Self Titled

Revisiting a collaboration that first appeared on the title track of Speaking Real Words, the debut EP by 7L & Esoteric, the Beantown duo has teamed up with Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck again. Some 14 years later the three veterans come together with a full-length superhero project titled Czarface. Taking into account the back catalogue of the parties involved, it comes as no surprise that the modus operandi here is gritty, hard-line boom-bap.

The album is a clear indication that both Esoteric, at over a decade in the game, and Deck, at nearly twice as long, are still exceptional rhyme-slingers. The two effortlessly intertwine braggadocios liberetti with a myriad of cleverly placed pop culture references, and do so at well-paced clips. Amidst a period of rap music that sees increasingly less emphasis placed actual mic skills in favor of marketable personality, Deck and Esoteric remind listeners that emceeing is a true art form.

However, Czarface is not only a showcase of the lyrical prowess of the journeymen emcees, but also of the beat-creation and turntable abilities of 7L. Aside from the requisite DJ Premier track, “Let it Off,” the entirety of the production is owned by 7L. Ripe with cartoon, wrestling, and movie samples, his soundscapes draw upon ‘90s griminess and varying degrees of backpack-ish head-nod. 

“Cement 3’s” has the blatant RZA influences that most Wu-apropos beats not produced by the man himself do—it even comes with Old Dirty Bastard samples in the cut. It sounds like it could have been lifted from 36 Chambers or the Ghost Dog soundtrack. “It’s Raw” opens with a snippet of a Road Warriors promo from WCW and ends with one of Robert De Niro from Ronin. An infectious head-thumping loop occupies the time in-between. On “Savagely Attack” the high-pitched keys nicely contrast a low-end bass, while 7L scratches Ironman cartoon samples in the hook. Fans of menacing East Coast rap music, take note—Czarface is that Jeep-banger shit you can snap your neck too. 

While the record is for the most part rooted in ‘90s nostalgia, it’s not a total throwback affair. Several emcees of the current indie wave-making populace drop in with guest verses—Roc MarcianoAction BronsonMr. MFN eXquireOh No, and Vinnie Paz among them. And to further build-up excitement for the heads eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Wu-Tang Clan's 20th anniversary, both Cappadonna and Ghostface Killah offer lyrical contributions. Czarface stakes a claim as one of the more superb additions to the recent upsurge of boom-bap revivalism.

8.0 / 10Nathan G. O'Brien
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