Some would consider Ghostface Killah to be the most consistent member of the Wu-Tang Clan, maintaining a steady release of acclaimed records while still innovating and adapting. Over the last few years however, Inspectah Deck, perhaps one of the lesser recognised members, is giving Ghost a run for his money with the supergroup Czarface (which also includes Boston duo 7L & Esoteric). Back together once again, the two Wu-Tang members link up to deliver some hard hitting boom bap on Czarface Meets Ghostface.
As with the previous five albums, comic book imagery features heavily: from the vividly-coloured artwork to the skits, segues and lyrics. You truly become immersed in the alternate world these characters reside within. And the beauty of a project such as this is just that – torn from the shackles of reality, each emcee is allowed the freedom to explore a parallel universe filled with whatever they desire.
Sonically, the group’s producer 7L creates a dark landscape. Ominous organ drones layer atop heavy drum and a simple 2 bar loop in many cases. The real skill from 7L here is scattering enough variation throughout to keep the listener intrigued, allowing the vocalists to come to the fore. Passages of songs veer off course with stabs of other musical ideas before falling back in line. Guitars, flutes, and organs shimmer in the background, forcing you to listen in while not detracting from the main loop. The vocals here shine front and centre, loud and clear. Mumble rap this is not. Self-confidence oozes from every member, each vying for supremacy above the others, depicting their ferocity and power. These are some super villains you don’t want to meddle with.
The aforementioned braggadocios rhymes feature heavily alongside imagery of guns, drugs, and money. Similes land hard and fast, eliciting genuine humour, fear, and joy. Sometimes, however, they come across a little forced, corny or don’t seem to make much sense at all (“I seen people stabbed in the shelter/ actin’ Bi-Polar like they grabbin’ a Seltzer”). Ghostface is absent on a few tracks. We would have liked to see him more. He drops some great lines in classic GFK delivery: “Son, I walk through the night with a catlike vision/ precision/ you can smash like a head-on collision”. But even he falls prey to some sub-par lyrics, something he isn’t prone to do across his back catalogue. Ultimately the intent and hunger is there but each rapper falls short of their truly great potential.
As with last year’s MF DOOM collaborative album, many blows land while a few miss the mark. With the talent and potential genius available I was left wanting. There are glimmers of brilliance but overall this is marred by some lacklustre wordplay. That being said, each release from these guys feels like a journey of discovery and Czarface’s strength can be in that development. What will the next chapter of this series bring? Who will join forces to thwart these foes? How can Czarface work with both DOOM and Ghost while the long overdue DOOMStarks still remain unreleased? Like any good comic, the questions raised keep you coming back for the next installment. The world better listen up before we fall under control of Czarface.
Album Rating: Favourable
Poor: 0-2 Stars / Favourable: 2-4 Stars / Highly Recommended: 4-5 Stars