Born in 2013, and fresh off last years match-up with MF DOOM, Czarface—the combo of Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck and Boston duo 7L & Esoteric—are back with their sixth studio album. This time around, the grisly, comic book-inspired robot-hero teams up with fellow Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah in a classic battle to abolish wackness in the rap game.
I went to college in Boston in the late ’90s and was fixated on the local hip-hop scene there. I can’t tell you the number of times we saw Mr. Lif, Akrobatik, and, yep, 7L & Esoteric perform at small Boston area clubs. In 1999 they dropped the single “Speaking Real Words” feat. Inspectah Deck and we were shocked. 7L & Eso were down with the Wu?! At a show soon after, we were even more shocked when Deck jumped out from backstage in the middle of the song to do his feature. The place went nuts.
To sit here 20 years later, listening to where this relationship has taken them… is some pretty cool shit. ‘Czarface Meets Ghostface’ is a great resurrection of underground rap. I’m of the opinion that hip-hop doesn’t need saving, or that boom-bap revivalists need to rectify anything, but Czarface has so much fun trying to do so it’s hard not to go with it.
The best thing about this project is that no one takes themselves too seriously. Esoteric calling Czarface “your favorite rapper’s man crush” on “Face Off” just sets the right tone for this project. Ghostface, who’s reaching a saturation point with me lately, sounds as sharp and energetic as Deck and Eso do.
The beats are pretty hard, and the drums are particularly crispy. (Hit play on “The King Heard Voices” or “Masked Superstars” right now.) There’s a surprising amount of replay value here, and plenty of interesting, unexpected moments. (Check the instrumental outro on the aforementioned “The King Heard Voices” or both beat switches on “Listen to the Color.”) “Czarface has got the powers and stuff!!”