In sports they are often fond of saying that “familiarity breeds contempt” and in music this is also sometimes true. Just look to any group of siblings that have ever formed a group, the tensions are often very volatile and uncertain. But under the best conditions that same kind of familiarity can also breed an ingenious sense of telepathic synergy and fertile creativity. Just look to the impacting example of legends like Primo and Guru to elucidate this point perfectly.
DJ 7L and his longtime vocal collaborator Esoteric have been underground staples for almost a decade now, and with each record they make it becomes more and more evident that they are approaching a plateau of musical creativity and synchronicity that few artists ever achieve. It’s an innate, indefinable something that goes beyond chemistry or timing or vision. From their earliest days the Boston duo has been tagged with such lofty adjectives as “innovative” and “groundbreaking” terms that can sometimes weigh a group down with expectations. From Esoteric’s ambidextrous skills with metaphors, punchlines, battle Raps and concepts to 7L’s uncanny ability to produce distinct, unique tracks this Boston duo has kept itself fresh by sticking to the most basic concepts of Hip-Hop: beats and rhymes.
Now, back in 2004 with a new album, Dangerous Connection 2: Bars of Death and a new label (Babygrande Records) 7L & Esoteric keep it going with the same tried and true ethos that has been their foundation since inception.
Fat Tony: First off, how do yall feel about the Nomar trade?
Eso: (Laughing) it could go either way, man. I understand the pros and the cons of it. He’s definitely an icon for the Red Sox, but baseball is big business and there’s so many different factors that go into that type of deal, you know?
FT: Yeah I feel that, but I hate Nomar, especially now that he’s in the National League, so fuck ‘em. Anyway, you guys have just dropped Dangerous Connection 2: Bars of Death on your new label, Babygrande Records. Now that the album is done and out there are you happy with it?
7L: Definitely, I think that with as much time as we spent working on it and how much we liked it we kind of felt that, for the most part, our fans feel the same way: that it’s top-notch record, that it’s our best work. It’s been good; it feels like all our hard work has paid off.
FT: Can you explain the concept behind the titles Dangerous Connection and Bars of Death? Has this been a planned thing since DC1 or did it just kind of happen?
7L: It wasn’t planned, DC2 just came from this LP being an extension of the first one, plus this was originally going to be an EP. But as time went on we recorded more material and that title of DC2: Bars of Death was already out there, so we just stuck with it. But don’t worry, you won’t be seeing a DC3: Chopped and Screwed, I think we are moving on. We have however knocked a few new joints in the can. We never sleep. Like Biz. We plan on having, maybe 4 songs done and complete before we hit the road in October. Not to mention, Beyonder and me already ran through 5-6 songs for Vinyl Thug 2 already.
FT: As you guys go further in your career, how do you approach making an album, production-wise?
7L: With the beats [for DC2] I wanted to keep a little variety, even though, personally I like one kind of style, you know what I mean? And I could make 20 beats in that one style for an album and still be 100% satisfied, you know, just battle raps for an entire album and I’d be happy, but that’s not the way the world works. I think consciously, beat-wise, I was taking a chance using beats and styles that I might not normally have done. Whatever beats I gave to Eso, he wrote to, and it just came out the way it did.
FT: What have you learned over the years about the process of making an album?
7L: Not being afraid of technology.
FT: Getting into some of Eso’s lyrics on the album, all throughout there are different themes that delve into. You seem to cover everything from the classic type of battle raps, to conceptual shit, to a track like “Touchy Subject” where you address and explore some racial issues.
Eso: The concept for that track just came up from the friendship I have with Uno the Prophet. We had been down with each other for a long time. He’s my age, probably a little older so we both kind of come from the old school, from the Golden Age; we both have the same similar understanding of good Hip-Hop. He has a lot of problems with the independent Hip-Hop scene and the underground. I’m not sure just why we hit it off, but we did. He basically challenged me to come to his crib and have a debate with him about the state of Hip-Hop and the state of the underground movement versus other sub-genres of Hip-Hop. I would go over there and build with him for hours at a time and just debate about all this shit with him and his boys. The song just stems from our discussions and then we figured we should make a song and kind of put these discussions on wax. He really wanted to take it full scale and do like a tour where the two of us debate throughout the U.S.A. He does a lot of public speaking
7L: Yeah, he’s the head of the new Black Panther Party here in Boston and he spends a lot of time traveling and speaking at colleges.
