One of my favorite rappers of all time would have to be MF DOOM (real name Daniel Dumile). His Doctor Doom-inspired staged persona is the definite drawing factor, but how he incorporates comic-book and superhero themes into his lyrics, samples and beats is what truly hooks me. It’s amazing to see a man twist and turn all of these comic-book tropes on their head, and it doesn’t even need to be said that his intricate yet subtle style of rhyming makes him one of the best MCs.
However, with success comes imitators, and the hip-hop supergroup Czarface is one of them. Consisting of Wu-Tang member Inspectah Deck (Jason Hunter) and hip-hop duo 7L (George Andrinopoulos) & Esoteric (Seamus Ryan), these three men have based their career on the same comic-book stylings of DOOM for the past seven years. Deck and Esoteric are on mic while 7L produces. On Feb. 15, the trio dropped Czarface Meets Ghostface, a collaboration with another Wu-Tang member, Ghostface Killah (Dennis Coles), which has been rather underwhelming.
The main flaw of this record would have to be the lack of a unique personality. Take Madvillainy for instance, the 2004 collaborative album between DOOM and underground producer Madlib (Otis Jackson Jr.). The album made their alter-egos incredibly clear, with the two being the most dangerous villains to ever step foot in the studio and collaborating to cause some mayhem. With Czarface and Ghostface, I don’t get that. Deck doesn’t have some kind of comic-book persona, he’s just Deck. The same goes for Esoteric and Ghostface, but I will say 7L’s production does have some personality, in that he mostly goes for harder, industrial style beats, despite somewhat ripping off J Dilla on the second track “Face Off.”
Despite none of them having an elaborate comic-book-esque stage persona, their rhymes contain plenty of references to comic-books, but it’s all very surface level. Offhand references to Margot Robbie, Tom Hardy, Black Panther and Thanos among others are just stated and aren’t really explored upon. I think the record would have been a lot better if they just limited their scope to one concept per song and then ran with it. By just throwing a dozen or so references at you on each song, the record feels less like a record and more like a list.
However, this album isn’t terrible by any stretch of the means. 7L’s production is pretty unique, and everyone on this record gives a serviceable performance, but I will say Esoteric is the weakest out of the bunch. “Czzarrcade ‘87” is a solid song, the beat reminiscent of the work of ‘70s krautrock band Can, and there’s the rappers that use this great flow which makes the song, well, flow seamlessly. “Masked Superstars” is a hyper-aggressive track with Deck delivering an incredibly memorable one liner; “Kiki never loved me, she busy doin’ the shiggy.”
“The King Heard Voices” is menacing, with eerie synths wailing in the background and an ethereal choir popping up throughout the song. Ghostface has an utterly murderous opening bar: “Ayy yo, my glass rhymes bulletproof, my bullets got glass tips/My guns are so big that they dislocate hips/Slipped disc leave ‘em/ Mangled like gorillas in the mist/And your rib cage get caved like/ You was punched with an iron fist.” The dark calibre of that bar sets the tone for the rest of the song.
Outside of that however, everything else is fairly unremarkable. I had high hopes for this record going in, knowing that Czarface collaborated with DOOM before, figuring they would be on the same level of quality, but I’m just left feeling lukewarm. While not bad, I don’t think one should spend their time on this record, unless you happen to be huge fans of Czarface, Deck or Ghostface. Frankly, I’d just listen to MF DOOM if I wanted great comic-book themed rappers and lyrics. Two out of five stars.