Esoteric & Stu Bangas - Machete Mode

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"Machete Mode" is Esoteric and Stu Bangas' way of providing fans of Hip Hop's raw underbelly with further proof that the subgenre is still alive and well.

Hip Hop, like every other musical genre, is broken down into subgenres that can be loosely tied together by their affinity to the beats and rhymes that have drawn so many fans to the popular form of music. There’s radio Rap (think Lil Wayne), underground artists like Joey Bada$$, emcees that preach conscious Hip Hop like Brother Ali, and the creative genius types that are tough to categorize like Kanye West.

Then, in a class unto itself, there’s hardcore Hip Hop, a sect of the genre known for its aggressive, battle-like rhymes and heavy beats, both of which are intended to sound as menacing as the subgenre itself.

Ever since the late Guru of Gang Starr put Beantown’s hardcore scene on the map during Hip Hop’s Golden Age, the area has produced numerous hardcore acts, including Boston emcee Esoteric, who has dominated the underground for over a decade with his raw yet passionate sound.

Known for his work with producer 7L, Esoteric has taken his lyrical prowess to the beats of beatmaker Stu Bangas, whose rugged and rough productions are well-suited for Esoteric’s gruff-sounding vocals. The end result: Machete Mode—an album that will simultaneously have you scheming to rob a bank and preparing to go to war.

“I didn’t come for the case. I came for your boss. I came for Seamus,” says Robert De Niro in a clip from the 1998 spy thriller Ronin, the first of many pop culture samples included on the album. Who better than to kick off an album than the voice of The Godfather II’s Vito Corleone? The first track, titled “Attack” then proceeds to take off at breakneck speed, as Esoteric wastes little time letting the listener know about his reputation.

“I’m John Lennon combined with Spidey and Venom,” raps Esoteric over a dark piano line that races throughout the track, setting the tone for the duo’s project, yet shying away from both horrorcore and the type of cliché material found in many of the classic ‘90s hardcore tracks that detailed brutal killings rather than playful boasting.

Much like the rest of Machete Mode, “Attack” is filled with enough punchlines and battle raps to get an entire locker room hyped up; the song, and the majority of the album, isn’t meant for all-nighters spent studying for an exam—just make sure not to take the title of the third track, “Apprentice to Master (Study),” literally.

But what makes an album like this so impressive is that even though the majority of the songs have the same message, the wordplay throughout is creative enough to keep you from hitting the “next” button and the beats break the mold of the repetitive, albeit hard-hitting, rhythms that dominate the subgenre.

In addition to the standard drum kit loops and record scratching found throughout Hip Hop, Stu Bangas also introduces the sounds of guitars and pianos into the mix on “Attack,” followed by a terrifying set of strings on the album’s second song, “Repercussions,” which features legendary New York City underground emcee Ill Bill.

The sounds of electric keyboard notes can also be heard throughout, along with samples from The Departed and other TV shows and films that reinforce the theme of cocky villainy in the form of a string of verbal assaults that are only rarely interrupted by tracks such as “Wonder Why,” which allows Esoteric to reflect on his love affair with Hip Hop, his outlook on life and his struggles to follow his dreams, something rarely found in the hardcore subgenre.

While underground Hip Hop is notorious for its collaborations and networking, Machete Mode has a truly daunting list. Enlisting the help of five of his fellow Army of the Pharaohs members, Esoteric is joined by Apathy, Blacastan, Celph Titled, Planetary and Vinnie Paz, along with former member Reef the Lost Cauze. The album also features Joell Ortiz of Slaughterhouse on the track “Save Ya Breath,” while Madchild of Swollen Members tears “Bounty Hunters” apart. And of course, Boston’s most notorious athletes are given shoutouts, too.

In a day and age when artists like Drake receive the vast majority of the music world’s attention, Machete Mode is Esoteric and Stu Bangas’ way of sticking it to the man and providing those with a taste for Hip Hop’s raw underbelly with further proof that the subgenre is still alive and well.


  • Wade

    HAHAHAHAHA creative genius typeslike Kanye..hahahahahaha seriously Getoffhisdick. Kanye is fuckin terrible. Want proof he is terrible? Look no further than Southpark. You must be a complete douche bag to be made fun of by SouthparkTWICE!!!!

  • BZ*#

    sick album like all of this dudes stuff

  • DZZ

    Your comment was blocked. Please remove all links and self promotion to comment HORSE SHIT CANT POST FUCK ALL!!!!!!



