7L & Esoteric The Soul Purpose

Boston hip-hop acts have often been dogged while trying to get noticed by the hip-hop nation at large. The city's most famous hip-hop son, Guru, took the Gang Starr name with him when he broke out to Brooklyn, where he teamed with DJ Premier, and while Ed O.G. & Da Bulldogs made some noise in the early '90s, the attention was short-lived. Recently, the brouhaha surrounding the blatantly biased record reviews granted Boston group Made Men by a major rap magazine underlines the desperate lengths a few artists from the city are willing to go to get the spotlight. No such drama surrounds Beantown duo 7L & Esoteric, however. Over the past few years, they've been steadily issuing singles and building up connections, culminating in this debut full-length. The duo clearly possesses a particular reverence for the old school, and Esoteric's battle rhymes and 7L's work on the decks naturally emanates out of this tradition. Esoteric's rhymes are above average, yet his relentlessly stilted flow can take some getting used to. He's not an MC that will astound you with his lyrical wizardry, but he could hold his own in a cipher. But when the lyrics lapse, like on the corny "Jealous Over Nothing," things disintegrate pretty quickly. However, this track, produced by Joc Max, of the New York-based Beyond Real camp, shows how the duo have managed to make some good connections. Unfortunately, collaborations with the likes of Wu-Tang's Inspectah Deck ("Speaking Real Words") and substantial help on the production tip only reinforces the doubt that the duo is a little too reliant on others to get over. (Landspeed)