Get On Down/Bulk Recordings
Crazeface and MF Doom
Czarface and MF Doom 'Czarface Meets Metal Face'
Just like in TV and film, a crossover can be a painful novelty or the best of both worlds, luckily Czarface and MF Doom have yet to let their fans down. On their collaborative follow up to “Ka-Bang!” from Every Hero Needs A Villain the hip hop pairing brings out the best of all of their individual talents for an album rich in production, verses and self-aware humour. Between the vocal talents of Esoteric and Inspectah Deck (who we’ll collectively call Czarface for simplicity of the review), and MF Doom himself, this is a rare gem that more than surpasses its potential novelty.
In the moody crawl of album opener “Take Your Medicine” our characters circle each other while Czarface’s classic mix of vintage samples set the stage for the record. “Meddle With Metal” really hits the groove however, as its bass and weird midi horns let the vocals take centre-stage. The intriguing sounds start however on “Badness of Madness” as the typical hip hop pianos and flutes are subverted for something much more menacing. In this terrifying atmosphere both voices cut through, offering questions on God’s humour and brilliant wordplay on the X-Files.
As the pair finally meet on “Close Talker” a hypnotic bass runs, as the pair play on how silly their characters designs would be in real life. Among their clever comparisons between other hero combos and even Czarface’s real-life duo, the song’s best moment is hearing them tie MF Doom’s villainous side to Czar’s own mantra. “Forever People” lets loose on a sublime bass and guitar riff, as Czar and MF alternate takes with more playfulness than much of the record. The piano hit of the main hook really ups the excitement before Czarface’s second verse. In the brash beats of “Captain Crunch” there’s a sense freestyle that makes Doom’s message of escaping shackles feel all the more free. Even as they really start to let the riffs take over the song, production is so sublime that you’ll mesmerized by hearing classic Czarface lyrics at the group’s strongest.
The goofy outro plays like a TV ad for Czar’s antics, almost overshadowing the creepy interlude that the group bring on “Don’t Spoil It.” While it may not hit as hard as the rest of the album this tight little track is a delicious love letter to hometowns and trying to keep things genuine. The 8bit runs of “Phantoms” come in with an unnerving shadow in its sound, as Open Mike Eagle shows just how well they know the group’s nerdy vernacular. Kendra Morris’s hook is a divine moment on the album, especially as it leads powerfully into “Phantom’s” massive second verses. It’s in its cheesy hook that “Bomb Thrown” is immediately catchy, making the message about who owns fame feel all the more appropriate. Even when you’re not caught in the song’s melody, the lines about struggling to do what’s right feel all too timely.
They lose the hero persona’s temporarily for “You Masked For It” as they even bring in a little Stan Lee impersonation for their funniest interlude on the record. “Astral Traveling” comes in grimy and heavy, which makes its more ambient second half feel strange and surprising. As fun as many of the moments on this song are, it does feel a tad too fast and loose to warrant repeat listens. The evil overtones of “Nautical Depth” hit hard without feeling as distinct as many of the songs on the record, which ultimately hurts its otherwise suave rapping.
“Stun Gun” brings in a little Stevie Wonder style however, as they skewer dumbing things down and how harsh realities. Their savant-like coverage of everything in pop culture hits an artform on this track, and they even joke that they’re lethal instead of being set to stun. Though “MF Czar” isn’t one of the most memorable productions on the record, they really bring something heavy in their verses to make it feel worth it. Even though their flow is a bit more laidback here, they really have a triumphant energy as they turn the track into an anthem.
The vintage overtones of “Captain Brunch” has the most palpable warmth of the record, while they try to show even happy moments can have a darkness to them. Across all their wordplay however, it’s the double-meaning and sense of sincere respect that they bring through “It takes balls like a gender change” that shows why Czarface are not only considered top-tier word-smiths but one of the more progressive groups in the game. “Sleeping Dogs” closes the record on a barrage of clever sonic jokes that while a little anticlimactic fits the overall storytelling of the record.
Words by Owen Maxwell