Czarface Meets Metal Face made too much sense to not happen. A collaborative album between the supergroup Czarface and the enigmatic MF DOOM is a natural fit. The fact that the album is dope just makes things even more satisfying.
Czarface—made up of Wu-Tang Clan’s Jason “Inspectah Deck” Hunter and Boston hip-hop pioneers George “7L” Andrinopoulos & Seamus “Esoteric” Ryan—has quietly been one of the most consistent groups of the ’10s. After releasing their self-titled debut album in 2013, they’ve followed it with two more absolute gems of releases: Every Hero Needs a Villain (2015) and Fistful of Peril (2016). Daniel “MF DOOM” Dumile is one of the most notorious and outstanding emcees to release music in the past two decades, though his output has slowed as of late. Since 2010, he’s lived in Europe due to passport issues, still occasionally releasing collaborative albums with artists like Jnerio Jarel and Bishop Nehru.
On a conceptual level, the team-up works. Czarface, the musical throwback to Jack Kirby-era Super Heroes teaming with the Metal-Face Villain himself. But the collaboration also makes sense on a musical level. Much like DOOM, Czarface have loaded their albums with references to comic books, cartoons, professional wrestling, sci-fi flicks, and semi-obscure pop culture ephemera. And though DOOM’s production usually skews towards samples of quiet storm R&B and TV soundtracks, he sounds comfortable over Czarface’s grimey yet spacey soundscapes.
Things go as well as anyone could have expected. Deck and Esoteric are both on their games, and DOOM sounds motivated and sharp. The Metal-Faced Terrorist appears on nearly every track on the album, and none of his verses sound phoned-in (which had been an issue for his rare guest appearances over the past few years). Conceptually, they stay in their comfort zone, creating solid boom-bap tracks packed with references to Game of Thrones and Charlie’s Angels. They play to their strengths and it pays off.
Much of the album’s production is handled by 7L, who creates a musical backdrop that’s conducive to all three emcees’ respective styles. Czarface Meets Metal Face could easily serve as the soundtrack for the ’10s Force Five anime reboot. The album’s tracks are loaded with low-end heavy basslines, crispy drums, and sci-fi influenced synthesizers. “Forever People” features Esoteric, DOOM, and Deck all ripping it over a gothic organ track, synthesizers and sound effects that filter in and out. “No words to define me buddy,” Deck raps. “My previous work is under research and scientists study.”
Czarface Meets Metal Face really gets into its groove with “Captain Crunch,” a tenacious jam built on rugged drums and a menacing bassline. DOOM leads off the track strong with lines like, “Wise man once said not to showboat / And treat the yacht the same way as a rowboat / The snakes'll hang theyself with they own rope / And watch a jewel transform to a known quote.” Meanwhile, Esoteric transforms his verse into a pop-culture reference bonanza, rapping, “Hit you with the belly to belly, the suplex / Off the roof of the duplex, willing to group text / With Steely Dan, Groot, fuckin' baby Groot, the ghost of Dave Brubeck / Alex Trebek and Boba Fett. Who's next?”
There are only two guest appearances on the album. The Chicago born, Los Angeles-based Open Mike Eagle drops in on “Phantoms.” Over a bubbly yet itchy keyboard-heavy track that’s evocative of DOOM and Esoteric’s respective electronic-based work, Mike delivers one of his notoriously surreal and quirky verses, littering his verse with references to hidden Mortal Kombat characters, Japanese anime, and the Exquisite Corpse Game. Meanwhile, long-time Esoteric collaborator and Jedi Minds Tricks frontman Vinnie Paz joins both members of Czarface on “Astral Travelling” (DOOM only appears to contribute ad-libs throughout the track). Much like a 2018 version of Gang Starr’s “I’m the Man” or “Speak Ya Clout,” the track morphs for each emcee, shifting in tempo while always maintaining its sinister feel.
The album also features a pair of brief solo tracks. Deck strings together names of “urban” film titles on a simple guitar and piano loop on “Don’t Spoil It,” while Esoteric kicks a rapid-fire flow on “Stun Gun,” a track that would sound at home on a 7L & Esoteric album. DOOM doesn’t get a solo showcase, but does seize the opportunity to talk trash to Czarface himself on “Close Talker.”
The album is at its strongest when Czarface and DOOM flex their skills in tandem. “MF Czar” features all three emcees showing out over dark and menacing synths, punctuated by robotic noises and sharp key strikes. Deck literally brings the heat with lines like, “A worker and a boss, that's an easy check / ’Cause your boy rain fire like Khaleesi’s pets.” Esoteric delivers clever punchlines with rhymes like, “Congrats, ya teeth catch a dope slap / You got Strahan teeth, there ain’t a close gap.” DOOM closes things out with trademark slurred stylings, rapping, “Make sure the inner heat match the outer heat / Mask on, get that bread, undoubtedly.”
Czarface Meets Metal Face doesn’t reinvent the wheel and it really doesn’t need to. There’s just something to be said for all three emcees delivering the exact type of album that their longtime fans hoped that this collaboration would bring. Offering your audience what it’s looking for and then delivering upon that offer is a feat worth celebrating.
Notable Tracks: “Captain Crunch” | “Forever People” | “MF Czar” | “Phantoms”