If you have followed independent hip-hop in the last 10 years, 7L and Esoteric need no introduction. From 7L’s boom-bap production reminiscent of the greats to Esoteric’s wordplay, consistency is definitely the name of the game. Unfortunately that game has changed a great deal in the 8 plus years since they dropped their underground classic “Be Alert” and frankly this duo is bored. Enter “A New Dope” which drops June 27th on Babygrande Records. The album is a complete 180 in comparison to their earlier works. I got a chance to chat with 7L and Esoteric about why putting out this type of album was not only necessary for hip-hop but also necessary for them personally.
HHS: What’s up fellas….?
7L: Doing alright
Esoteric: Doing well, maintaining.
Before we jump into “A New Dope” it has been almost 10 years in the game since you guys dropped “Be Alert”, what is the most important thing you have learned in those 10 years.
Esoteric: I’ll let 7L answer that one (laughs)
7L: Man, I don’t know
Esoteric: I haven’t learned a fucking thing (laughs)
7L: The classic style of rap that we like is a dying breed, maybe that’s what we have learned over years.
Esoteric: It takes some people a little longer to learn that than others. We have slowly come to grips with the fact that the music that we grew up on, the music that we have been inspired by and the music that we have tried to keep the tradition alive has just become a monotonous mockery of itself. I’m talking about the entire indie hip-hop genre that we used to thrive off of seems really mundane to us at this point and has for quite a while now.
I would say we are about the same age and when you guys first dropped that was like the golden era of independent hip-hop, everything indie was good and now indie doesn’t mean good it just means indie, you know?
Esoteric: Exactly. It’s so easy to make records now. Anybody can produce and make music with the help of computer programs. If you don’t have your background and your history in check nowadays you can be some jerk off who just started rapping yesterday and experience a taste of success and notoriety via the internet.
So is that how you would say the game has changed. With the ease of making music and the massive exposure that one can get through the internet?
Esoteric: Yeah, definitely but we can’t knock the internet. I have really gone back and forth on the topic of the internet. When it was first becoming popular among the hip-hop world I was really blind to the fact on how much it helped expose us. There were a lot of records that came out of Boston before us like Top Choice Click and TDS Mob that were just incredible records but didn’t get the exposure they needed to make an impact. The word spreads a lot faster on the internet than UPS or the Pony Express.
I Know 7L is a DJ first, just like me….have you switched to Serato Scratchlive yet?
7L: Yeah I am using it a little bit. I still bring records out, I use Serato at the beginning of the night and for back up shit. But for the core of the night when I’m djing out, I want to play actual vinyl. I go back and forth with Serato become there are some stuff….you know. At first I was against it but now you can roll up in a club with a laptop and you can see some douche bag DJ with Serato with 30,000 songs. It puts all the years of collecting of music to shame because anybody can go on limewire and download everything they need.
Alright, the new album “A New Dope” was originally supposed to drop on May 23rd, but has been pushed to June 27th, why the delay?
Esoteric: That’s 100% Babygrande
7L: It was really just to get it set up better with publicists and just gives it a little more time to get worked. There is an additional bonus track that is on the retail that isn’t on the advance.
7L, what equipment do you use to compose tracks?
7L: It always varies, but the major difference is I didn’t use my MPC for this one. I used an SP1200 on a few tracks and I have a little Boss 404 that I used on some stuff. That’s really about it, just some real simplistic stuff for this album. The thing with the MPC just like anything a lot of people have them but tracks kind of sound the same. It’s an incredible machine and I wanted to get some something different on this album. I have had those other samplers for a while but I never used them, you have to take a different angle when you make beats with them, it put a little more enjoyment back into making beats again.
You guys have a lot of up-tempo joints on “A New Dope”, are you paying homage to old school hip-hop in a way with those type of joints.
Esoteric: That’s always in the back of our minds in everything we do. Everything we do is definitely drenched in hip-hop. A lot of the stuff that 7L and I chose to sample for the record was based on something that was a crazy tempo to begin with. In order to make something like that work, we kind of had to redefine the way we go about doing things. Whether it was how I approached the verses or how he approached the choruses because some of the stuff we used was really up-tempo to begin with. That was the first step in going in a new direction. From some of the stuff that we have been reading, that’s the first thing that hits them, is how a lot of tracks are much more up-tempo.
7L, what was the major difference between making tracks on this album opposed to previous albums?
7L: There are no real preconceived notions about how a beat is supposed to sound. Esoteric did a lot of beats for this album as well. I think for both of us, we like a certain style of music and for a while we were making the same type of beat. For this one we just focused on making something that’s good as opposed to thinking about rapping on it or not.
The album is a little more left then the boom bap we have come to expect from you guys, why did you decide to do a more experimental album?
