by Garrett Caples
San Francisco Bay Guardian October 26, 2005
Also performing with Digital Underground Oct. 28 at the Red Devil are Esinchill and King Beef. A relentless freestyler, inventive writer, and habitual stage-diver, Esinchill has one of the tightest flows in the Bay, and if he remains Oakland's best-kept secret, it's due to lack of exposure. After a show-stealing debut on DU's Who Got the Gravy? (Jake, 1998) and extensive touring with the group, E only made a handful of guest appearances, on discs by DJ Quik, the Delinquents, and so forth, before dropping the hard-to-find Everything to Lose! (Rceason, 2002). Displaying an unexpected metaphysical streak, as well as harrowing tales of a mysterious childhood illness, Everything is an astonishingly assured album showcasing E's versatility and eagerness to expand his range.
Having secured distribution for his Rceason label, Esinchill teamed up with childhood pal King Beef for Choice Cuts, Volume One, whose advance single – the Touré-produced "Hip Hop" – began generating a buzz with East Coast radio play earlier this year. Self-designated "hip-hop mood music," Choice Cuts is a frank genre workout of club/party songs that is less ambitious than its predecessor yet in many ways more accomplished. Much credit goes to the duo's main collaborator, Reno's C-Dash, who produced 11 of its 15 tracks, providing a unity of mood absent from so many rap albums. Dash's music is a dense mixture of synthetic and organic sounds with heavy R&B leanings – so crucial is he to the project that he warrants the rare hip-hop instrumental, which fits seamlessly into the album's flow.
As performers, Esinchill and King Beef display the deep rapport of classic rap duos, egging each other on to further audacity. Smooth-voiced and heavyset, Beef makes a perfect verbal and visual foil for E's rapid-fire staccato flow and compact frame. Sharing a disdain for rap's overreliance on guns, crack, hos, and bling, E and Beef concoct distinctive songs that should give less-adventurous lyricists pause. Their material is also untainted by the misogyny endemic to rap – they might joke about the perils of hooking up with the unattractive on a song like "Wing Man," but for the most part they adopt the Romeo approach, if only out of romantic self-interest. "It's just my attitude and gratitude and respect to a queen, and when respect exudes, then great sex ensues," E raps on "Mojo."
With a second single, "If You Want It," on the way, Esinchill and Beef are busy promoting Choice Cuts, as well as working in the studio on E's next solo album, Vigilantism, and Beef's first, The Swing Party, both tentatively slated for release next year on Rceason. Also look for Esinchill to appear on several cuts off Caliban, the long-awaited solo album from Numskull of the Luniz.