CZARFACE Delivers an Ode to Hip Hop’s Golden Age with “Czartificial Intelligence” (Album Review)

CZARFACE is an east coast underground trio consisting of New York emcee/producer Inspectah Deck from the almighty Wu-Tang Clan as well Boston emcee/producer duo 7L & Esoteric of the Army of the Pharaohs. They first formed like Voltron in 1999 on the single “Speaking Real Words”, but finally decided to form the supergroup after making “12th Chamber” off the final 7L & Eso album to date 1212 over 13 years ago. Their 2013 self-titled debut along with their 2015 sophomore effort Every Hero Needs a Villain would both become modern underground classics in my opinion. A Fistful of Peril the following year was originally supposed to be the quartet’s final album & I thought that was a great way for them to go out, but they did pleasantly surprise me when they dropped their collab albums CZARFACE Meets Metal Face with the late MF DOOM in 2018 & then CZARFACE Meets Ghostface Killah with his DOOMSTARKS partner in rhyme Ghostface Killah the year after that. The Odd Czar Against Us would come out 9 months later & that felt more like a split EP between CZARFACE and solely 7L & Esoteric given that both groups have 6 songs each. Czarmageddon! though ended up being the trio’s most consistent full-length since Every Hero Needs a Villain so when it announced they had signed to Virgin Music for their 6th album, I was intrigued to hear if CZARFACE would continue to improve themselves like they did a year & a half ago.

“Czarchimedes’ Death Ray” of course starts the album with a boom bap instrumental & feeling like no one can stop them whereas “Blast Off” works in more kicks & snares with a fuzzy guitar continuing to boast on the lyrical side of things. “All That For a Drop of Blood” is a synth/boom bap hybrid explaining that it be a grand entrance whenever Czar’s in the building, but then “You Know My Style” featuring NEMS serves as an eerie reminder to all 4 of their underground roots on all fronts.

7L & Esoteric get their own solo cut with “Mama’s Basement” telling the story of a mother going away on a lifelong trip & never seeing her much, yet he found a world he can escape to in the end leading into the dusty “Frenzy in a Far Off World” featuring Frankie Pulitzer a.k.a. Tom Hardy keeping the battle bars rolling. “Czarsenic” despite is brevity has to be one of the most cutthroat moments on the album comparing their flows to arsenic over an unsettling beat just before the piano/boom bap “Gatecrasher” featuring Logic asking why people bringing beef up in their joint.

“Sirens” brings the synthesizers back into the picture explaining that they be sleeping with the titular prolonged warning sounds going off while “Helicopter” featuring Godfather Don & Kool Keith finds the quintet bringing it live from the czarbeque over kicks & snares. After the “1-11 Chelsea” instrumental from both 7L & JL Hodges, “Marvel at That (Road Trip)” is another 7L & Eso cut filled with Marvel wordplay while “Live from Czarnegie Hall” featuring Kool Keith ruggedly talks about this being survival of the fittest. “Together” ends with album with an uncanny instrumental describing themselves as A-list.

For a major label debut, CZARFACE continues to build upon what made their last LP from a year & a half ago by putting out another consistently focused body of work that pays homage to golden age of hip hop culture with samples from classic records. They mix their characteristic old school sound with soulful & jazzy beats on top of blending the unfiltered essence of OG braggadocio, introspective storytelling that the high-flying superheroes have become known for by now.

Score: 8/10

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Legends Will Never Die

Just a 26 year old guy from Detroit, Michigan who passionately loves hip hop culture & music as a whole

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