FT: All that and puts out records too?
Eso: Yeah, he’s got all kinds of connects to Dead Prez and Public Enemy, the real Pro-Black movement.
FT: How did Yall initially hook up?
Eso: From open mic nights, I was hosting an open mic in Boston back in like ’98, ’99 when the whole face of underground Hip-Hop was sort of changing and there were a whole bunch of people coming up, from corny kids trying to grab a mic cause it’s safe to real talented MC’s getting up and doing their thing. I really noticed Uno when he came up and tore the house down with his spoken word stuff. He really hit the nail on the head. We kind of built from there. That song is only an inkling of his depth. His views are kind of rigid.
FT: Did you initially find that to be any kind of an obstacle as far as you and him building?
Eso: No, cause I share a lot of his viewpoints on Hip-Hop. For the most part I agree with all the things he said [on "Touchy Subject"]. It took me a lot of time to write my verse, to have it not be misconstrued, to have it not sound like I’m arguing for the white race
FT: It had to be tricky for you to write a verse, you probably had to be careful how you phrased stuff and how you presented yourself
Eso: Oh, definitely. It took me a couple of times to really come up with a verse that I was happy with. I did a lot of editing. I had a whole bunch of lines referencing how everyone wants to be an MC after 8 Mile came out, stuff like that. And then I was like: do I really wanna put 8 Mile into this rhyme? It took me a few steps to really do it, to write something I was happy with and then Uno spoke his piece and that was basically it.
FT: Another song off DC 2 that is lyrically challenging is the metaphor-ripe â€œSo Gloriousâ€ where you sound like you are rapping from the perspective of a gun, but as the verses evolve we see that it is the American flag that is described as such a dangerous object.
Eso: On both verses of that song I am writing from the perspective of the flag. I’m trying to make it sound so much like I am speaking about a gun just for the people that are listening for that. I was trying to make it as though I was speaking as a gun so people would think that, and then by the end of the song it would hit them that it is about the flag. I think the second verse kind of spelled it out a little easier. I just thought it was kind of an interesting angle to take it from. Both the gun and the flag represent something that is mad dangerous.
FT: There’s definitely a more political edge to this record than on some of you previous records.
Eso: Yeah, at this point in time and this age that we are living in, it’s very, very tough to ignore the political climate. If you’re gonna be speaking to somebody you’d better be telling them something.
FT: Do you think that, because of the world political situation that Hip-Hop has an obligation to speak out on these types of subjects?
Eso: I think as far as being a vehicle for the youth to convey a message to people, definitely I think it’s important. Anybody taking some kind of a stance, you know, fighting the good fight or whatever, if you’re gonna put it into your music thats fine, I support that. As people get older, they mature and they find they have a lot of different stuff on their mind, all that stuff goes hand in hand as far as our political expression on the album. Its just the state of affairs in the world; you can’t really ignore it.
FT: So what’s up as far as future plans for 7l & Eso?
7L: Well, we got the Legacy of Blood tour coming up with Jedi Mind tricks and OuterSpace, probably beginning at the end of September. It’s definitely happening, its gonna be all across the U.S. and parts of Canada. That’s our main thing coming up. We got Vinyl Thug Volume Two coming out probably around the same time. It’ll have some of the regulars on it: OuterSpace, King Syze, Celph and Apathy etc. It’ll be a lot of new material.
Eso: The Demigodz project is also in the works, everybody’s working on their albums. Same thing for the Pharaohs.
7L: Yeah, as far as Demigodz and AOTP; Apathy and Celph are both working on albums now, Jedi’s just about to drop a new record, after all that stuff is done and out there we’ll start working on the side projects.
FT: Any last words?
Eso: Check out the website: www.7L-esoteric.com.
7L: Just tell motherfuckers to cop the CD, don’t download!
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