On “3-Minute Classic” from 7L & Esoteric’s fourth album, A New Dope, Boston rapper Esoteric confesses to being a premature ejaculator. The scenes are countless late-night bedroom/backseat sessions: the hissy surfin’ organ sounds and porn noises (a sly reference to Jenna Haze is made; if you don’t know who she is, that’s the point) are a dizzying, evasive swirl (also the point). In the end, when Esoteric manages to beat the odds and pound one home, chants of “Hercules” are heard, and more porn dialogue champions the hero as the clock keeps ticking. Victory, redemption: Yes.
This exchange tells us more about Esoteric the Artist than any by-the-numbers mike-wreck might. Rapping about being a numb-nutted dickweed is something people like De La Soul and Biz Markie used to do all the time, and it’s those kinds of revelations that won them diehards, not the skills-and-real-hip-hop aesthetic. Esoteric tears off a chunk of himself he doesn’t like: Here it is. It’s the whole, ugly truth, but he’s brutally honest about it, and he can even make a joke of it.
The effect would be lost if not for the production, which blends familiar and unfamiliar scraps of inspiration — electro-bounce, old-school samples, Kraftwerk’s “The Model,” the Twin Peaks theme — and inverts them, making new things comfortable and giving old things fresh context. (As usual, the production is helmed by 7L, but A New Dope marks Esoteric’s debut as a producer; half the beats here are his.) “Take Note” is a throwback breakbeat that becomes furious once the wiggling keys peer in, made more menacing by Esoteric calling himself out. There are lighter attempts, too. “Dunks Are Live, Dunks Are Dead” glides on 808 splashes before come-together dub and flutes show up for the finish. One track later, on the Esoteric-produced “A.O.S.O.,” it’s the other way around: spacey synths (that’s Kraftwerk being evoked) that land in hostile territory; crunchy distortion and a hop-skip beat leak frustration (“Johnny Damon’s on a T-shirt Heidi Fleiss is on a T-shirt Nick Lachey, a fucking T-shirt!”).
“Feel the Velvet” — silky and consuming like the title implies — is a list of Eso’s likes and dislikes: “I like the old school, today’s emcees are soft/ You like watching 50 Cent when he’s squeezing off/ I like watching Belladonna when she’s G’ing off.” “Play Dumb” is pop-culture-flexing as a series of bullshit (“Mike Tyson, such a clever guy/ Illmatic was good, but it’s no Aquemini“). It’s “Perfect Person” that drops the act, though. Esoteric is incredible at riding beats; “Daisycutta,” featuring Kool Keith, proves as much. But over his own beat on “Perfect Person,” Eso’s rapid flow is merely a placeholder; what shocks here is the strain of the domestic-hell lyrics as they match the gasps of a broken-soul angel. A chorus spells doom: “You don’t wanna kill me/ You wanna mold me and build me/ Until I’m the perfect person for you/ But I think that’s silly/ It’s true/ You don’t wanna beat me/ You wanna school me and teach me/ Until I’m the perfect person for you/ But you cannot reach me/ Nope.” He’s down, he’s out. But you can guess what happens: He overcomes this one, too.
Label: http://www.babygrande.com/Audio: http://www.myspace.com/7lesoteric