Esoteric is admittingly bored with the current state of hip-hop.
The 2007 7L & Esoteric release, A New Dope, was the first to breathe this sentiment; it posed as a sharp departure from the duo’s more traditional hip-hop recordings of previous years. That evolution continues in the fourth-quarter of ’08 for Eso, who steps to the foreground all by his lonesome with Egoclapper.
Egoclapper, Eso’s solo debut, also serves as the flagship release for Fly Casual Creative – his music label with longtime friend, graphic designer KARMA. The album, while not really a continuance of A New Dope, is every bit as innovative.
The 1980s still form the LP’s groundwork yet, instead of new wave and electro, Egoclapper is an entirely different animal. Revolving around sampling, and drawing from music, movies and cartoons, the album is a hodgepodge of popular culture. From golden age hip-hop, to Saturday morning cartoons, to comic books, to James Taylor – yes, James Taylor – the samples here run the gamut.
Sonically, the album is rough, raw if you will. “Frank Miller Tank Killer” sounds like it was done in the back of a taxi, muffled lyrics over a simple but harsh horn-drum combination. “Zombie Combat” is sparse in every sense of the word, with a drum arrangement straight out of a Massachusetts garage. That is until it drastically flips into a relatively soft guitar-led showcase for Too Short and MC Shan lifts.
“Ego Empire” is a gem, serving as a sampling odyssey of sorts. The Incredible Hulk, Grimlock – of Transformers fame – De La Soul, Luke Skywalker, Jay-Z, etc. make appearances over an understated offering from Esoteric. Coincidentally, the Boston-based emcee produced 11 of the 16 tracks, giving the album a much-needed consistency.
The same can be said for Egoclapper lyrically. Esoteric has stated that much of his content was done in an improvisational manner – it shows. And while the Boston-based emcee may not be the most diverse or even the most technically gifted, it’s hard to argue with his cleverness.
“Spidey Jail Break,” a particularly impressive offering production-wise, sees the Boston-based emcee keep with the braggadocio rhymes that occupy much of the album. Still, it’s difficult to ignore lines like “This shit here is reality rap, let’s hope they don’t make a spin-off.” “Typhoons in Japan” also is a standout, as is “Boston Garden Rap:” “I’ll cut your head off like Jay-Z’s HP ads.”
Though Egoclapper isn’t a complete home run – see “Street Stigma” – it is an impressive offering. Like most great musicians, Esoteric continues to evolve. Not only is he reinventing his style, he’s asking questions of a genre all too comfortable in its own skin. Egoclapper may not be a definitive release, but it’s a welcome departure from the malign currently plaguing the industry. – Jack Goodson
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