Estee Nack & Purpose are also known as Tragic Allies, and they released a strong collaborative album with one of New York’s finest emcees, Tragedy Khadafi, in 2013. “7 G.E.M.S.” was a typical Ill Adrenaline Records release, possessing a consistent, hi-def boom bap sound that benefitted from some strong rhyming from Purpose, Estee Nack and Tragedy Khadafi – except Estee Nack was never really remembered after this.
“14 Forms: The Book of Estee Nack” is another well-made addition to their catalogue, and while it boasts Purpose on the production (despite being mostly known for his emcee abilities), this is most definitely an Estee Nack project. It’s been a long time coming, given Purpose has released albums with Confidence and Paranom, and Estee Nack has been the mysterious, gruff character with a tendency to break in to reggae-infused hooks. He’s actually the more interesting emcee, as Purpose is the refined, yet predictable presence on tracks. Estee Nack harks back to the untamed nature of a Keith Murray, and given his appearance (dreadlocks, gold grills) he is automatically a guy who I’m intrigued by. The fact that he is more than a match for Purpose’s lyrical prowess, makes it all the more surprising given his appearances on the “7 G.E.M.S.” project were pushed aside with Purpose and Khadafi going in over the nostalgic production. Speaking of which, Purpose continues to be one of the most underrated producer/rapper combination in the underground scene, pulling some real diamonds out the bag.
Lead single “T.I.M.E.” is a stand-out moment, as Estee delivers some thought-provoking rhymes on the concept of time and how we have less time than we think, thanks to sleep and work. The piano-driven instrumental is apt, as the track has a ‘timeless’ feel not dissimilar to Xzibit’s “The Foundation”. The same can be said for “Incriminating Thoughts”, which tackles race and the ever-increasing transformation in to a police state that the United States is currently undergoing. The tone of Estee’s vocals feel almost accepting of the situation, which adds extra oomph to unremarkable lines like “just another n**** pulling a caper”. There’s a decent amount of variety on show too. There are your standard street anthems (“When I Get High”, “Allies Are Navy Seals”), but given how many may view Ill Adrenaline’s output as stereotypical throwback rap, Estee does try to provide some different themes. Science and Estee’s interest in astronomy were reflected on the album with Purpose and Tragedy Khadafi, but pops up again on “The Science of the Universe”. What is effectively Estee Nack narrating The Big Bang Theory (the one that isn’t the annoying sitcom, although that would make an interesting track), showcases how effective Estee Nack is as a rapper. His vocals are intense, yet gripping. He has a presence that draws you in, even if it’s a simple line like “humans exhaling carbon dioxide” – it sounds on point. Given that there are no guests other than Kingasiatic Allah on “Intermission”, Estee manages to keep the listener’s attention thanks to his ability to lace a good hook. This is what helps “Sex or Chess” become more than the obligatory track about getting laid, whereby Estee is checking for mates, but the alternative is catching a checkmate. I’m not sure what happens if his girl can’t play chess, but that’s a track for another day.
The tracks that I didn’t enjoy were mostly down to the production – “Golden Guillotines” is as the name suggests, a naff Wu-Tang clone, while “Love N’ Lust” is a plodding, somewhat dull tale of good and bad going-ons in the ‘hood. There’s something about Estee Nack though that separates him from his Ill Adrenaline label-mates – there’s a spark in some of these songs that could signal some excellent future releases that stretch beyond the standard East Coast Hip-Hop antics.