Merging 7L’s gritty boom-bap stylings of the “Dangerous Connection” albums with a more modern distorted sound, “Czarface” is musically quite subdued for an Esoteric record, but with the addition of Inspectah Deck, there is a fun camaraderie between the two that stops things getting monotonous. Plenty of wrestling and comic book references are thrown about throughout the record, and the chemistry between Deck and Esoteric is good. It’s evident the two had fun recording this, bringing back memories of ‘Red n Meth’ or Bad Meets Evil’s EP, as both emcees throw rhymes about trying to one-up each other.

Breaking down the tracks, “Czarface” reveals itself to not quite be the sum of its parts. “Cement 3’s” with Roc Marciano suffers from a beat that is just too simplistic, while “Marvel Team-Up” sounds like 7L fell asleep on the MPC, despite Esoteric absolutely killing shit. It’s fair to say that as reliable as Inspectah Deck has been throughout his career, he just can’t quite steal Esoteric’s shine. Even Action Bronson is upstaged by Eso’s verbose delivery on “It’s Raw”. “Rock Beast” is classic 7L & Esoteric and “Savagely Attack” sees 7L doing his best RZA impression to help Deck feel at home, even bringing in the mighty Ghostface Killah who does exactly what the track says. DJ Premier provides a respectable beat (by his standards) for “Let It Off” that actually complements the rest of the album, due to its elementary structure and the way it comes to life on the scratched hook. Whilst Esoteric stands out on most tracks, he tries too hard with “Let It Off” by trying to pack in too many multi-assonant words. “Word War 4” is not a shelved Virtuoso album, but sees Deck go IN on manic drums and a sweet panpipe sample. There are plenty of dope cuts throughout “Czarface”, but none that scream greatness. It’s good to see Deck associated with a release that isn’t garbage, because his last few albums have been poor, especially when compared to the works of Ghostface and Raekwon. Admittedly, Deck was always my favourite member of the Wu, but yet while he puts in a strong performance here, Esoteric proves that he is one of the best emcees in the game (technically). A little less of the lifeless production could have helped raise this album from just being good, to great.



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