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by
1 January, 2001@12:00 am
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 Ever since their introduction five years ago, with what many dubbed “The Transfomers Song”, “Be Alert”, the underground has patiently waited for a full-length release from Boston’s 7L & Esoteric. Over the years, the duo has released a consistent series of 12″ singles, many of which pop up on their full-length debut, The Soul Purpose.

With the DJ’s name listed first, (a la Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Eric B. & Rakim, Showbiz & AG), 7L & Esoteric are students of the old school, with heavy influence taken from hip-hop’s early days. Whether building hooks out of vocal samples from their rhyming heroes (Doug E. Fresh, Rakim, Public Enemy, EPMD, etc.), or incorporating production styles from classic eras, the duo have a definite appreciation for the roots of rap, which will also be appreciated by today’s fans that share the same ideals.

Tracks like “Call Me E.S.”, “Think Back”, and “My Rhyme” (a Stet cover) take things back to the early days, between 7L’s production, Esoteric’s reminiscing and his braggadocio B-Boy flare. The majority of the tracks do remain grounded in styles of today, with ferocious production matching Esoteric’s alarming battle rhymes (“Operating Correctly”, “Mic Mastery”, “Rep The Hardest”). More light-hearted selections show Esoteric’s humorous side, such as “Guest List”, which present’s Eso’s frustration at hip-hop clubs with flossy dress codes, and “Jealous Over Nothin’”, where he brags to his ex-girl all about his new dip. Then of course, anthems such as “The Soul Purpose” and “Speaking Real Words” (feat. Inspectah Deck) are easily the album’s most accessible tracks, much like their classic “Be Alert”.

While this is an album designed for the core hip-hop fan, it may not be accessible enough for the casual rap listener. Esoteric pacifies his fans by consistently delivering outrageous battle raps, but he hardly strays off course, never scratching the surface of his Eso-pterodactyl armor. While remaining unwilling to open up and reveal the man behind the mic, fans may pigeonhole him as a one-dimensional emcee, this is only his first album with plenty of room to grow.

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