Collaborations are nothing new in the realm of Hip-Hop, since practically the genesis of the genre’s inception different emcees, crews, DJs (and eventually producers) have joined forces in the past working on individual tracks, albums and even created brand new groups in their collaborative exploits. Some crews that feature an extensive roster and assortment of artists such as Army of the Pharaohs, Boot Camp Click and D.I.T. C. (Diggin’ In The Crates Crew) have gone on to earn respect in the Hip-Hop scene and even attain some mainstream success. While others such as The Firm, Slaughta House and G-Unit with less staying power have come and gone fading into relative obscurity. Needless to say, in an era where attention spans are only getting shorter, in a genre already filled with huge egos, and more artists opting for solo careers; the quintessential institution of the classic Hip-Hop group has increasingly become an antiquated notion. However, in recent years as part of a larger trend, supergroups and collaborative projects have made an unexpected return in both popularity and prominence. With groups such as Perestroika (Apathy and O.C.) and Run the Jewels (El-P and Killer Mike) and a slew of other partnerships not necessarily confined to the realms of underground or independent Hip-Hop artists; supergroups and supergroup projects comprised of two or more members for the time being are seemingly back in fashion. Perhaps one of the longest running and successful of these partnerships to arise in recent years is none other than the underground Hip-Hop supergroup Czarface; comprised respectively of Boston based Hip-Hop duo 7L & Esoteric and Wu-Tang Clan member Inspectah Deck. While many projects begin and end as one shot collaborative efforts between two artist; Czarface has grown into a longstanding partnership between the respective emcees, spanning across six full albums and better part of the past decade. The latest being Czarface Meets Ghostface, the newest installment in this long running series.
Less than a year after dropping their last album, Czarface is back with yet another project to kick off the year of 2019. Coming right on the heels of last years’ Czarface Meets Metal Face, their collaborative LP with the enigmatic M.F. Doom; 7L & Esoteric and Inspectah Deck have once again joined forces under the Czarface moniker in a swift return to the airwaves. This time around, the Hip-hop heavyweights have teamed up with none other than fellow Wu-Tang member Ghostface Kilah for a twelve track battle royal of lyrical titans. Kicking off the album is ‘Face Off’, Deck, Ghost and Esoteric lyrically spar over the dusty, vintage production fans have come to expect on Czarface releases. Other album highlights include ‘Czarrcade ’87’, ’Super Soldier Serum’ and “Mongolian Beef’ which showcase the album’s decidedly lo-fi sound, complete with crunchy drums and obscure samples pulled from the darkest, dustiest values. Other album highlights include ’Listen to the Color’, in the vein of songs such as Gang Starr’s ‘Speak Ya Clout’ or MURS and 9th Wonder’s ‘Walk Like A Man’; the track features a roulette wheel of dueling production with each emcee battling for lyrical supremacy and easily features some of the album’s best production featured on Czarface Meets Ghostface. This same tactic is also utilized on ‘The King Heard Voices’, and while it does give each emcee room to flex their lyrical muscle and fine each verse to their one unique style; is also another factor that contributes to the tracks blending into one another are being difficult to distinguish apart.
The heart of any album which defines its character and essence is its production and Czarface Meets Ghostface is certainly no exception. While 7L does deliver the time tested Boom-Bap style production that all three emcees have built careers off of, (and fans have come to expect to hear on their projects); the album’s production is noticeably more subdued than that featured on past Czarface albums. While not a deal breaker by any means, aside from tracks like ‘The King Heard Voices’ and ‘Listen to the Color’, the lack of variation in the album’s production as well as overall mood and tone does contribute to the overall tendency for tracks to blend into one another. This slight change in the album’s production could be attributed to the fact that it is entirely contributed by the Czar-Keys, comprised of DJ 7L, Jeremy Page and Todd Spadafore; the latter two providing live back instrumentation throughout the album. Content wise, Czarface Meets Ghostface hardly takes any risks or boundary pushing switch ups. The majority of the album’s subject matter is comprised mostly of battle of raps, with all three emcees straying little from the format; overall with little in the way of exploring deeper subject matter over the course of the album’s thirty-nine minute run time. However, much like the comic book inspired style which has been a cornerstone of the group’s motif since its inception, Czarfaces’ appeal lies more in novelty, aesthetic and fantasy than the gritty realism found on the respective artists prior solo works. On top of this, one aspect that does stick out from the beginning is the fact that Czarface Meets Ghostface noticeably lacks the assortment of guest features that prior album’s have prominently contained in the past. In fact, Singer Kendra Morris serves as the album’s lone sole guest feature on Czarface Meets Ghostface, contributing backup vocals on several of the LP’s tracks. It’s noted that an assortment of guest spots have normally been a hallmark feature prominent in most past Czarface projects and even Czarface Meets Metal Face featured Vinnie Paz, Blacastan and Mike Eagle respectively. While not a fatal flaw by any means (in fact, short guests lists are increasingly more and more rare in the genre), given the album’s comic book battle royal and professional wrestling inspired artwork, lyrics and overall aesthetic; it does seem a bit odd that not a single other emcee would be brought on to join in on the fun for such an album like others in the past. That being said, the album’s tracks does feature a healthy amount variety line-up wise, switching up formats to match each emcee that appears on the lineup of each respective song. With some tracks being helmed by Esoteric exclusively, others between Deck and Ghost, while several are devoid of Ghostface altogether.
Like the silver-age comic books that Czarface and their many past projects take inspiration from, Cazarface Meets Ghostface is quick, cheap, low-level fun. A brief getaway that requires little in the way of deep, cerebral intellect or comprehension to enjoy, but still creative, clever and above all enjoyable that both hardcore Hip-Hop heads and casual listeners can appreciate. Is there any new ground broken on Cazarface Meets Ghostface? Not really, but then again, that’s never really been the intent or end goal of the Czarface albums either. It’s a project who’s main goal is to take listeners back to a simpler time in Hip-Hop and re-live the genre’s gold era years; prior to the advertisements, record deals, product endorsements and when emcees had to prove themselves as formidable forces on the mic. While the album doesn’t offer up many stand out moments that separate it from the rest of the songs featured throughout the project; Czarface Meets Ghostface is overall a by the numbers, but, nonetheless enjoyable collabo album. Likewise, the album not only serves as another notch in Czarface’s belt of stellar albums, but another testament to Ghostface’s near impeccable ear for production selection. Adding yet another solid entry in a long line of collaborative efforts the Wu-Tang alumnus has released in recent years. Clocking in at just under forty minutes, not only will heads likely be giving the project multiple rotations; it’s very likely this is far from the last we’ve seen or heard of Czarface.
Cazarface Meets Ghostface is available now to stream on all digital platforms, with CD and special vinyl and cassette copies available to purchase on the the group’s Get On Down store.
Full Album Track Listing & Credits:
- Back at Ringside
- Face Off
- Iron Claw
- Czarrcade ’87’
- Powers and Stuff
- Masked Superstars
- Morning Ritual (Featuring Kendra Morris)
- Super Soldier Serum
- The King Heard Voices (Featuring Kendra Morris)
- Listen to the Color
- Mongolian Beef
- (Post Credits Scene)