*This Interview was done in late 2006

Interview w/7L & Esoteric
By: Justin Rizzio

It’s hard to stand out nowadays in the world of “underground” hip hop. With everyone making beats or trying to be an mc, it’s difficult to stay on the cutting edge. In a scene that has become so diluted over the years, 7L and Esoteric have managed to stay on the forefront since the mid-nineties. Coming fresh off the long awaited Army Of The Pharaohs release, 7L and Esoteric are back, with a new sound and A New Dope.

215HipHop: You guys have been affiliated with Philly artists for a while now. How did you get connected with Philly’s hip hop scene ?
Esoteric: Definitely through Vinnie of Jedi Mind Tricks. We put out our first 12? under the name God Complex in ‘96. Somehow Vinnie got a hold of it and reached out to us on a number we had on the label. He was like, ” Yo, we’re doin’ some shit out here in Philly “. He sent us the Psycho Social album. It wasn’t an album yet, it was on cassette. It was just some shit he was working on like that Crop Circle Thesis joint. And we just kind of connected and talked alot on the phone. Eventually we met up at Rocksteady one year and built from there. I think Rich Medina brought us out to Footwork to do All That. Basically, Jedi Mind keeps our fingers on the pulse of anything going on in Philly.

215: How does the hip hop scene in Philly compare to the one in Boston ?
Esoteric: I think alot of local scenes have alot of similar aspects. There’s hungry mc’s. I would say back in the day, there were hungry mc’s in maybe 15 sections in the United States. Now, since 8 Mile came out, there’s hungry mc’s in every hood, every suburb, every area of the world. People are people, so everyone’s got aspirations of being something. It just so happens that alot of people want to dj, mc, paint on walls, anything that’s hip hop related. I would say Philly and Boston have similar vibes. Except in Philly, you have better food.

215: Outside of your immediate circle, are there any other Philly artists you’re feeling ?
7L: I think anyone on an independent level, we already met through Vinnie. Over the years, of course.
Esoteric: I don’t think we’re familiar with anyone outside of Pharaohs.
7L: Obviously Beanie Sigel and The Roots.
Esoteric: And i came up on the Hilltop Hustlers and 3xDope.
7L: And Cash Money…incredible dj. I think anybody on an independent level, over the years, we’ve met through Vinnie. I think in the music scene, we’ve met most.

215: By now, everyone knows that the new record is not your typical 7L & Esoteric album. How have fans responded to the sudden style change ?
Esoteric: I think there’s been alot of good feedback from more of our open minded fans. Of course you’re gonna to get backlash when you take a big step like that. With creative risks, there’s gonna be people that want the old version more than the new version. But people grow up just as artists do. Kids get tired of hearing the same thing over and over. You keep serving them cheeseburgers every day and then we come out with some flan or whatever the fuck we just put out, it’s like ” i can get into this “. If i’m saying something a little different on the mic or George ( 7L ) is doing different shit with the beats, there are kids out there that get into that. Plus, there’s a whole crop of new kids that were never into our stuff before and they can really dig the record. And the press and magazines have been really good, for the most part.
7L: And alot of people have been like, ” when i first heard it i didn’t know, but now i can’t take it out “. Once they got over the shock of what it was, they were able to get into it.

215: I’ve been reading reviews for the new record. One said “this album has lots of indie-ish rock flourishes. Dudes on the Internet should love it.” Another described the album as ” fluffy indie rock “. When you were making A New Dope, did you worry that people just wouldn’t get it ?
Esoteric: It was in the back of our head, but maybe when we were doing DC2, we were worried too much. That’s why DC2 came out sounding like DC1, which kinda sounded like Soul Purpose. With this record, right down to the artwork, i think it was pretty clear that we’re not concerned with what anybody thought. If someone is a big fan of ours, and they don’t like the record, that’s fine. You could look at this record like the Electric Circus for Common. But, indie rock, i don’t know were that goes. I think that critics are looking for buzz words to get them through a review and get on to the next shit and collect a paycheck. So i don’t put alot of stock into stuff like that. Buzz words don’t really irritate me as they might of ten years ago. It’s a new era. I don’t know.

215: What about the record’s production ?
7L: I definitely was burned out on doing the same thing. Around the time we started it, i was on the tail end of doing an album with Main Flow. I was working on that and at the same time, i wanted to do something different. If i do beats for both records that are interchangeable, it gets redundant. I just wanted something different and i think when we started working on it, with some different aspects, it was just fun. That’s something i haven’t had in a while with music. Everything is just stressed out. I think we just threw out the rule book, as far as what i do with beats. We just did what felt right and was fun and was just whatever. I think that comes across on the record and it helped turn the record into what it was. and at the same time, he ( Eso ) was working on beats too. It kinda opened that door like let’s do something different and fuck everybody. It’s definitely the best thing, because i would just go crazy doing the same thing.
Esoteric: You show me the hottest chick in the world, and I’ll show you a dude that’s tired of fucking her.

