacts partner El Da Sensei recorded with Dutch production team The Boulevard Connection for the latter’s highly-regarded Fondle ‘Em 12-inch EP. With its dusty piano loop and sharp turntable cuts by DJ Kaos, the 1998 song captures the essence of an era. El’s “fact not fiction” diction serves as a setup for Tame One’s unconventional flow. “I’m too bugged out to thug out,” he begins, stop-starting between boasts, homage to cannabis, and “talking to God, I feel odd.” True, Tame One was an unusually rare bird.
Freedom Archives, an online database focused on progressive and radical historical movements, has documentation on BLU magazine, which was published between 1998 and 2001. While most press at the time limited their coverage of politically minded rap to dead prez and Black Star, the New York magazine threaded between overlapping scenes like spoken word and Afro-Cuban sounds, featured interviews with activists like Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt and Yuri Kochiyama, and dedicated issues to the Puerto Rico independence movement and women’s right. Each issue includes a CD from major names like Tony Touch as well as lesser-known acts like Rico Pabon. All together, BLU’s 14 issues depict a complex hip-hop movement that’s often omitted from histories of the period.