According to various interviews, before recording A New Dope, the members of Boston rap duo 7L & Esoteric were feeling somewhat stilted creatively, and both of them began to explore other musical venues. Though nothing ever officially resembling a breakup was ever announced, it seemed as if some sort of change was imminent. And indeed it was, but luckily for fans, that change came in the form of A New Dope, the group's fourth full-length and second with Babygrande. The record is actually a big departure from what they've put out before, and partially because Esoteric has pretty much left his battle rhymes behind, he chooses to comment more on the state of the world (hip-hop and otherwise) than to dis other rappers. "Get Dumb," and its nearly identical sister, "Play Dumb," are full of funny yet smart observations on stupid things people do, say, and think ("Billie Holiday, he's the best/That cool band Beck is touring out west," "when you date a guy for three weeks/Get his name tattooed all on your ass cheeks," and "you give your girlfriend a lift to a guy friend's, you don't even question it" are just a few examples), "A.O.S.O" makes fun of artists who are only looking for fame ("I ain't ever been on stage/But I got mad friends on my page"), while "Perfect Person" is an ironic look at a nagging girlfriend. The MC's delivery in all the songs is great, mostly eighth notes yet with enough syncopated variation to keep things interesting and impressive, but more noticeable than Esoteric's rhymes is how different the production on A New Dope is from their previous efforts. Instead of the sparser beats that graced the duo's other albums, here 7L ditches his MPC and, with help from Esoteric, creates Kraftwerk- and Fatboy Slim-inspired backgrounds that often change mid-song. "Dunks Are Alive, Dunks Are Dead" starts with techno-esque percussion that turns into an Eastern-sounding flute and a Manu Chao guitar, and "The Most" takes a new wave sample and alternates it with a jungle breakbeat. A New Dope is intricate but accessible and not at all pretentious, and with it, 7L & Esoteric have found a way to challenge and interest both themselves and their fans, reintroducing themselves quite loudly, and quite boldly, with absolutely no signs of slowing down.
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown