Producer Stu Bangas and emcee Esoteric have come together for a full-length album titled, Machete Mode. Available on November 26, Machete Mode is a grimy east coast Hip-Hop album tailor-made for those that love the modern day boom bap sound and lyrics taken to the next level.
Produced entirely by Stu Bangas, Machete Mode features guest appearances by Joell Ortiz, Mad Child, Apathy, Vinnie Paz, Celph Titled, Reef The Lost Cauze, Blacastan, Planetary, Ill Bill, Hindsyte, and Spit Gemz.
Esoteric and Stu Bangas recently spoke to warptown.com about everything from pro wrestling to porn stars and their new album, Machete Mode.
SS: How’d you guys come together to record Machete Mode?
Esoteric: I was working on a few records and I’ve always been a fan of Stu’s production. I reached out to him for some tracks. I had Joe Budden and Joell Ortiz lined up for some joints and Stu had the perfect tracks for them. I think our first official release together was a song called ‘Pharaoh Status’ from his production record, Diggaz with Attitudes. We had a similar view on the industry and we’re fans of the same kind of production. In terms of library records I was always a fan of his style. Working forever with 7L, he’s always done stuff with library records and I see that Stu is heavy into that, too. It was a real easy transition to make a whole album with Stu because he knows the kind of stuff that I like and that’s what he makes. It’s a pretty natural relationship.
Stu Bangas: I’ve been a fan of Eso ever since I started deejaying in ’99. I was a fan of everything that was coming out on Brick Records. I had the first joint with Deck, and I have ‘Be Alert’ on vinyl. I ran into Eso when I first moved to Boston, he didn’t know who I was at the time, and he was opening for Ghostface at Paradise. I thought it would be crazy to work with him one day, so now it’s like pretty dope for me to do a record with him.
Esoteric: Well, thanks [laughs].
SS: Explain the title of the album.
Esoteric: Machete Mode, the title was something I came up with because I knew I was going into a record with Stu and that’s his forte. It’s usually aggressive, hardcore, no holds barred type of savagery with the production. I think that’s the type of raps that he prefers from me. I think most people want that aggressive emceeing from me. That was the approach with the album, to have a vintage Esoteric/Stu record where we’re both swinging for the fences, no holds barred and Machete Mode came to mind. We had to flip a switch, no BS, and get right down to brass tacks. Murdering emcees is what we’re into. Not to say that there aren’t any conceptual joints on the album but it’s heavy on the death threats [laughs] – from a lyrical standpoint.
SS: How did the song ‘The Danger’ come together?
Esoteric: That’s kind of interesting because Stu sent that beat to Vinnie Paz and to me. It was sent to everyone that was on the track and everyone kind of sat on it for a while. I was under the impression that I took that beat for our record. Vinnie was under the impression that he picked that beat for the Pharaoh’s record, and Celph and Apathy wanted to be part of the beat no matter what because everyone loved it. With all the good fortune in the world I was the one who kind of came away with that and Stu decided to roll with it for our project. The four of us got on it and Vinnie had verses for it but with the timeline that we had to get the album out he just had time to lay the hook. Apathy and Celph went in and destroyed it. They made it a cohesive effort from four of the Pharaoh’s. We always work together so it was an easy thing to make and it puts Stu in the forefront, because the catchiest thing about that record is the production. It’s the haunting beat that we always look for.
Stu Bangas: After they recorded on the track Eso is really good with the post-production stuff so he added little things here and there. He added the sample from Breaking Bad and they’re real relate-able to a lot of people. I’ve never even watched an episode of Breaking Bad myself. I was late to the party for that so I’m going to watch the whole series on DVD. People tell me, “That was cool how you added that,” and I didn’t even add it, he did.
Esoteric: That’s how we got the title for the song. The beat was originally titled ‘Pythons’. Regardless of if we call it ‘The Danger’ or ‘Pythons’ it’s the same topic.
SS: Stu, I saw the videos on Youtube with you using the MPC. Have you ever thought about producing with software because a lot of producers are doing stuff on computers now?
Stu Bangas: Yeah, I’ve definitely thought about it. I’m sure I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I’m on my third MPC now. They break down. The buttons break and to get them replaced is real expensive and time consuming. I go crazy if I can’t make a beat a day. If and when that happens I would definitely want to get with it. The thing with me is I’m not the most computer savvy. I can run Pro Tools to mix my stuff down, I just prefer actually touching the machine – I’m old school like that. I’ll probably try to fight that off as long as I can.
SS: A lot of your Youtube videos have pictures of porn stars on them. Is that because you like porn stars or just to bring viewers to your page?
Stu Bangas: Yeah, it’s a combination of both. Hopefully my wife won’t read this, but she won’t read anything she doesn’t already know. I’m definitely a fan of chicks with big butts and big tits – what straight guy isn’t? It is kind of a cheap ploy to attract viewers. When you make Youtube videos you can pick the specific thumbnail that you want to show. I definitely like to pay homage to certain porn actresses that I’m a fan of.
SS: Do you have a favorite porn star?
Stu Bangas: It changes. Old school is definitely Vanessa Del Rio and Nina Hartley. And then the time period of Gianna Michaels and Carmella Bing before she got all fat. And Jada Fire, I love black chicks, Spanish chicks, I like all types.
SS: What do you think of Aurora Jolie?
Stu Bangas: I like her, she’s great. She’s really enthusiastic, too. The only problem with porn stars is if you get a little too into it and you have a wife you gotta step back [laughs]. You can get a little too into it.
SS: The song ‘Steel Chairs’ has old Four Horsemen clips on it. Eso, I know you worked with John Cena before, but are both of you guys big wrestling fans?
Esoteric: Yeah, man. It’s funny, the fact that a lot of Stu’s beats sound like they were taken from old AWA, NWA, or Mid-South wrestling promos – the music, synths, and guitars and everything. He would talk about Tully Blanchard and these old school dudes that we both grew up watching. It’s something about that era that you can’t really recapture. Cena is my boy but he represents a completely new era of wrestling. It’s not the same. Cena himself came up on [Ric] Flair and the Von Erich’s. The fact that Stu gets all that stuff, we had to do a track like that. The lyrics aren’t a million percent focused. I do drop a few wrestling lines and we had to throw the samples in there. It’s just the music, it reminded me of that era, 80s wrestling – even early 90s wrestling. It’s another way we connect.
SS: Who are your favorite wrestlers?
Esoteric: My favorite is definitely the Road Warriors. When I was really young my walls used to be lined with the Road Warriors. My father never lets me forget this because it’s kind of like a real big moment in our life, but we traveled from Boston to Baltimore to see a wrestling match. We saw the Midnight Express fight the Road Warriors and I’ll never forget going to that. The Road Warriors are my guys, always, Hawk and Animal. I also liked Mil Mascaras. I liked a lot of the dudes who wore masks or painted their face, like Masked Superstar. I also liked the bad guys like the Four Horsemen. I could talk about this for hours. I’ll let this guy interject.
Stu Bangas: I loved the Road Warriors. My uncle brought me up on the old school NWA and AWA sh*t. They used to always come to Virginia Beach where I was from and he would send me autographed pictures of Kevin Sullivan and Mike Rotunda. My favorite is Flair for his personality. He set the bar so high and put all the asses in the seats. Ole Anderson was supposedly a legit gangster and a legit bad ass outside the ring. He would shake people down and beat the sh*t out of people. So I liked Ole Anderson and Flair
SS: I’ve never heard anybody say that Ole Anderson was their favorite wrestler [laughs].
Esoteric: [Laughs] I kind of thought the same thing. I was like, “Oh word? Ole Anderson?” I feel like the chain of command with the original Horsemen was Flair, then maybe Blanchard or Arn [Anderson], and then Ole. When Lex Luger came in it was always Flair or Luger. I think the fact that you dig Ole is a nice original pick there, Stu.
Stu Bangas: Supposedly he was really crazy. I liked all of those guys when I was younger, too. Supposedly Luger was a total douche. He couldn’t even wrestle that well.
SS: Luger wasn’t a wrestling fan, he was a football player. He didn’t care about learning how to wrestle. He was just getting the money.
Esoteric: The Total Package!
Stu Bangas: I was also a big Ron Simmons fan. He was a bad ass. He did the Oz character and he was a football player that came in and was actually a decent wrestler.
SS: Ron Simmons wasn’t Oz, it was Kevin Nash.
Stu Bangas: What was the other character than Ron Simmons played?
SS: He was in a team called Doom with Butch Reed.
Esoteric: It’s funny I just saw Kevin Nash and Rikishi yesterday. I took my son to a comic book convention in Providence, Rhode Island and Kevin Nash was there. It was kind of odd [laughs].
SS: That’s another guy who made a boatload of money and didn’t care about wrestling. He was a basketball player. He was the number two prospect coming out of high school in the state of Michigan behind Magic Johnson.
Esoteric: Get outta here! Really?
SS: Yeah, he played at the University of Tennessee. His knees were bad so he never made it.
Esoteric: He’s a big dude, man. I know he’s big from seeing him on TV but in person he’s a monster. He’s all gray now.
Stu Bangas: My wife had me watch the movie with Channing Tatum, the stripper movie, Magic Mike, it wasn’t my choice. Nash is in that movie and he’s still in shape. He’s got to be 53-54 years old. He’s not like Scott Hall, all out of shape and ruined and sh*t.
SS: Let’s get back to the album. We can talk about wrestling all day [laughs]. The song ‘Wonder Why’ was a little more personal than the other songs on the album. Why was it important for you to write that rhyme?
Esoteric: Well, it wasn’t important to me until I heard the beat, man. Stu is one of these guys where all he does is work on beats. One day I’ll wake up and there’s three new beats in my inbox. A day passes and there’s three more. I heard that and I was like, “Why is he sending this to me?” It wasn’t the typical beat that I’d rap to but I liked it a lot, so I had to write something introspective for it. I remember it like it was yesterday, he sent it at like 11:30 at night and I was in the streets listening to it on my phone. I started coming up with the rhyme outside. The beat called for something that was a little more personal and I knew what I wanted to talk about. I quoted Kurt Vonnegut in the hook. It was one of those records where I recorded it and I was kind of iffy about sending it to Stu because it wasn’t the same type of stuff that we’d been doing and it turned out that he really liked it so we put it on the album.
Stu Bangas: Yeah, I got a crate of gospel records right before I sent that from one of my dudes I buy records off of. I flipped a bunch of them and sent them and he picked that one. It’s dope, we have a different flavor on the record. It’s a really dope record.
Esoteric: Stu has a trademark sound and it’s important for him and important for the album to show a little diversity and show that he can flip other things other than the “murder, death, kill” type of a vibe. It’s important for me to show that, too. Instead of crushing the mic for three minutes, let’s talk about something else and show a little versatility. It’s a good change of pace.
SS: Eso, what’s the status of the next CZARFACE record?
Esoteric: Yeah, man I just spoke to [Inspectah] Deck today about it. We’re having a few disagreements on some of the beats [laughs]. But we’re going to work our way through that. We’re actually in the recording process now. We just have to agree on the right approach for the album. We don’t have a release date set yet but we’re hoping for mid-2014. 7L is on the production and we’re trying to bring it to the level that we brought the first one. We just want to raise it a little bit.
SS: Why should fans go out and cop Machete Mode on November 26?
Esoteric: I think fans should go out and cop it because the industry is so over-saturated with everybody trying to do the same thing and make the same record. When I hear an emcee over no-frills production today that are still doing the types of things that we’re doing I think that they have a strict code of ethics that they stick to and that’s to be commended. A lot of kids like to listen to stuff like this and it’s our duty to deliver that. We love to do it, it’s in our blood. I listened to Scram Jones’ new EP and it’s all punch lines and wordplay over rugged beats. That guy is in the position where he can pretty much do what he wants and go out on a limb but he stays true to the craft and the stuff that we all came up on. I can respect that. I think the average fans that listens to a Stu Bangas record, an Esoteric record, or anything from the AOTP family can definitely feel satisfied with this record for what we brought to the table. We didn’t pull any punches on it and we threw a few curve balls to keep it interesting.
Stu Bangas: I agree with everything he said and also from the production standpoint for dudes that listen for the beats and sh*t, the samples are like gospel, prog rock, library type records, a soul beat, a couple of glam rock joints that are gutter, it’s a good array. One of the samples I know for a fact has been flipped recently, but other than that it’s pretty much untouched stuff. I think that the dudes that listen for the beats will enjoy that aspect of it.
Purchase: Esoteric & Stu Bangas – Machete Mode