Exercise in duality
“Every hero needs a villain” is a mantra that many Czarface fans should recognize at this point. The phrase happens to be the title of their 2015 album that was monumental for the group and its fans. The critical acclaim of this record, paired with the cult following of the Wu-Tang Clan, helped breathe new life into both Inspectah Deck and Esoteric’s respective careers. Two releases and three years later, it is apparent Czarface is revisiting this concept and are trying to build upon it. On Czarface Meets Metal Face, Czarface has paired with the legendary hip-hop “super villain” MF Doom. This is perhaps the perfect choice for their villain as Doom’s hip-hop comic book universe has enthralled listeners for years. Albums such as Operation: Doomsday, Mm.. Food, and Madvillainy are widely regarded as hip-hop masterworks. For many, Doom is in the pantheon of all-time great rappers, so who better than him to execute further on Czarface’s vision? Well, sadly at this point there may be a couple better options.
The point of a collaboration is to hear valid contributions from both parties. You want to be able to hear each person’s influence on a track. Sadly, outside of the album’s production, Doom really did not impress much on this album, and even then that contribution is overstated. While the beats on Czarface Meets Metal Face feel right in Doom’s pocket, this is not by his own doing. Upon looking at the liner notes, you can see that Doom did not handle production on this project. So this would mean that Czarface bent over backward to make this thing cater to him. This is a generous gesture of Inspectah Deck, Esoteric, 7L and the Czar-Keys, but sadly Doom did not do much with it. While nearly all of his verses are as sharp as ever from a lyrical standpoint, he seems especially lackadaisical here. Doom has always had this quiet and unassuming delivery, but here it just seems uninspired. Perhaps this is due to some of the hardships he has faced as of late, but it’s still sad to see.
Deck and Esoteric dominate this record in terms of run-time. They do a fantastic job with energetic and witty bars across the project, but it still would have been nice to see more of the “metal face” half of the collaboration. With that being said, this project wasn’t a complete loss at all. Inspectah Deck steals the show with his opening verse on “Meddle with Metal.” He comes out hungry as a dog and raps over a grimy and head-bobbing beat. “Badness of Madness” is another great track that features some of Doom’s best rhyme schemes in quite a while. “Phantoms” is an all-around great track with nice sonic change-ups in the production. On top of that, the Open Mike Eagle cameo on this track is phenomenal. “Bomb Thrown” and “Captain Brunch” feel like vintage 2004-2005 era Stone Throw Doom records. The beats are catchy, yet still allow the emcees to shine. “Astral Traveling” features one of the best verses on the album, in which Vinnie Paz opens up the track sounding downright vicious in his low timbre delivery. Lastly, “Stun Gun” separates itself from the rest of the tracklist as Esoteric flows relentlessly over silky smooth production.
While it is true that every hero needs a villain, it is also true that not every match is meant to be. Doom certainly performed well enough on this record, but it seems like there was a lot more he could have done to make this project truly great. Inspectah Deck and Esoteric’s character and lyrical styles shine through on every track of this record. They really gave it their all. A collaboration is supposed to inspire each party to reach their full potential, and while there are tremendous tracks on this project, there is a certain feeling that something better could have materialized.