Who put this idea in their heads? 7L & Esoteric, a Boston-bred duo with roots traceable to golden age greats such as the iconic Gangstarr, have boldly stepped out of the box with arguably their most creatively inspired release to date, "A New Dope."
Originally achieving notoriety as one of the East Coast's finest hip-hop tag teams for the better part of the last decade, 7L & Esoteric felt it was time for a rebirth.
"When I was young, I had mono for a whole summer and never knew. I got so used to feeling like shit that I thought that's what 'good' felt like. I can liken that to some of the studio sessions throughout our last few records" said Esoteric, the emcee of the duo. "Psychologically dueling with engineers can hinder your creativity, and as a result, you become less picky about the music and more enthusiastic about leaving. With this new album, I recorded the whole thing by myself; no guides, no drama, no two cents, no nothing. There was nobody there to stop me and say 'hey, is this what your fans expect of you? What are people going to say?' I just stood in front of the mic and got personal."
The man behind the wheels, DJ 7L adds:
"Eso played me some stuff he had recorded on his own, which to me was some of the best stuff he has done, and that in turn inspired me to just make music that matched what he needed...we didn't consider anyone's opinion, we just had a lot of fun making it."
A lot of fun. That's not what that indelible 7LES logo has come to symbolize over the years. Cinematic samples and metaphorical death threats are what the group is notorious for and ultimately what the group has relied on throughout their career to date. Nobody would expect a duo that recorded with Marley Marl, collaborated with Inspectah Deck from Wu-Tang, rhyme alongside Kool Keith on this album and celebrated the boom-bap era with such valor to re-emerge on 120+ bpm tracks peppered with Kraftwerk-like soundscapes.
"I think we concentrated less on what 'people want from us' or what they 'expect to hear' and just kind of went with what felt right." said DJ 7L.
"Sure some people might think we've gone a little nutso, but really the way music has changed, values, what's 'indie,' 'mainstream,' all these titles, cause it to become a scenario where the artist concentrates more on what style to fit into rather than having any style at all."
The phrase "raw battle raps" has become synonymous with the intensely convincing Esoteric, but what may fit into the confining battle category does not run rampant on " A New Dope."
"It's about creative risks, and throughout our career for one reason or another, we haven't made enough of them. We wanted to challenge ourselves and our core fanbase. I touched on some personal stuff, and even produced some tracks, pulling sounds from a lot of untapped sources."
7L builds on Eso's sentiments: "It is a new direction for us, but it is still us, the personality is still there."
Just when you thought they gave a f**k what you thought, 7L & Esoteric are back with " A New Dope."