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CZARFACE (7L & Esoteric and Inspectah Deck), CZARFACE Review

The six billionth living person in the world has just been born. Napster has started to live off the supple flesh of the music industry. Slick Willie has been putting his willie in all the wrong places. The year is 1999, and hip-hop is alive and well.

The Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck, along with fabled Bostonians 7L & Esoteric, stumbled upon a time machine, and instead of busting a cap in Hitler, hooking up with Marilyn Monroe, or, investing stock in Apple, they chose to return to the 1-9-9-9. And their warped, sample-heavy captain’s log has taken on the form of CZARFACE.

As Deck―whose very mention pulls our minds back to days of yore―states, “CZARFACE is a vigilante, anti-hero…[whose] focus is on annihilating the media darlings that the mainstream caters to.” We slowly meet ‘FACE by the sounds that not only defined the era to which Deck, Esoteric, and 7L harken to, but that come to define this 14-track time warp. In one minute and 16 seconds, the length of the album’s intro, we see CZARFACE rise from the collective ashes of ‘99 to breathe life into what we thought could only live on in memory. But by the time you’ve reached the boom-bapping on roids that is “Hazmat Rap,” you’ll be going through nostalgia withdrawals.

Mention of the ‘90s, hip-hop’s supposed last golden era, might make some queeze, and for good reason. Hip-hop purists have long sucked on the decade like a warm thumb, afraid of the cold, mean world that lay ahead. But CZARFACE, also the name for Deck and co.’s group, keeps matters as fresh. The album’s marquee—with names like Roc Marciano, Action Bronson, and Mr. MFN eXquire—assures just that. “Cement 3’s,” “It’s Raw,” and “Poisonous Thoughts”―listed in the order of appearance of the guests mentioned―come off as love letters rather than industry rub-offs. If the above trio were operating in the late ‘90s, they’d be dropping similar heat.

Throughout, 7L can only be described as a “Rock Beast,” as he brings a consistency and ferociousness to the CZARFACE sound that comes off best in the track of the same name. It’s not often that another producer beats DJ Premier at his own game, but everything 7L brings to the table trumps the bland sound of Primo’s guest spot “Let It Off.” Whether paired with rooks like eXquire or dropping skewered brilliance on tracks like “CZAR Refaeli,” “Savagely Attack,” and “Shoguns” alongside vets like Oh No, Ghostface, Cappadonna, and Vinnie Paz, 7L plays Han Solo to the ship that is CZARFACE. And it surely doesn’t hurt that he has two very capable wingmen, in Deck and Esoteric, on either side of him.

Like the year 1999, pray that this isn’t the last time we hear from CZARFACE. —Bogar Alonso (@blacktiles)

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