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El Da Sensei
Posted on: September 17, 2003 12:16 MST
Filed under: Rap

el da sensei

Sit back, relax, rest your eyes, relate, forget your day, breath in, and now release. Coming from the "Brick City" in New Jersey we are about to be touched with the true to life lyrical masteries of El Da Sensei. The Sensei is on a mission to not only provide guidance to those representing the overly commercialized world of mainstream hip- hop but to also ease the ears of the true hip- hop fan that are throbbing from the constant injections of the normal radio refuse. Relief is near. The fall of 2002 will see another step towards the sun where the truth of the hip- hop art form resides with the release of Seven Heads artist, El The Sensei's Relax, Relate, Release. It's time to take notes; The Sensei is ready to begin the lesson.

From the beginning of the hip- hop era New York City has been at the epicenter of its activities by being the source of ripples that spread across the nation. The first place to be hit outside of the city was Newark, New Jersey, where the New Jerusalem sound was born and pioneered by Queen Latifah, Redman, Naughty by Nature, Lords of the Underground and The Artifacts. It was with The Artifacts that our graffiti artist, b- boy, beat boxer, and not to mention lyricist came out and uncovered his talent for the underground hip- hop world to observe. Many years before this exposure, El spent most of his young adult life as a b- boy, break dancing, battling as a dancer and later a lyricist, and sneaking to tag at any chance. Yet, being one of the two parts that made up The Artifacts, El found his place in the world of hip- hop as an MC. The two hit the scene with so much lyrical talent that most hip- hop listeners did not know to associate the two with New Jersey. After rocking on WKCR radio in NYC, and blowing away the hosts, Stretch and Bobbito, El and partner, Tame One secured a deal with Big Beat/Atlantic. The two man crew, then called That's Them changed their name to The Artifacts and dropped the seminal Hip Hop classic, "Between A Rock And A Hard Place." That record which is now regarded as the blueprint for what is now called "backpack" music was beautiful in its simplicity. Gone were the gimmicks, silly outfits and quirky rhyme styles. The Artifacts were simply dope beats, dope rhymes. Period. The album produced the classic "Wrong Side of the Tracks", as well as "Dynamite Soul", and C'mon Wit Da Get Down". After setting off the memorable "Best Of The Underground" Tour with then relatively unknown Common (still Sense at the time), Organized Konfusion and the Beatnuts the Artifacts returned to drop their second banger, "That's Them". That long player introduced the world to Shawn J Period and headphone masterpieces like "Art of Facts", "The Interview", and "The Ultimate."

Soon after the second release El and Tame decided on an amicable break up. This split caused many a DJ to shed a tear, and El addresses this issue on several songs from "Relax…" "Think Again" and "So Easily" finally clear the air surrounding the separation of the notty headed one and the Sen. After the split El Da Sensei continued his journey towards lyrical mastery alone, traveling around the world appearing on numerous compilations from Japan to Norway to Germany. He dropped the singles "Frontline" (which is available here on CD for the 1st time) and "Got That", while at the same time becoming a father and having a son, Elliot Jr, his pride and joy. Taking care of little El, diagnosed as autistic, is a full time job in and of itself, but the Sen still finds the time to dedicate himself to his craft.

The new album, Relax, Relate, Release is the result of years of a worldwide education and the obtaining of a level of wisdom found in someone aged well beyond the years El has walked this earth. With this work, El invites us to "be easy" and take a breath; relax. With the song, "Relax" he asks us to go into ourselves remembering the early nineties sound of hip- hop. "What happened to the sound? Everyone's frontin'. We have to go back to the earlier '90s. I remember when rappers were inside the track instead of on top of it" argues a concerned Sensei, "everyone's acting like they forgot". "Relax" sets the tone for the rest of the album, letting us know that the Master (the Sensei) is back here to let you know that we can return to a time before labels of underground versus jiggy versus backpack versus dirty south versus whatever silly marketing label that the mountain climbing, guitar playing blowhards put on our music. There was a time when it was all just music. Some good, some bad. For the record, this is the good shit.

"Speakin'" displays the lyrical talents of The Sensei amidst the cuts of DJ Kaos, El's right hand since the That's Them days, and production by J. Rawls. The Sensei wants to allow us to experience the trueness of the music in the nineties. In fact, when speaking on the style a decade prior, El credits his former production partners, Buckwild, Show Biz, and Lord Finesse in the making the early nineties style popular. The successive songs take us through the twisted and metaphorical thoughts of The Sensei; intertwined with an instrumental foundation overlaid with beats that make you feel so good you close your eyes and open them at the end to find that all this time you've bopping your head. With "So Think Again", The Sensei begins his teachings. Speaking to potential rappers and quite possibly those that are already professionals, on the lessons learned from his early experiences. Be wary of overly enthusiastic executives and shady promoters. As the Sen says, "This is what happens in the game, but you just don't know."

The next lesson is "Focus", here The Sensei rallies the members the world of underground hip- hop, and those that are loyal to the trueness of hip- hop. They identify with what El refers to as "the natural way" of producing true hip- hop. As the album plays our ears are blessed by guest lyricists: fellow Seven Heads artist, Asheru, J- Live on "Whatyawando?", as well as the legendary Sadat X on "On and On", whom El speaks on: "I'm a fan and a follower… they stand for the same thing I stand for. I already knew we would sound good together".

"We go on and on to the next, two pioneers still here and we double the threat." -On and On

The first single off the album, "Summer Time Bluez" featuring Twizz takes us back to summers of years past and present. This light, easy beat does well though not to mask the truth of the lyrics. This lesson has a lighter tone while speaking on the nostalgic pleasure that is brought about with the start of summer with memories of the past. El brings the listener back to reality though by reminding him/ her that the trueness of the world is not thwarted by the start of the summer. Aside from that the talented producing of Malito, also a native of New Jersey, makes this song a definite body shaker. The album as a whole sets itself apart not only because of the lyrical talents of El Da Sensei but also the caliber of production: from Koolade, to P Original, to Joe Money, and Kankicks. The Sensei declares: "I made this one is for the b-boys!"

Throughout the album we find ourselves immersed in the wise words of The Sensei. He has an uncanny way of putting words together that form lyrics full of knowledge; they twist the mouth and would leave most rappers gasping for air. "This is the way we're supposed to be doing it" says The Sensei, speaking also of artists like that of Pharaoh Monch, and De La Soul. "Nothing is out there for the older b- boy" he further explains "hip- hop is so grimy and serious. I make music with a carefree attitude. Everyone's not a thug. I'm not a thug". Relax, Relate, and Release as the title says is the Sensei's wish for hip- hop: everything needs to calm down and come back to b- boys. What's more, the phrase is a reflection of his frustration with the industry of hip- hop that he acknowledges has changed a lot since The Artifacts. No worries though, El assures us that he has not.

Somewhere in the mind of El Da Sensei, past the "b-boying", beat boxing, lyrical creations, drawings, Japanimation movies, and the joys and challenges brought by raising an autistic son as a single father, you can take a deep look by stripping away the layers, going past The Sensei, what we find is only a man that has a genuine love and respect for Hip-Hop culture. El Da Sensei recognizes the Renaissance that is occurring not only in his beloved hometown of Newark, New Jersey but also the renewing of the art of hip- hop. Relax, Relate, Release is a prophetic chapter in the book hip- hop history that spreads the news of a new dawn where we are not held captive by the political agendas in an industry full corruption and chaos. El The Sensei now offers true fans of hip- hop what they need: a release.

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