Czarface is certainly becoming one of the more prolific groups in hip-hop. Releasing four albums in the last three years, their output has been commanding and impressive. This fact becomes even more impressive when you consider their storied careers up to this point. 7L & Esoteric have been consistently releasing music since 1996. 7L’s soulful yet brash production pairs perfectly with Esoteric’s hard-hitting lyricism and maniacal delivery. Inspectah Deck, Wu-Tang Clan legend, took notice and immediately wanted to collaborate with these two. He also has accomplished a great deal in his career. From his ferocious and intricate lyricism with Wu-Tang Clan to his well-received solo records, Deck has achieved more than your average emcee. With the accolades of its members, Czarface certainly does not have anything to prove, but they are doing it anyway. They are furiously releasing music at an age where many retire. The same can not necessarily be said for Ghostface Killah at this moment in time.
At this moment, Ghostface Killah has been more patient and selective with his releases. His output from 2000-2015 was extremely consistent, but he has taken a noticeable step away from the spotlight as of late. With that being said, Ghostface does not have much to prove. Being one of the Wu-Tang Clan’s most integral emcees, he has solidified himself as a legend. His vivid imagery and stone-cold lyrical output have landed him on many people’s’ top emcees list. Even so, knowing Ghostface’s attitude, it is fair to say he never shies away from a challenge. On Czarface meets Ghostface, Ghostface Killah gets the chance to prove that he is still the cream of the crop. He gets a chance to battle with some of hip-hop’s hardest working rappers. Lucky for listeners, he did not take this challenge lightly.
Unlike Czarface’s previous collaboration record, Czarface meets Metal Face (Czarface and MF Doom), this record is not framed as a fusing of minds. It is framed as a full-on competition. This becomes evident upon listening to the album’s second track, “Face Off.” Over a low-pitched vocal sample and a punchy beat, Ghostface Killah says the line, “it’s CZAR vs. Ghost, we about to face off.” From the get-go, this pins our characters against each other. Every emcee wants to be better than the last. Unfortunately for Czarface, Ghostface Killah sets the tone too perfectly on this track. His tenacious flow and creative rhyme schemes feel perfect over 7L’s doom-inducing beat. Thankfully, “Iron Claw” proves that this disparity in quality of verse was a fluke. Esoteric fully embraces his flaws on the track’s last verse making him sound equal parts menacing and human. His line, “I got the filter of Bill Burr, I’m a rebel” shows he can joke about himself, but you better not try to laugh at him. He is not playing around.
The album’s two best tracks are quite possibly its two most unique. “Masked Superstars” features some of the most hard-hitting production on this album. The choppy snares are loud and plead for strong lyrical performances. Inspectah Deck and Esoteric deliver on this song, crafting unconventional rhyme schemes and flows while still boasting their cool as ever personas. Unfortunately, this song really could have used a verse from Ghostface, but it is understandable that Deck and Esoteric would want their own tracks to shine on. “Morning Ritual,” the following track, is one of the slower paced songs on the album. The beat is as eerie as ever but is crafted with a more lounge inspired instrumentation. Ghostface Killah’s verse uses a call and response from a low pitched voice. Ghostface will ask himself questions in the mirror and a low-pitched voice, perhaps the voice in his head, replies with bouts of braggadocio. The way this verse is manipulated is very creative and is overall one of the best moments on this project.
Sadly, this album starts to kind of blur into itself towards the end. The production is relatively similar in style throughout, so the back-end of this record feels a bit less desirable. Even so, Czarface and Ghostface Killah deliver strong performances throughout. If you enjoy piercingly tough lyrics, the blending of comic book and hip-hop themes and pure personalities, you will like this album. It may not be the crown jewel of any of these rapper’s career, but it is solid. It is sure to provide you with some fantastic songs as well as some hilarious quotables. Although the members of Czarface and Ghostface Killah may be getting old, they still have a lot to say. Hopefully, they keep speaking their minds with many more future releases.