Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Czarface - Every Hero Needs A Villain

Brick Records: 2015

Less than two years after Czarface caught the attention of discerning underground heads, Inspectah Deck along with 7L & Esoteric returned to their comic-book inspired, anti-hero/posi-villain creation. And this time, “it’s personal.” No, wait, that doesn’t make sense. Maybe, “…and this time, they Czar harder!” Nope, that’s even less sense. Maybe “Not a hoax, not a dream – this album, Czar’s enemies DIE!” Look, most of my comics reading consists of Transformers. I dabbled in some Marvel stuff in my youth, and keep tabs on the industry for curiosity’s sake, but aping classic taglines? You’re better off consulting Linkara.

The chaps behind Czarface though, they know the scene their taking influence from, filling their rhymes with all sorts of nods to nerd culture. You don’t need intimate knowledge of comics, wrestling, and sports (!) to enjoy these two MCs and one DJ doing their thing, but it certainly helps. The eight-minute long opus on this album, Escape From Czarkham Asylum, is loaded with them – heck, even the title alone is a nod. Deck spends a whole verse comparing the impact of his bars to that of rampaging kaiju, and Esoteric gets in similar lines too (“I’m 90 Yao Mings tall, I’m 50 Fat Joes wide”; “My footprint is bigger than Fenway Park”).

And holy cow, but the production on this track is nuts! So many change-ups throughout, running through funky licks, straight-up boom-bap, and a tight electro thing with Airplane warning pings (makes sense with all the flight metaphors in that verse). True, an eight-minute long rap track needs some diversity to keep it interesting all the way through, but this whole album’s filled with dope, diverse beats. If the debut was about this trio throwing some jams out for the fun of it, Every Hero Needs A Villain finds them taking things more seriously, showing not just the verbal synergy between Deck and Eso’ but the production talents of 7L too.

For sure the boom-bap dominates, as it plays best to the Rebel’s and Eso’s strengths as rappers. In fact, the two have remarkably similar flows, their regional accents about the only identifiable difference (bar construction too). Funky jams find more room here compared to Czarface, including tracks like Lumberjack Match, ladies come-on cut Nightcrawler with a guest spot from Method Man, and the punch-line heavy Junkyard Dogs with JuJu (oh my God, these lyrics! Dr. Octagon reference!). Elsewhere, the production gets experimental, When Gods Go Mad offering something more cinematic (GZA verse!), while Ka-Bang! goes grimy and minimalist, which suits guest rapper MF Doom’s style just fine. Ooh, now there’s a crossover issue made in heaven-hell: Czarface vs. MF Doom. Maybe Deltron Zero can make a cameo!

I don’t ask for much in my hip-hop. Some verbal dexterity, killer beats, and metaphors that don’t fly over my head like Greatest American Hero is plenty. Twice now, Czarface has delivered as a pair of ace spades. Will their third album serve up the triple? (note: never let me ghost-write lyrics)


ACE TRACKS:
When Gods Go Mad featuring GZA
Escape From Czarkham Asylum
Deadly Class featuring Meyhem Lauren

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