At the time of its release, it had only been nine months since fans were given CZARFACE, Esoteric’s collaborative effort with 7L and Inspectah Deck, but the Boston emcee still had some gas in the tank. Linking up with Stu Bangas, Esoteric decided to pump out one final album before 2013 was over, and what we were given was Machete Mode, a grimy record that is as ferocious as it is entertaining. For 43 minutes, Esoteric laces the aggressive production with some equally confrontational lyrics, and the strong guest lineup only made the experience that much better.
Those familiar with the Army of the Pharaohs collective should know what they’re getting into on here. The supergroup is known for its violent, in-your-face lyricism, and this element is more than present on Machete Mode. Esoteric brutally attacks his rivals and peers with unforgiving relentlessness, and he doesn’t hesitate to let you know just how much better he is than you. However, although this subject matter never ceases to be entertaining, there are also some really creative ideas that surprised me while listening to this album. Not every idea is a home run, of course, but some are.
For example, track five, “Never Be,” has Esoteric discussing the negative impact social media has had on our daily lives. The first verse discusses a young woman who is obsessed with posting photos of herself online; the second, a young male hopping from trend to trend; and the third, Eso himself unable to stay off of Facebook, even while he’s driving. The final verse ends with Esoteric getting into a collision, and making the news as a reporter says with a confused tone, “His crime was blamed on texting while driving.” This isn’t something that has been actively discussed in Hip Hop, which makes it an interesting topic to hear in a song.
If I had to choose one thing that bothered me the most about this release, it would probably be the production provided by Stu Bangas. I have nothing against Stu Bangas as a producer, and the production isn’t bad per se, but a majority of these beats feel extremely simple. Most of these songs consist of nothing but small loops that don’t change at all during the song’s running time, and there were a few instances where you could actually hear the beat loop. With that said, the only beat I really didn’t like was “The Danger,” which is disappointing considering the lineup on that particular song.
Taking that into consideration, it’s amazing how well Esoteric performs on this album. There are a few exceptions, of course, but for the most part Esoteric rides each of these beats with ease. One of the best examples would be his verse on track eight, “Save Ya Breath.” His rhyme schemes, multis, and cadence are incredible on here, and this verse exemplifies why I enjoy listening to him so much. The way he delivers the verse is kind of bouncy, but it compliments the beat wonderfully, and it’s just really fun to listen to.
However, his performance was far from perfect, and the album is littered with little annoyances that constantly made me cringe. For example, on track six, “Ease Up,” Eso is constantly talking over the other emcees, and I always found myself irritated at how rude that is. Furthermore, there are more than a handful of corny one-liners that completely take you out of the experience. Bars such as “Like the panic button when we rhymin’ you should be de-pressed” and “You’re like my son’s Legos you are always broke” never got easier to listen to, which is a shame considering some of the quotables they’re surrounded by.
Standout Songs: "Repercussions (Feat. Ill Bill)," "Never Be" & "Wonder Why"
Overall Score: 7.8/10 - Machete Mode was one of those albums that had very little promotion beforehand. It was kind of announced and then released a few weeks later, which is surprising due to how good it is. It has its issues, sure, but it’s still a blast to listen to, and it’s an album I would recommend checking out despite its flaws.