As longtime purveyors of hip-hop for the Boston scene, 7L & Esoteric still remain one of the most consistent underground crews to emerge from Beantown, following in the footsteps of legends such as Ed O.G and Guru. With their third album, DC2: Bars Of Death, the duo delivers perhaps their most focused album to date, entirely self-produced (with the exception of one joint produced by J-Zone).
DC2: Bars of Death helps reinforce the group’s no-nonsense approach to making hip-hop records, rooted in the hard-hitting drums and obscure samples used so frequently during hip-hop’s golden age (’88-’93). And while they’ve been criticized in the past for delivering battle raps only or instead being too experimental, DC2 meets a happy medium. Laced with plenty of rewind-ready punch rhymes, as well as more introspective songs, DC2 has a lot to offer, just shy of a massive 20 songs.
“Rise of The Rebel” is perhaps the album’s best song, because we finally get a glimpse of who Esoteric really is behind the mic, and how he came to be an emcee. Dispelling rumors and setting the record straight, Eso spits: “Let me set it straight/ for people that show love, and people that show hate / my life’s far from great, my folks far from rich / a message for the kids, think for yourself, don’t believe a Gossiping Bitch”, over mellow head-nodding pianos. Eso finds himself on the defensive again later on the album, on “Touchy Subjects”, a first-of-it’s-kind conceptual jam that pits white and black emcees arguing racial issues in hip-hop, as Eso laments: “How could you possibly call me a devil? / In ’86 I was writing rhymes, reciting lines from my favorites / Like who? / Like BDP, Kool G. Rap, EPMD, and Run DMC”. While this is one of the more obvious ones, the album is ripe with concepts, such as “Graphic Violence”, a bullet ridden gangster rap spit from the mouth of a Grand Theft Auto video game player. Again on “So Glorious”, where Eso inserts his political opinion from the perspective of the American Flag. “I’ve been killing since I had thirteen stars / doing a life bid behind thirteen bars / don’t get me heated dog, you don’t want me on fire / still thinking I’m a burner, you must be a slow learner”. So there’s definitely more here than what may appear at surface value.
Meanwhile, much of the remainder of the album dabbles in those “bars of death” it’s namesake suggests, with posse cuts aplenty. When taking a break from the heavy-handedness of the conceptual joints, these exercises in lyrical laser tag provide great balance, especially when others join the fray. The lead single, “This Is War” is propelled by a sinister piano loop, with Jedi Mind Tricks’ Vinnie Paz playing the ultimate hype man, as each of the Army of The Pharoahes take a turn on the symphony. But the crew is in its prime when the Demigodz form like Voltron on each “Murder-Death-Kill”, “Way Of The Gun”, and the bonus track “Yell At Us”, where Apathy and Celph Titled join in to spit their trademark laugh-out loud lyrics. “That’s Right” is also notable, where Eso is joined by fellow Boston mainstays Main Flow and KT.
All together, you’ve got a pretty good album here, but it’s not without its faults. While the fact that the crew produced almost the entire album themselves, unfortunately at nineteen tracks in length, a feeling of monotony sets in at times. Not to mention, that with this many songs, it would have easy to trim the fat, maybe to a solid 13 songs, rather than super-sizing it with excess material. While 7L & Esoteric continue to release their own brand of true hip-hop, it may just remain a blip on the radar for the rest of the world who stopped giving a shit once Ready To Die hit. For the rest of us however, they can take pride in the fact that they’ve never turned their backs on the artform that shaped their own existence.
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