by Alex P80 Parks
The saga of hip hop comic persona Czarface continues with “his” 6th album. For this adventure, the antihero teams up with another masked mic master, Ghostface Killah. Czarface is producer DJ7L, MC Esoteric, and Wu-Tang Clan stalwart Inspectah Deck. A love of comics, Star Wars, wrestling, 80’s nostalgia and some extremely dope hip hop have combined to create this super group.
7, Eso and Deck have released a special comic with some of their previous Czarface albums and have even commissioned the creation of action figures and sculptures which collectors and fans have gone wild for. With some original artwork done by acclaimed artist and designer Lamour Supreme, the visual component only adds to the amazing mythos of an idea come to life through sound, print and toys.
While melodies are important in his beats, 7L maintains a presence mostly atmospheric in mood. Many of the beats seem sci-fi and futuristic, fitting with the fantastical nature of a comic book perspective. Hazy, dark and gloomy yet also industrial and digital at times, the imminent danger awaits Czarface with every bar and each verse.
Ghostface Killah seems like a feasible pairing in this latest edition. With his own Iron Man/Tony Starks alter ego, Ghostface makes an excellent teammate in this follow-up to the last Czarface collaboration with another elite veiled emcee, the mystical MF DOOM.
Deeply Rooted HipHop reached out to MC Esoteric to gain some insight into the collaborative process of putting together these albums.
Esoteric: “7L makes the beats and they usually go to me first, and then to Deck…say 7L sends me 11 beats, we’ll agree on 8 and those 8 we play for Deck…yes, the little oddities and soundbytes that call back to vintage cartoons or comic oriented records are something I love adding into the mix, and 7L adds similar spice too once the beats are fleshed out…”
On the arena-sized “Face Off” Ghost jumps first on the bouncing beat, Deck spits double time and Eso comes in to wrap the track up with his comic relief. The lead single “Iron Claw” features pulsating waves of synths and rumbling bass that’ll rattle any speakers. Rebel INS brings the imagery with lines like:
“Whole aura, cold water, flow torture,
Black diamonds, blue dreams, gold Porsche
I’m always on go, all the lights green.
General official, that’s what the stripes mean.”
Check the track here:
With “Czarrcade 87” ESO and Deck rhyme playfully on an uptempo beat, trading verses with some 7L scratches thrown in for good measure. On “Powers and Stuff” Eso delivers clever similes with lines like “Stick to my Gunns like Bautista,” a gem about the Guardians of the Galaxy cast. The use of Esoteric’s own kids voices’ are always an endearing addition on a couple Czarface tracks like this one. The cartoon cinematics of “Masked Superstars” make for an energetic track with Czarface scurrying frenetically through the scenery.
Eso: “Morning ritual was Ghost’s idea, he brought that to the table and we responded accordingly.”
“Morning Ritual” The sawing dark organs and the vocal effects give an appropriately foggy break-of-day feel as the three emcees trade stories of a wake-up that starts out regular, and with the help of a bit of paranoia, turns out quite unexpected. Sonically, “Super Soldier Serum” takes Czarface and Ghost on an interstellar journey heavy with synths and digi-effects. 7L always finds some ill, obscure vocal samples to scratch and add into tracks. Ghost plays the role of Jason Bourne with lines like:
“I’m low-key like a government official
Deep under the surface like a piece of bone gristle
No keys to the entrance, just facial scanning
And 2.6 chandeliers with cameras
And a bearskin rug programmed to attack
Sharks in the crib, no coordinates on the map
Off the grid, Maxwell Smart, is how I live
Daniel Craig, Casino Royale, I’m so slick.”
Eso: (On the team-approach to recording)
“If 7L and Deck try to convince me that a certain song is a keeper, I’m learning to trust other ears….we all really work together on what songs get recorded to.”
7L starts “The King Heard Voices” with some scratches and builds the tension with synth organs and a brooding, murky vibe.
Deck spits assuredly:
“Lean on em, It’s just routine on em
Call on supreme, My team ballin’, the cream callin’
Ain’t no mistakin em, they be prayin’ on snakin’ em.”
“Listen to the Color” plays more like a suite with multiple beat flips and shifts in tone. Previous Czarface efforts have always included these types of morphing tracks. They become subplots or mini-jaunts within the larger story of the album. Eso asks: “Is that a gang sign you flashing or a shadow puppet?” Tracks like these tend to be the highlights of a Czarface album as the verses become separated and the open bars allow the track to breathe while tension builds between the varying beats.
Check the Asian-influenced, collage-style animated video for “Mongolian Beef” here:
On “Post Credits Scene” 7L brings the guitar loop, punchy drums and some dope cuts on this track as the album closes out in grand fashion. Eso rhymes:
“Just like that, yeah we back, yeah the wait is up
Fresh in the game, my Jayson Tatum up,
Live guy, no glasses, got my lasik up
This ain’t Lady Luck, this is Gary Vaynerchuk
Yeah yeah it’s them Czar kids
upgrade ya enfamil, ya formula is gah-bage.”
Eso: “I think the Czarface fan understands what to expect…the beats bring out punchlines, wordplay, and engaging, metaphorical death threats… this is what we do…it’s the road me and deck connect on…occasionally we do concepts like dead zone, phantoms, or morning ritual…”
This album is the type of collaboration project that hip hop fans used to dream of. Czarface doesn’t need to placate or appease fans, however, they seem to deliver the team-ups that provide a strong sonic and visual complement to their own larger than life super creation thus winning over new fans with their creativity and imagination.
Creating the feel of a comic book through 7L’s dynamic soundscapes, Esoteric’s endless nods to superheroes and Deck’s relatable references, the team collectively embodies the Czarface imagery through their music. Ghostface assists on this tenacious team-up, adding to the expanding universe of hip hop’s greatest (ok, only) fictional antihero.
The album will be available Feb 15th everywhere and in special edition physical bundles here: