Czarface & Ghostface Killah
Czarface Meets Ghostface
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Czarface keeps humming along like a well-oiled machine. The group, ostensibly a partnership between Jason “Inspectah Deck” Hunter and Seamus “Esoteric” Ryan, has been churning out dope albums since 2013. After a quartet of releases (three lyrics-filled bonanzas and one instrumental entry), last year the duo collaborated with the elusive MF DOOM to record the extremely dope Czarface Meets Metal Face.
And now, less than a year later, they’re back with another heater, this time teaming with Deck’s fellow Wu-Tang Clan member, the illustrious Dennis “Ghostface Killah” Coles a.k.a. Tony Starks a.k.a. Grandpa Ghost. The result is an album with a level of consistent dopeness we’ve come to expect from the crew. It’s about on the same level as Czarface Meets Metal Face, but it’s arguably just a bit stronger lyrically.
The crew keeps on with what works. The production continues to be handled by Czar-Keys, a combination of George “7L” Andrinopoulos, Jeremy Page, and Todd Spadafore. By the point, the trio has established a dependable sound, based around heavy keys and hard-charging guitars. Deck and Esoteric play to their strengths, contributing solid performances. They continue to pepper their rhymes with references to professional wrestling and comic book films, name-checking Black Panther, Infinity War, and even Guardians of the Galaxy.
It’s heartening to hear Ghostface so engaged throughout Czarface Meets Ghostface, as he seems positively animated, rhyming with a fire he hasn’t shown on record since Apollo Kids (2010). He only appears on about half of the album’s tracks, but makes his presence known each time he drops a verse. By sticking to the off-the-wall, stream-of-conscious rhyme style, he recaptures the fire that’s made him one the most beloved emcees of the last two decades.
Ghost lends the album-opening “Face Off” some of his vintage enthusiasm, starting things off on the right foot through rhymes like, “N****s comin' out the woodwork, same voice, same mask / Same stove, trying to cook, we don’t count the same cash / When the sky starts to flicker, wait for the flash /Boom! Thunderbolts, sounds of the blast.” He imbues “Iron Claw” and “Mongolian Beef,” the album’s first two singles, with the same energy.
The album hits its stride pretty quickly. All three emcees share solid chemistry, while the beats evoke the best of Wu-Tang’s early ’00s period. “Powers and Stuff” is a sinister yet surreal entry, with all three kicking rugged verses on the track comprised as psychedelic keys and shimmering vocals. “The King Heard Voices” is another highlight, filled with gothic electric organs, while the ultra-spacey “Super Soldier Serum” echoes with strange sound effects and vocals pulsing throughout the beat.
“Morning Ritual” is a well-executed bit of juxtaposition. Ghost starts the track waking up in triumphant splendor, going his morning routine. Fresh off a sexual conquest, he’s still draped in his jewels, and still the “flyest motherfucker from here on after.” With the second verse, Esoteric shows the much less graceful flipside, stumbling into the start of the day, hungover, accidentally breaking his phone’s screen, and discovering his own late-night escapade may have stolen all of his money.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the album was originally intended as the next Czarface “solo” release, and they were secured Ghost’s presence in the midst of the recording process. Which is fine, because Deck and Esoteric are perfectly capable of holding things down on their own. The two pass the mic back and forth on “Czarrcade ’87,” the verses and lines effortlessly blending from one to the next while riding a rolling bassline.
“Masked Superstars” is another highlight, bolstered by a rocking guitar sample and neck-snapping drums. Deck is in fire-spitting mode as he raps, “We the dream team, check out the slam like you was Mean Gene / Bodies on the set, I leave the scene clean.” The beat takes a darker turn for Esoteric’s final verse, his strongest on the album, kicking rhymes like, “Is he… man or menace? Head on swoll like Rocky Dennis / Ego like Kurt Russell, the evilest words tussle / To be in my verse, I puzzle rappers like a contract / Hypochondriac, always feelin' ill.”
Much like the aforementioned Czarface Meets Metal Face, this collaboration succeeds because Esoteric, Deck, and Ghostface all deliver what their longtime fans were hoping for. They create an album that is current, but harks back to their best moments in the past.
Notable Tracks: "Czarrcade ‘87" | “The King Heard Voices” | "Masked Superstars" | “Powers And Stuff”