Esoteric: I think that our formula for the last few records, one could argue for all of our records are 95 beats per minute, I’m spitting 3 verses and 7L is cutting up some random rappers in the chorus and that’s the fucking song. That’s the music that we came up on and the music that we love and what is going to be closest to our hearts. As long as someone is doing it right, even by today’s standards if Showbiz came out with a record tomorrow with that exact format, I know that shit would be banging. I’m not trying to hear Johnny Jerry curl who started producing yesterday and decided to make a stab beat for the fuck of it, that’s isn’t going to move us. You can’t hear the grit that makes a good record like that. With the new direction we just felt it was time. I was looking at 7L like we have to do something different, I can’t write anymore battle raps and I’m bored to death with it. Plus, he has been djing all over the place and he plays all types of crazy stuff. I’m just basically trying to keep up with him and keep myself in the group.
Esoteric: We were very much aware that our core fan base this was going to be a hard record for them to swallow. We have been getting some good feedback and some really complementary words from people we respect. We are happy how it came out.
Where did your major inspiration for this album come from? Is it just doing something different, to do something that people didn’t expect?
7L: That might have been in the back of heads maybe. For the most part we just wanted to try something different and honestly, just have fun again. Every record we had to concentrate on having a concept track or this track. It was always in the back of our head we that we had to try to please other people. For this one, we really really just wanted to like it, have fun with it and try something different. Plus, on this one we did all the recording on our own, so that was something different too. When you first get into something all the energy and excitement was there again, it wasn’t old hat. This one we did all on our own and it was a little more fun.
So would you say that hip-hop needs something different just to survive, to save itself? Right now hip-hop is struggling.
Esoteric: I think that 7L and I have been trying to save hip-hop our whole career. We knew that all this mainstream stuff isn’t what rap represents and that’s why we made the records we did, calling out the wack emcees and such. But to echo 7L, on this one we weren’t so concerned with saving the art form. We were more concerned with entertaining ourselves and making a good record. We love to entertain the fans, but we have to entertain ourselves as well. At this stage of the game the whole underground movement is kind of a joke to us, we have been doing it so long. We respect the pioneers and we respect a lot our peers. You’re 28, so you’ve seen it grow and you’ve seen it shrink. We are not really giving a fuck about what anybody thinks about it we are just doing it for ourselves.
7L: Exactly, we really don’t care at all really….you know?
Esoteric: Thing is, if we would have went back in the studio and made another album like DC2 we would literally be bored to tears. It’s easy for us to make a record like that and we may come back to that style. But for us, right now I wouldn’t have had any motivation to make a record like that, where with this one it was actually fun.
Esoteric, would you say it’s more difficult to rhyme in double time and that this album really stretched you as an emcee?
Esoteric: Honestly, I think rhyming on this album was easier. It was kind of paint by numbers the way I was doing it. It’s not like I’m doing it like Busta Rhymes and getting really technical with it. Some of the tracks that are upwards 130 beats per minute I was just saying whatever the fuck. I recorded the vocals for the whole album at my home studio I would just freestyle. I would come up with 6 lines and say I would like that. This is actually a lot simpler than coming up with 16 bars for an AOTP record. This record was no sweat to us; there wasn’t any pressure with this record. You can’t tell by the cover that we really just don’t give a fuck.
Are there any tracks that you feel are truly stand outs?
Esoteric: Me personally this is the first record where I have a particular attachment to every song on the album. I don’t think with this particular record that any track gets lost in the sauce. You could say something good or bad about every track, nothing is filler. Whether we want to admit it or not on the last few records we let a few filler tracks on the album. For this record every joint on the record I have a strong feeling about.
7L: We went with our feeling on this one. We felt like we had enough tracks for an album and we felt like we weren’t repeating ourselves. It was a really quick process to record the album; it only took 3 or 4 months. With this one we didn’t really over analyze this one, if it sounded good to us and sounded good in the car, we kept it. Every song has it’s place on the album and there is nothing extra or bonus.
So have you guys chose a second single, my pick is “Everywhere”.
Esoteric: Yeah, that is definitely one of my favorites lyrically and one of my favorite beats that 7L gave us for the album. That is one of our personal favorites as well. We are actually waiting on the word from Babygrande on that and then we’ll run with it.
This is your 5th album, so what’s next for 7L and Esoteric?
Esoteric: 7L has an instrumental project that he is working on and I have solo record I’ve been working on. Not so much a solo record, I will be getting beats from 7L and Beyonder and I will be doing a lot of production myself but a solo endeavor conceptually. We will definitely make another 7L and Esoteric record that has no date as of yet.
Thanks for sitting down with us, anything else you guys want to say, shoutouts etc….
Esoteric: Thank you for the interview, we appreciate all the support.
7L: Yes thank you.
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