We had a really unique project drop across the desk this week all the way from Oakland, California. We get a lot of submissions [editors note: this is an understatement] but not many from an artist who describes their production as syncopated, a great word — yes — but also an intriguing approach to consciously adopt.
Rapper AjGod describes having a bevy of Influences that range from Cole to Marley, all of which help him to create this very engaging, clear commentary on the struggles of his hometown, and being black in America while remaining palatable enough to ever push listeners away.
What is oddly alluring about the eight-song effort E.S.O.Teric — for and foremost — is the production; over breezy bops dripping in this unmistakable Bay Area funk, with a vintage gloss, Aj drops this really interesting blend of bars packed with intellectualism.
It’s clear that Oakland runs deep in his veins, molded by the same environment as iconic voices Tupac and (more contemporary) Kendrick Lamar, but he has this added layer of knowledge, almost KRS ONE-esque, injected with a sense of black power. On “Black Boy No,” for example, he confronts the concept that African-Americans are held below a systematic ceiling, by empowering and shattering his way through with powerful bars like “When you tell that black boy no just know he hear the opposite,” and later in the track “woke got vision like I’m sleep,” noting he was born in a cage but he’s a locksmith.
“Know Your Self” is another example of self-betterment; he’s speaking on the true motivations that many have for getting their hands dirty in the streets. “Are you getting big just to get a pound,” he asks rhetorically, challenging listeners to consider who they truly are when the crew isn’t around. Also, the consistent references to the Pan-African flag, while noting he’s not your enemy appears to be a clear delineation to black on black crime — which is something that has plagued our communities for decades.
With the latter four records being solely instrumentation, we’re given these boisterous beats, either meant to be a gift to MCs or simply an atmospheric demonstration — nay reminder — that this is a top to bottom self-produced affair.
With a sound that seems to swim against the grain of mainstream waves, E.S.O.Teric is a project hellbent on giving listeners a bigger picture, with a purpose beyond entertaining with the more mindless fare. His cadence clear, and his bars approachable complex, the project is a noble pile of gems worth exploring.