By Kwase Lane, Staff Writer
[Silver Age; 2018]
Key tracks: “Face Off”, “Super Soldier Serum”, “The King Heard Voices”
In Czarface Meets Ghostface, the supergroup composed of Inspectah Deck, 7L and Esoteric comes together with Ghostface Killah to drop some bars over the ‘90s east coast hip-hop beats they are known for. Although the combination is good on paper, this project feels lackluster with none of the collaborators at the top of their game. All the songs included are time machines in the way that they take their audience back to the time when the boom bap sound was prevalent. It’s too bad that there are already so many pieces that do a better job of that, many of which were actually made during that decade.
On an album that is marred by dreary production, “Face Off” stands out for its energetic and occasionally tense sound. Ghostface does an excellent job of using the intensity the beat lends him, beginning the track with an enthusiastic delivery – an aspect that some of his other verses on the album sorely lack. Unfortunately, Inspectah Deck and Esoteric don’t take long to drop the ball. After Ghostface finishes his verse, the bottom falls out, but the song still lasts for two more minutes. “Face Off” perfectly depicts the overarching strengths and weaknesses of this project. At its best, it’s an ear-catching throwback to a bygone era, and at its worst, it makes you ask why you’re even listening.
The eighth track, “Super Soldier Serum”, feels like what every other song on this project dreams of being. The overwhelming majority of the beats on Czarface Meets Ghostface aim for a dark, aggressive tone, but end up sounding drab, becoming a hole that consumes the power of the rappers’ flows. “Super Soldier Serum” doesn’t have that problem. Each artist does an excellent job of carrying their own weight, and Esoteric really stands out, somehow dropping lines about He-Man and Star Wars without sounding any less hard.
In the intro of “The King Heard Voices”, a voice can be heard saying “Yeah, this one sounds crispy.” It doesn’t. This song is soggy cereal in auditory form but in the best way possible. This song transforms the album’s mundane ‘90s sound into something slightly more innovative. The track begins with a dark, albeit still dreary, beat with Ghostface doing his best to channel an aggressive bravado into the sound. In the first 30 seconds, the song doesn’t bring anything worthwhile and feels cumbersome and ugly. Thankfully, Kendra Morris relieves him of his duty on the chorus with haunting vocals that turn what would’ve been a lackluster piece into an ear-catching showcase of talent for all those involved. The song skillfully plays with the weight of the vocal delivery without surrendering the startling, perplexing mood, ending by poking fun at law enforcement’s tendency to use violence where none is required. “The King Heard Voices” will probably make you ask “What the hell is that?”, and the song is nice enough to give you a few seconds to think about it before it ends.
With all the talent on Czarface Meets Ghostface, one wouldn’t be foolish for thinking it would be a better album. All of these artists have shown themselves to have exceptional amounts of talent, but average albums like this feel like a black mark on what should otherwise be two amazing discographies. The production is boring and doesn’t receive any points for innovation, as the artists have instead opted to stick to a style that many have done better in the past, themselves included. The one saving grace of this project are the weighty lyrical gymnastics it contains, with verses that somehow find ways to reference police brutality and Marvel comics in the same breath. It’s sad that these masterful lines are guarded by drab, monotonous production.