215: Is this a new direction that you will be following from now on ?
Esoteric: I don’t know. I’m not sure exactly what’s next. I think whatever we feel comfortable doing. If George starts making beats that sound like that boom bap stuff we came up on and i’m feeling it or if i write some battle rhymes and George is like, let’s do it, we might just come out with another record that sounds like our old stuff, or in that vein. We’re definetly not at the point where we’re coming out trying to scare the shit out of people anymore. Battling them, threatening them. I feel like we’ve been through that chamber. We’re not trying to out weird the next person either. We’re just doing what comes natural. And i’ve been fucking with beats too, which kinda opens a new area for us. Obviously, he’s the master and i’m the apprentice.
7L: To me, some of the beats on the record are just regular boom bap, but for some people it is different. It’s the same string sample with high drums underneath and whatnot. It just catches people off guard. But for me, i just look at it as a hot beat. But because it’s from us…ya know.

215: A lot has changed in hip hop since the 90’s. Now that everyone with a computer can put out music, do you ever worry about staying relevant or just getting lost in the shuffle of an oversaturated scene ?
Esoteric: With the new record, whether you love it or hate it, you couldn’t ignore it. That’s something, whether you like it or not, you have to consider. I think if we made another record that sounds like everything else, it’s alot harder to stay afloat. We got our core fans, but there’s so many people that are doing the same sound. And like you said, anyone can get a computer and make beats. So everyone that loves music, wants to create music. That’s fine, but there’s alot of shit coming out. Good shit and wack shit. We’re trying to do our own shit and try to separate us from the pack. You would never think that guys from AOTP would come out with a cover like we did.

215: Who had the idea for the cover ?
Esoteric: I think it was my idea. But it didn’t take much convincing to get 7L on board with it.

215: You still like the cover ?
7L: Oh, yeah. It’s a take on Warhol. He ( Eso ) was like, hey, what if we did something like this ? Not even thinking about taking our shirts off. It just stands out. And when we saw the layout, it just catches you off as something different. And when it came down to doing the actual cover, we were just like, fuck it let’s go all out.

215: I was surprised to see that Vinnie Paz ( Jedi Mind Tricks ) wasn’t on the new record. Was there a reason for almost no guest appearances ?
7L: I think it was because the AOTP album just came out. There was a bunch of songs with Vinnie and Eso. It was just better not to make another song that would have made sense on that record. I think we all did. Even with Vinnie and Outerspace.

215: You do have one guest. How did the Kool Kieth collaboration come about ?
Esoteric: We’re really cool with Kutmaster Kurt. And the beat that we had, it was like 112 beats per minute. It just felt like something Kieth could rip on, old Rythm X style. So i was like, i’ll holler at Kurt and see if we can get this poppin’. And we just did it from there. And we we’re pretty happy with it. It was pretty easy. And now we’re doing some tour dates with him, so it’s cool.
7L: We actually weren’t gonna have guests. But it’s Kool Kieth, so…ya know. And it made sense.
Esoteric: We did kinda set out to not have any guests. the older records was like, we would get a guest, and the floodgates would just open. So we figured we would do something different.

215: Last night you DJ’d at the 5 Spot for the No Excuse Thursday party. How do you think it went ?
7L: It was cool. A little different from Boston as far as music. In Boston, when i play out, it’s mostly reggae and reggae-ton. I just went through the motions. It took me a second to figure it out. It was a good time. The place is really nice. It was a good crowd too.
Esoteric: I had a good time. I always have a good time in Philly.

215: What do you usually do in Philly ?
Esoteric: I like the PennRose. The diner. We usually go there at like 4 in the morning. That’s something i look forward to. South Street’s dope. I know that’s a touristy thing to say. When we used to come out here in ‘98, we would stay at Fat Tony’s house on South Street.
7L: We’re always out here with Vinnie, so we just go wherever they go.
Esoteric: We’re pretty much at his mercy the whole time.

215: Anything you want to say to Philly to end this ?
Esoteric: Yeah, i liked ya’ll better when you had Mo Cheeks, Moses Malone. That era. ( laughter ) No, i don’t know. Thank you for the interview.
7L: Philly’s always been our second home. It’s true.
Esoteric: Yeah, we love it out here. It’s a good city.
7L: And cop the album if you haven’t copped it. Esoteric has a solo album coming out early next year.
Esoteric: And 7L and Main Flow’s album, Flow Season, will be out September 26th ( interview done on sept. 8 ) on Brick Records.

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