  • Alan

    Long dough. that aint the name of the song tho


    Steel Chairs is amazing! Love that song and The Danger is ALSO on Repeat! Dope Album

  • NN

    Stu Bangas does not sound like ALC did 15 years ago....he has his own style and sound.....I dont think ALC would be doin tracks with him if he thought he was biting him....All his beats sound the same but you say he has heaters in the same sentence....which is it? the man has skill stop hatin just to hate. This album bangs and if you dont think so u must not like hip why the fuck are you here then?

    • Ricky

      So all the beats sound the same means that they still can't be good? Most of his beats DO sound really similar, but he does have some bangers. Bottomline.


    Hey you. I've noticed that Stu Bangas has made beats that sound like beats Alchemist did 15 years ago. All his beats sound the same. Yeah he has heaters fasho, but he's not that great.

  • John Daly

    I love the album from front to back. Its just in my personal wheelhouse, both rhymes and beats. Bought it off Itunes and I'm still bumping it.

  • Gorn Elohiner

    Dudes sound extremely butt hurt and salty on here. This album is definitely a 3.75-4 out of 5...on both beats and rhymes. As well as overall content, theme and diversity. Get a grip and stfu

  • Craiggers

    Stu Bangas did more than hold his own on this record. And I have this LP up there in the top 10 with what dropped this year.

    • Anonymous

      So you're saying that Esoteric sucks at rapping (he doesn't). Because there's not much to hold on to because Stu's beats really suck. And if this is in Top 10, that means this was the 10th release out this year.

  • Gucci The ROAT

    Gucci The Realest Of All Time: - Sold drugs. - Killed a man who tried to rob him. Ask Young Jeezy. - Exposed Young Jeezy as a fraud. - Beats up so called fans. - Throws bitches out of his car while driving. These are facts! Fuck the studiogangstas: Rick Ross, Mobb Deep, Nas, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, 2Pac, Big L etc.

  • Ricky Bones

    Straight up, how are you gonna criticize Necro and KGR for basically repeating the same thing over and over each song, and NOT say the same about Stu Bangas production?? It's the same shit!!!! I mean honestly, Necro's beats weren't really that good, but it just sounded like the reviewer had something against Necro or some shit. If anything, Stu's beats all the sound the same for the most part, and he's not THAT great of a producer. He does have some heat, but there's also a lot of average tracks. Esoteric rips it though. But 7L musta been busy I'm guessing. They shoulda just done a new 7L & Esoteric album...Unless they're working on Czarface 2 right now. But Stu...he's aight.

    • gavin

      Uh because talking to a website like its a person is fuckin sad and idiotic. And who the fuck are you to determine whats accurate and what's not? No one's saying you dumb asses have to like Stu Bangaz beats, but saying they all sound the same is just a lazy critique by some who clearly just wants to have an opinion.

    • TUFF

      Who gives a flying fuck if the reviews were written by 2 different people?? HipHopDX as a website, should have reviews that are accurate no matter what, dickhead. I do agree that Stu's beats pretty much all sound the same. To me he's a pretty good producer, not that great.

    • gavin

      this review and the Once Upon A Crime review were written by two different people. moron.

    • Craiggers

      You've got a blatant issue with Stu Bangas that sounds like a personal vendetta. The dude has dope beats get over it..if his production is so bad why is Sean Price, Ill Bill, Eso, Poet, Heltah Skeltah, etc. etc. all rapping on it. You sound like a female bro

  • Anonymous

    Very boring production, but nothing to complain about verses. 3/5

  • Gee wiz

    Eso made two off he better LP this year. This and Czarface. The beats on machete mode may be better than those on Czarface to me.

    • Ur dumb

      You are fuckin stupid. WOW, Stu makes ONE or maybe even TWO (uh oh!) beats that have the normal upbeat/soul sound. 98% of the time, It's that hard, grimy, death shit. Why the hell you think he's got those "Straight Death" instrumentals? That's his sound, whatever! Reef's "Fight Music" is basically all grimy ass beats if I recall. It doesn't fucking matter how many artists a producer makes beats for! That is the dumbest thing I ever heard! Again, 7L makes beats for his own group and really nobody else. So that makes him worse? That's retarded, man. You're dumb.

    • Gee Wiz

      When talking about an overall resume, yes I think the factor of producing for a variety of artists Definitely factors in. He only has a dark death sound? Did you even listen to the Machete Mode album that you're on here bitching about? Two of the best songs/beats are soul sounding beats/uplifting/introspective songs. Listen to the beats he did on Fight Music for Reef or the stuff he's done for Cappadonna or Copywrite or Apathy on down the line. Then you want to talk about how "hard" the beats are? We must have a different definition of "hard". You seem to either have a personal issue w Stu Bangas and/or are talking without knowledge of facts. This is my last response to you though because this has become pointless.

