Hip-hop and comic books have had a somewhat close relationship in recent years with Kendrick Lamar curating the soundtrack for the box office hit Black Panther, the Netflix original series Luke Cage having each episode named after a Gang Starr song – but it doesn’t stop there. Jumping straight from the pages of an illustrated novel right into your speakers is the latest offering from Czarface (Wu-Tang Clan member Inspectah Deck and Boston duo Esoteric and DJ 7L). However, for the length of this LP the group is joined by hip-hop’s favourite super villain, MF DOOM. Appropriately titled Czarface Meets Metal Face, this concept album takes the listener right into the explosive and exaggerated action of a comic book.
Deck and Eso told us on their 2015 album that Every Hero Needs A Villain, and that’s exactly what they got with DOOM as the two sides loosely follow the fictional narrative set over 7L’s production that paints somewhat of a dystopian boom bap soundscape. The sample-based tracks have just enough quirks to be interesting but are traditional enough not to take the listeners out of their comfort zone too much, which DOOM has been critiqued for in the past at times.
One of the most accessible tracks is ‘Bomb Thrown’ where the production has a laid-back feel, not unlike something that The Avalanches (who curated and produced 2017’s collaboration between DOOM and Danny Brown) would conjure up. Accompanied by a stop-motion video that sparks a nostalgic head nod with a late night cartoon adventure vibe, it fits the aesthetic of the project and the sound of the song perfectly. While Deck starts the track off vocal-wise, it is Esoteric that ends his verse with an accurate summary of the projects mission statement “Let the mind take you where the cameras can’t/ It’s very necessary like a Q-Tip Grammy rant”.
Other notable highlights include the neck snapping Meddle With Metal and the somewhat Kool Keith inspired Badness of Madness where DOOM’s lyrical genius really shines through “Guess God is a comedian/ While the poor get devoured in the jaws of greedy men/ Whose daughter’s out dancin’ to techno and EDM – Sell soul? Heck no!” The lowlights are few and far between with the only standout gripe being the tracks Captain Brunch and Captain Crunch using the same verses just switching up the instrumentals.
The features on this record are kept to a minimum with Jedi Mind Tricks frontman Vinnie Paz lending a verse to Astral Travelling and Open Mike Eagle of Project Blowed fame chimes in with New York-based singer Kendra Morris on the track Phantoms. Overall, a brilliant and refreshing chapter in the Czarface story, with the welcomed addition here of the infamous MF Doom.