The 7L & Esoteric album finally dropped. Heads have been waiting for this piece of work for a good couple of years now. They caught the underground’s ear with their Transformers-sampling “Be Alert,” proved they could put out a dope track without relying on gimmicks with “Speaking Real Words,” and now Boston’s 7L/ES have a full 20-track album to further their status as underground heavyweights. And believe me, the wait was worth it.

Perhaps the first thought after a quick listen to “The Soul Purpose” is that the 7L/ES “sound” that we’ve heard so far is no accident or experimental phase; if you loved what you’ve heard before, you’ll love what you hear now. A full 13 of the 18 musical tracks are produced by either 7L or their longtime collaborator, the Vinyl Reanimators, and they all feature the trademark 7L/ES sound: tight drums and a futuristic, sci-fi flavor, all wrapped up into a highly polished, professional sound with 7L scratching away on top of it all like his life depended on it. Tracks like “Public Execution,” “Verbal Assault,” and “Chain Reaction” demonstrate the 7L/ES sound at its best.

Lyrically, Esoteric stands front and center and keeps the listener’s attention throughout. He won’t win any awards for being a three-dimensional rapper, but the Eso-terrorist is lethal in two-dimensions of rhyming: the battle rhyme and witty punchlines. Check out these searing samples from Eso:

“Too gory, these kids split Whigs like a Tory
More importantly I bring the 4th degree of sorcery
Orally, forgery authorities report to me, quarterly
The way I corner borders be like Normandy”

“Vocabulary’s tighter than a ‘Seven-Forty I’
I mortify forty-five guys for their lives
The forty-sixth make sure he cries before he dies
and tears from his eyes made my name immortalized”

Esoteric ain’t no chump on the microphone, and after a few listens, you’ll know why. Of course, even the best rappers in the game need some help holding things down for a whole album, so they bring along some of their boys to help. Apathy is on board with a song-stealing verse (someone give this kid a record deal NOW), as is Vinnie Paz aka Ikon of Jedi Mind Tricks, Mr. Lif, Inspectah Deck, Akrobatic, and a few other lesser-knowns. None fail to step up, and all do an admirable job of keeping up with the high standards set by Esoteric himself. Lyrically, this album is tight, tight, tight.

Overall, this is an excellent piece of work and worth picking up. As things stand now, it’s my pick for the best hip-hop album of the year, hands down. With this album, 7L & Esoteric have proven themselves to be at or near the top of the underground hip-hop ladder with their dope beats, tight rhymes, and quality production that screams out, “major label,” yet isn’t. Bottom line, this album deserves to be on the shelf of anyone who considers themselves to be a fan of hip-hop.

7L & Esoteric :: The Soul Purpose
9Overall Score