Hip-Hop press kit sheets are often prone to superlatives. Here's a short list of glowing words you'll find within them: revolutionary, new, groundbreaking, innovative, wonderful, bold, brave, and cutting edge. Babygrande's package for "A New Dope" took it to a whole new level though with phrase "7L & Esoteric felt it was time for a rebirth." Seriously. Does the writer want us to believe they crawled back in the womb, or that a new Eso-pterodactyl hatched from a clutch of eggs? If the duo were ever "reborn" at all it was when they shed the slightly pretentious name God Complex and decided to simply call their group 7L & Esoteric. Every well-known song they've made in rap has had that stamp from "Speaking Real Words" to the present day. To sum it up "rebirth" has about as much meaning in a sentence as "preboard" does to George Carlin when travelling by airplane. It's nonsense. Let's cut through the bullshit - the title of the album is "A New Dope" and that simple yet effective phrase summarizes what 7L & Es are doing better than three stapled and folded pages of P.R. It's time to "Get Dumb":
"Two plus two, add 'em up get five
Capitol of Boston, Mass. is Bever-ly
See that man with the gun, poke him in the eye
Now now, G. Dubya Bush would never lie
Mike Tyson, such a clever guy
_Illmatic_ was good, but it's no _Aquemini_
Cemetery, I spell it with an 'A'
Phlegm's F-L-E-M today
I spoke with Madonna on IM
MySpace, Led Zepplin's my friend
Hip-Hop started in Ipswich
French fries taste like dog shit"
Ever the hip-hop humorist, Esoteric decided to take getting dumb literally and say as much blatantly absurd shit as possible in one song. That works well - too bad the beat doesn't. HORRID would be a good place to start - it drones on like a factory assembly line that's repeatedly being started and shut down due to a faulty conveyor belt. Acapella, please. Thankfully things improve greatly on "Everywhere," a track that rocks traditional soul clap, synth keys and samples. The only bad thing about the song is that it's under three minutes long. "Feel the Velvet" falls somewhere between the two, where Esoteric drops typically clever lines: "I like hearin MC's rip with no hooks/ I like seein myself spit on Garth Brooks." Unfortunately the beat is mediocre and so is Esoteric's vocal tone, which is so emotionless and unenthusiastic you'd think he built an ES-101 robot and fed it lines to say while he left the studio for a coffee break.
There's definitely a weird undercurrent running beneath the surface of "A New Dope," and it's not one this writer is entirely happy about. Going back to the press kit for a second, Esoteric says that constant duels with studio engineers hindered his creativity and made him feel like he had mono - so sick for so long that it starts to become normal. I hope he'll forgive me for saying so but I'm thinking he needs to get sick again, at least figuratively. Some people are at their creative best in a poor environment, because all that pent up frustration is unleashed through the masterpieces they create. There are definitely some fine works of art of "A New Dope" where you get to see Esoteric get ill, such as his Kool Keith duet "Daisycutta":
Es: "In oh-six, I maintain the _Wrath of Kane_
The benefit of the pain pain, the grind of the game
Yo we said that we'd stomp out the brutalest men right?
So bring all the comp out and we'll do it again
Rhythm X be checkin the XP
Kutmasta Kurt yo load the jet ski"
Keith: "Now pick up the phone connect me
Pick up the tec see - bla-bla-bla-blaow
It's time to step back, motivator I'm greater
Percolator the raider get ready to burn in the incubator
Get ready to turn, I'ma see you later
The crowd provoker, get down, move over"
And then on songs like "Perfect Person" you wonder if Es really is ill. The background music is the theme song from the short-lived TV show "Twin Peaks," which although ambient and spooky doesn't make for much of a hip-hop beat. Es seems to slur and stumble through his verbals on the track:
"I got six pairs of Nikes by the front door
I got six more by the TV so it's raw
The only time I pick 'em up's to put 'em on my feet
And that's the reason why my girl is tryin to kill me in my sleep
Everytime I go to change the trash bag in the barrel
It gets stuck because it's overflowin with dirty apparel"
That's definitely new, but it ain't dope. As a long-time fan who enthusiastically and wholeheartedly supported 7L & Es on albums like "The Soul Purpose" and "Dangerous Connection" I wanted to love this album, but as a critic I have to say the album is not only flawed but a little bit schizophrenic. In some cases Esoteric's infatuation with oddball beats and new flow styles creates surprisingly enjoyable tracks like "Dunks Are Live, Dunks Are Dead" but far more often creates electronically and verbally ear-shattering songs like "Eso Ain't Shit." The name of the track is simultaneously false and true - the song itself ain't shit but NORMALLY Esoteric is one of the dopest rhymers in Massachusetts. The E-S fans will still want this album for songs like "Reggie Lewis is Watching" and "Take Note" where he sounds like the Eso-pterodactyl of old, but songs like "The Most" sounds like the results of genetically crossbreeding Princess Superstar and Kool Keith and getting the worst parts of each instead of the best. That's not a rebirth, that's the birth of a new nightmare. I want the old Esoteric back, not "The New Dope."
Music Vibes: 5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10
Originally posted: May 16, 2006