Sometimes artists get bored with the art of rapping. Hip-Hop can get pretty redundant nowadays; kids rapping the same ol’ 16 bars over the same ol’ boom bap about the same ol’ subjects. So, usually what happens to artists in this state, is that they will take a leap and try something different. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Outkast did it and the public accepted it, Common did it and the public smashed him. 7L & Esoteric have been straightforward in their approach for awhile now. 7L makes some pretty hardcore beats, while Esoteric spits pretty hardcore battle rhymes. Some loved it, some didn’t. But somewhere down the line the duo got bored with what they have been doing for several albums and have decided to reinvent themselves with a new venture titled A New Dope. Will it be embraced by the public or bashed by critics who beg them to revert back to the old?
Right from the jump, “Get Dumb” is an instant departure from the sounds of old. Sonic soundscapes from 7L back up Esoteric’s rants (“Mike Tyson’s such a clever guy/Illmatic was good, but it’s no Aquemini”). It may catch an old fan way off guard and have them wondering what they just got themselves into, as it obviously takes some getting used to. And the offbeat vibes don’t stop there, “3 Minute Classic” is a quirky ode to sex with some swanky organs layered with moans, while the Kool Keith assisted “Daisycutta” sounds like it was ripped right out of some alternate universe.
Some things don’t really change though. No matter what kind of backdrop you place behind Esoteric, he still delivers like Esoteric. What does that mean? Well it’s still the same monotone voice that you have either loved for several albums or outright hated. “Eso Ain’t Shit” places Esoteric amongst another weird ass beat with a double time flow while “Dunks Are Live, Dunks Are Dead” finds Eso experimenting with another style. Both songs don’t really make Esoteric a better emcee, but it doesn’t hurt for him to try other things. But at the end of the day, it’s still Esoteric, who is still solid as he drifts away from battle rhymes and experiments, with other topics and a sly sense of humor.
The star (or villain depending on how you look at it) of this album is 7L and his production. If you come in expecting something to sound remotely like Bars of Death, forget about it. A New Dope was marketed as a “stylistic rebirth” for the crew, sounding like Hip-Hop and electronica had dirty sex and made a baby. It’s Hip-Hop, but you can feel the electronic influences punching their way through the production. 7L also takes the time to inject his personality within the walls of the album. “Cemetery” is just strange as shit with voice drops like “Let’s go to the Cemetery” and “Fuck some whores” bridged together, which might leave fans scratching their heads.
So at the end of the day is this album good or bad? Honestly one couldn’t say that it is a bad album, because they drift from their previous ventures, but at the same time one can’t say that the change of scenery benefits the group either. It’s just a different breed of animal altogether. Some songs work (the groovy “Perfect Person”) while some don’t (the way too techno remix of “Get Dumb”, “Play Dumb”). A New Dope is cool and all, but most fans will expect for them to go back to their old style. So much for trying something different.
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