Friday, April 6, 2018

Czarface & MF DOOM - Czarface Meets Metal Face Review

It's a collaboration that, despite MF DOOM's reclusiveness, was bound to happen. When the trio of Inspectah Deck, Esoteric, and 7L first began their reign of terror as Czarface in 2012, their original intention was to bridge the gap between DOOM's cartoon villainy and the grandstanding of New York's vintage Boom Bap. On every release dating back to their self-titled they've done exactly that, with 7L electrifying the inanimate genre using strange, sample-driven concoctions. As for DOOM, in recent years he's taken a backseat to his own, distinct strangeness (working primarily with the flavorless Bishop Nehru on NehruvianDOOM and Elevators), which either makes Czarface Meets Metal Face an appropriate pairing for the ages, or one soon to be forgotten. Despite 7L's successes behind the boards, and a gratifying DOOM verse here and there, the latter holds true. Their concept, that every hero needs a villain (the title of Czarface's 2015 LP), could've provided a backbone of curious context. Instead, it's relegated to interlude fodder, leaving a plethora of time for Inspectah Deck, Esoteric, and DOOM to unite in spite of their moralistic differences to spit braggadocios bars with no endgame in mind.

Like with Czarface's last project, A Fistful Of Peril, 7L swoops in from above to save the day. His production may be the last beacon of hope for Boom Bap, a genre that guided its own demise by becoming entrenched in outdated traditions. Through samples and an imperative loudness, ripe with horns, crashing drums, and demonic overtures, 7L attempts to stimulate two emcees nearing the half-century mark, and one whose charisma has always been questionable. See to 'Badness Of Madness' with its roguish piano that teeters over the rappers like a puppet master to his strings, coming down on them with a disruptive bass every four bars. Or 'Bomb Thrown,' that proudly flaunts DOOM's light-hearted cartoon ambience with cheerful vocals, frenzied drums, and constant sample diversions. Here, 7L's work is not too far removed from that of Danger Mouse's on The Mouse And The Mask. Lastly, there's 'Captain Crunch,' a seemingly-disjointed affair that clangs hi-hats, abuses a Ghostface Killah sample, and ricochets space lasers across the foreground. Suffice to say, 7L isn't Czarface Meets Metal Face's issue when it comes to energy. Although there are some forgettable beats, like 'Meddle With Metal' and 'Nautical Depth,' and at times the mastering obscures the vocals which hurts most of DOOM's verses and Open Mike Eagle's on 'Phantoms.'

That being said, 'Phantoms' is undoubtedly Czarface Meets Metal Face's best track. This, due to a combination of talents reaching their expectation. DOOM's opening verse is littered with satisfying multisyllabic rhymes ("drats and double-tracks, shorties with the bubble fats / ay caramba, trouble jack, phantom steal another track"), OME provides an appetizing story (despite his insistence of the opposite), and 7L astounds with a free-flowing beat switch that uses Kendra Morris' vocals to transform 'Phantoms' into an unleashed beast for Inspectah Deck to tangle with and Esoteric to rhyme 'F's' over.

Unfortunately, the weakest link of Czarface Meets Metal Face lies on the topics supplied by Inspectah Deck, Esoteric, and at times DOOM. Throughout the LP, the two Czarface emcees succumb to the rigid traditions of Boom Bap, failing to consider whether they should branch out alongside a rapper who was once the world's most creative emcee. Their flows are basic and lethargic, and their copious one-liners, more often than not, feel formulaic and preordained. That being said, if you're one for pop culture references that'll make you grin ("It's very necessary like a Q-Tip Grammy rant" on 'Bomb Thrown,' "Pursuin' Illinois, Sufjan Stevens / Even though he's an Asthmatic Kitty, he's too calm breathin'" on 'Stun Gun'), Inspectah Deck and Esoteric has them in spades. Everyone from John Williams (famed composer) to Gordon Hayward (basketball player) is name-dropped, which keeps the weaker tracks engaging and comical. There's even 'Don't Spoil It,' which is a single verse from Deck rife with Hip-Hop-based movie references. However, Czarface's old head status rears its ugly head on tracks like 'Meddle With Metal' ("I miss that old shit, rappers used to be stupid def / Now they just stupid and deaf") and 'MFCzar' ("I never wore women's clothes / So many rappers exposed, but anything goes"), with unnecessary potshots that, in reality, expose their prosaic rhyming style and antiquated beliefs.

Czarface Meets Metal Face has its moments. DOOM's presence, despite being muffled throughout, is a pleasant diversion to Czarface's straight-laced braggadocio, and 7L continues to prove why he's the best, and most important member of the trio. Perhaps the greatest disappointment with the LP is that pairing an intergalactic force with the universe's most feared villain resulted in accord, not bloodshed. Maybe that was their plan all along, looking towards the wonderful stop-motion music video of 'Bomb Thrown' as proof, but that still doesn't negate the conceptual ideas ripe with potential that combining these two offered. By and large, Czarface Meets Metal Face is a modern day Boom Bap release that's intimidated by change and stepping out of one's boundaries. Talents can be found inside, but only for those hankering for Hip-Hop's predominant 90's approach.

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