(Silver Age, out Fri 15 Feb 2019)
Czarface have been around since 2013 and comprises 7L, Esoteric and Wu Tang alum Inspectah Deck. Suspiciously like MF DOOM from their previous collaboration, the trio created the masked Czarface to represent them. While taking inspiration from the Silver Age of comic books, Czarface sought to bring hip-hop back to its Golden Age and since their formation the three have been making extensive efforts to achieve this, regardless of anyone’s opinion of contemporary hip-hop.
On their last album part of the appeal was seeing the comic inspired Czarface “clash” with MF DOOM, an obvious influence for the trio’s avatar. This time around, the comic battle tone remains but is amplified by the Wu Tang reunion between Inspectah Deck and Ghostface Killah.
The tone is established right at the start, with an impersonator of late WWF star Macho Man Randy Savage doing the introductions as the ring bell and an incredibly dirty bass line signals the start of the “match”. The wrestling feel adds to the comic inspiration and is continued throughout the album, especially on the track Czarrcade ’87, a play on the title of wrestling show Starrcade.
The production, from The Czar-Keys, is one of the best things about the album. Each track has a distinct bass that pushes the rhythm along with the drum beats. Regardless of tempo, it’s impossible to keep your head still. More importantly the beats and samples illicit the feeling of 90s Saturday morning cartoons like the X-Men and Spider-Man. Imagine the intro theme of these shows given a Wu-Tang spin courtesy of Rebel INS and Tony Starks.
Lyrically, the emcees still possess the charisma that made them. Bars vary from threatening to comical, with biting wit on occasion. At times lines actually sound like 90s wrestling promos, such as “nah, you ain’t a man of steel when you speakin’ to CZAR / Bow down, puny human, you the least of my problems.” Yet in the same verse, lines like “I just left a dame in Spain, yeah, I’m teachin’ abroad,” vary the tone dramatically.
This is a great album that calls back to 90s East Coast hip-hop while containing enough new production ideas to make it stand out today. More than just a reunion between Inspectah Deck and Ghostface Killah, this is Czarface showcasing what they believe hip hop can be.