Hip-hop "Underground Trifecta" stirs memories of the ol' boom-bap
One one level, the so-called "Underground Trifecta" tour led by Jedi Mind Tricks is a means of promoting the hip-hop duo's new album, Legacy of Blood. On a deeper level, though, it represents a collective attempt by some of hip-hop's most idealistic auteurs to recapture the lost glory of the ol' boom-bap.
"You got people now who are just trash, 100 percent garbage," says Philly emcee Planet, who along with his Outerspace partner-in-rhyme Crypt, is taking part in the current Jedi Mind Tricks tour. "Back in '94, when it was in the heart of hip-hop, everything was hard, everything was raw. We just try to represent where we came from - we came from '94, '93, '92, '88. We came from the day where it was just always raw, always respect from the street. Drums were hard and it wasn't strictly just all about the same shit."
Planet and Crypt grew up in the city of brotherly love on a steady diet of EPMD, Gang Starr, and Public Enemy. Further up the coast, DJ 7L, one half of the Boston duo 7L and Esoteric, was feeling the same influence.
"I think with boom-bap it's just straight up hip-hop, it's not really something that's going to appeal to an audience outside of that," 7L says. "I think that's what we do. Some people take it as different and say, 'Oh, boom-bap just means the drums or being old-school, but I think it's just more about the style of sound that we came up with: the style, the music, like Pete Rock. That music they were making was really concentrating on making dope music and dope lyrics."
After meeting through a radio show at Salem State College, 7L and Esoteric made their debut with the "Protocol" 12-inch in 1997. Backed by the inspired cuts "Be Alert" and "Touch the Mic," the record connected with a nation of backpackers and sparked the group's underground career. With a pair of memorable full-length albums (The Soul Purpose and Dangerous Connection) under their belt, 7L and Esoteric now return with a new label, Babygrande, and another striking LP, DC2: Bars of Death.
In the tradition of two-man crews like Eric B and Rakim, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, and Show & A.G., this duo exudes chemistry with an ability to bring politics to the table. Regarding the upcoming presidential election, 7L weighs in: "I definitely think it's important for people to go out and vote, especially for Kerry. Whether you agree with him or not, the important thing is getting Bush out of office. I think it's clear, and it's come out in the debates, that he doesn't know what he's doing. In the past, I didn't get involved and it's probably one of the biggest mistakes I made, not voting in 2000. It made it clear to me to make an effort and make sure people I know are voting."
As for the music, DC2 is packed with relentless compositions that establish 7L as the poor man's DJ Muggs. Album highlights include the melodic "Rise of the Rebel," the autobiographical "Touchy Subject," and "Loud and Clear," in which Esoteric spits out the line: "We got people overseas getting blown to bits and thrown in a ditch, while Bush is at the game throwing the first pitch." The production work of 7L is also showcased on Blood and Ashes, Babygrande labelmate Outerspace's stunning debut.
"The thing we loved about Organized so much was that their chemistry was so good and it just influenced us," Planet says. "The way they did rhyme to rhyme as a group, there were a few groups like that. Pharaohe Monch was just so ridiculous because he taught you how to play with your rhymes. You could do this, you could do that with your rhymes. You don't gotta just say it one way. You can kind of sing your rhymes, flip your rhymes, mispronounce words to make it rhyme. You can flip to whichever way you want to make it sound different."
OK's influence abounds on Blood and Ashes, making for a solid LP where confident lyrics reign supreme. "We wanted to make this hot. Since it was a debut, we really wanted to introduce that we had skills. On this album we tryin' to do an arrogant attitude with the rhymes, just being cocky because that's what impresses people from the game. Just showing, 'Look I can rhyme, check me.' We didn't really expect it to be a pop record smash, but we wanted it to be good enough that you buy the second one. You can check us and respect us." •
By M. Solis