Artist: Bill "Low-Key" HeinzelmanTitle: Moment Of RaritiesRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Bill "Low-Key" Heinzelman
7L & Esoteric have come a long way since their humble beginnings. The Boston duo first made a name for themselves through their various 12-inch singles, where 7L's boom bap production and Esoteric's razor sharp battle rhymes were an instant hit in the underground. While their full-length debut The Soul Purpose did not live up to expectations, the group rebounded with their highly successful follow up Dangerous Connection. But it wasn't until 2004's Bars Of Death where Esoteric really displayed his full arsenal of skills. Eso has always been billed as one of the underground's fiercest battle emcees, but on Bars Of Death, he proved he could provide conceptual material that expanded beyond his usual trash talk. The Esoteric everyone hoped for finally arrived. Now with the duo plotting their next move, 7L & Eso have teamed up with Babygrande Records for Moment Of Rarities (Babygrande), a compilation album full of unreleased and rare material. But unfortunately, most of the efforts on the album focus on the battle aspect of Eso's game, making for an album mired in the past.
If the material on Moment Of Rarities was released after its initial recordings, the album and Eso's performances would be easier to take in. However, knowing what Esoteric is capable of makes it hard to stomach such older material. "Axe Hurlers" is a prime example, as it finds Eso in Canibus mode, spewing off a barrage of spacey and nonsensical rhymes in a coerced attempt to sound overly intelligent. Without 7L behind the boards for the majority of Moment Of Rarities, many of the songs also fail to encompass the same grit we have grown accustomed to hearing. Beyonder's sporadic keys on "Psychohistorians" leads to Eso and guest Karma struggling to find their groove and never sinking their flows into the beat. The simplistic drum pattern by Papa D on the old school influenced "God's Angry Men" featuring Mr. Lif, Akrobatik and Karma, also makes for another bland production effort that overshadows each emcee's verse.
While there are no real gems on the album, 7L & Esoteric manage to bang out a few vintage cuts that should satisfy diehard fans. Beyonder's eerie keys on "Culture Of Death" featuring Jus Allah will instantly give you goose bumps. Jus Allah particularly shines, providing a vintage verse full of rage and violence. "Boxcutter Rap" was recoded between Soul Purpose and Dangerous Connection, and utilizes the same sample as their underground favorite "Operating Correctly." Still, you can never get tired of the sparkling piano loop. "Lurkers At The Threshold" featuring Truth Elemental is straight out of the Star Wars universe, as Beyonder takes a page out of John Williams book for a creative effort.
Moment Of Rarities is like most albums of its kind, hit or miss. The majority of the material is simply average, which is probably why they were left on the shelf to begin with. Even though Esoteric is a talented emcee, it is hard to take a step back and embrace old material recorded before his prime.