    • Wee Giz

      Hahaha..wait wait wait...So you're saying because 7L doesn't produce for other random rappers and only really produces for HIS OWN GROUP means he's a worse producer? WTF kind of logic is that?? Who cares if Stu has produced for other people? It doesn't matter WHO someone is producing for, it's about the beats and how hard they are. Stu ONLY has that dark, death sound. He's not diverse at all. A one trick pony. 7L is more of an all around hip hop producer, with better quality shit, and different types of beats.

    • Gee Wiz

      I disagree completely...but to each his own. Stu has produced heat for Sean Price, Heltah Skeltah, Ill Bill, Poet, Eso, Lost Cauze and on and on. 7L had some really dope beats in the early 2000s and late 90s. But mostly for Eso. Where is his extensive resume outside of that? I just don't follow your logic. But again to each his/her own


      Yo. NO. Just because somebody has been around longer doesn't make them better. You know what I mean, man. 7L's got a lengthy catalog with a shitload of ridiculous beats. Much better, higher quality than Stu's shit.

    • Gee Wiz

      So because someone has been around longer it means their resume is better? Where do I begin to poke holes in this flawed logic.

    • U R A FAG

      Hey fag...7L's been in the game eons longer than Bangas, what in the hell are you saying?? He's better, get it through your fucking tiny brain. Just because someone says a producer is hot means they're on his "tip?" You're stupid. I get the feeling this is probably Stu Bangas himself responding to all these comments, haha...

    • Gee Wiz

      Check their respective sound like you're on 7L's "Tip"

    • TIP

      The beats are grimier on Machete Mode, but 7L's beats are better. He's WAAAYYY better of a producer than Stu Bangas, no question.

  • poppa large

    real rap but this shitt aint better then once upon a crime.

    • poppa large

      eso is dope so is stu but i find some of the production a bit lacking or boring. necro is a dope rapper and its obvious that the people who say otherwise are closet christians who are offended by his content.

    • narcotik

      are you snorting bath salts or smoking crack because any album that has necro rapping on it is not good music...this album blows that out of the water...... no question

  • huh.

    Better than Blaq Poet's album. I could do a whole Stu Bangas instrumental album, I think.

  • The Listener

    Seeing an awful lot of aliases and anonymous haters. Bitches.. This record goes harder than anything else on the shelf..

  • Frank Nitty

    Stu Bangas is a beast on the mpc. More than likely these are some kids he's made fun of or something. Blood on The Flowers and Rafters are two of the better beats I have heard in 2013. Eso is still killing it as well.

    • narcotik

      yeah anybody who thinks this album isnt good or that the beats are lacking or that stu bangas isnt good on the boards needs to get their head examined

  • Tommy

    Boring beats. What more can i say

  • greatest

    rep the underground!

  • Puff Krillz

    The beats on this are heat to me...I can't front. AOTP cats still have my attention as well

  • Music 1011

    'Stuey bang dudes', is one of worst producers out there.

  • Ricky

    Nah yo. Like other dude said. Stu gotta be more consistent. It can't be a dope beat here and there. He should change his name to "Occasional Bangas."

  • bizzalls

    Real talk, there are some BANGERS from Stu on here, but he's NOT CONSISTENT enough!! There are some very average to not that great-beats on here! I thought this would be much harder! It's pretty good, but a 4?? DX is weird, man. They give albums that don't deserve high ratings, high ratings, and albums that deserve more, lower ratings. The production is not consistent enough for this to be a 4. There's only like 5 banging beats on here. That's not enough.

  • Anonymous

    REAL hip hop... Dope

  • Anonymous

    Dope ya dig? These cats and Canibus should be on top of all the charts ya dig.

  • Anonymous

    Who produced this beat my ninja?

  • Anonymous

    Great stuff. Love this album.

  • MtC

    Great album, always enjoy listening to hardcore underground hiphop.

  • Glen Gary

    Love this album. Straight and to the point. Zero frills.

  • HootieHoo

    Eso is a beast and Stu Bangas is top five beat makers in the underground. Chief Kamachi left AOTP not Reef.

  • rmacq112

    nice review, got my copy today. but Reef the Lost Cauze has always been in AOTP, still is

  • willmatik

    got it off itunes, it's a monster! that spidey line where he says he's like john lennon he then says cuz the "beat ill" hence "beatles" dude got so many lines