In music, timing is everything.
When soon-to-be-renowned Boston hip-hop duo 7L & Esoteric collaborated with the Wu-Tang Clan's Inspectah Deck on the title track to 7LES’s debut EP Speaking Real Words in 1999, the timing was perfect. The upstart duo was building a serious buzz on the East Coast and beyond, while Deck was still winning praise for his gold-selling solo disc Uncontrolled Substance. As flashy pop-oriented rap was pumped on commercial radio stations, their natural chemistry and sympatico skills shone as a beacon to real hip-hop fans, a base of listeners who were soon asking about their next musical summit.
14 years later, the hunger for sharp lyrics and head-snapping beats hasn't dissipated. In the face of the ever-worsening status quo of watered-down and vapid radio rap songs, the call for something real has only gotten stronger, and once again the time is right for a call to action – for someone or something to come in and send wack rappers running for the hills in fear. Enter CZARFACE, the upcoming full-length album from Inspectah Deck and 7L & Esoteric, to be released on indie stalwart Brick Records on February 19, 2013.
As Deck explains, “We called it CZARFACE because a czar is someone who is pretty much idolized by certain people no matter what he does or what he's done. At the same time, he's looked at like some type of martyr.” His lyrical partner Esoteric adds: “CZARFACE is a vigilante. He’s an anti-hero character who serves as the face of the project and his focus is on annihilating the hip-hop media darlings the mainstream caters to.”
As any fan will agree, there is no disputing Deck’s important place in the hip-hop game as a lyrical idol. As a founding member of one of hip-hop's most important groups, the Wu-Tang Clan, Deck has firmly established himself an elite lyricist with 20 years of legendary verses under his belt, lacing Clan classics like “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Protect Ya Neck,” “Triumph” and “Bring Da Ruckus” with street wisdom delivered by a liquid flow.
For Deck, joining forces with 7L & Esoteric is a natural fit: like him, the producer/MC pair has forged a unique and still-expanding career by earning respect from their peers and always seeking out new creative opportunities. Since the release of Speaking Real Words in 1999 they've released five more critically acclaimed albums as a duo, toured the world and participated in group projects with the likes of Army of the Pharaohs and East Coast Avengers.
CZARFACE packs enough ammunition to answer anyone questioning whether these veterans still have the heart for battle. Deck has kept the Wu-Tang flag flying high in recent years, collaborating with Raekwon and RZA while releasing solo albums such as 2010's The Manifesto (Traffic). From the Boston end, Esoteric has branched out beyond ongoing work with childhood friend DJ 7L, pushing his own creative talents in new directions: from a self-produced instrumental disc inspired by Japanese b-movies (Pterodactyl Takes Tokyo, Fly Casual, 2008) to the deeply-personal concept album, Saving Seamus Ryan (Fly Casual, 2009).
With both lyricists in prizefighting form, CZARFACE is a showcase for lyrical finesse, superior rhyme skills and teacher-approved sharing skills. To wit: a track like the single “Cement 3's,” where Deck and Eso trade incisive, rewind-worthy verses over a hypnotic head-thump beat from 7L, while Roc Marciano delivers the final verbal body blows. Unsurprisingly, respect for real hip-hop runs deep, and CZARFACE brings an army with it—consider the star-studded guest list which includes Action Bronson, Vinnie Paz, Oh No, Mr. MFN eXquire and Deck's fellow Wu-Tang Clansmen Ghostface Killah and Cappadonna.
Aside from one track blessed by the almighty DJ Premier, production on CZARFACE belongs exclusively to DJ 7L, who provides the musical backbone which holds the album together. His ability to craft a hip-hop sound that's current and exciting with a classic feel left Deck impressed: “This is one of the first albums I've heard in a while that gives you so many different feels. You hear the ‘80s hip-hop style, ‘80s R&B and rock combined with what's going on now. That’s creating something new, in my opinion.”
A collaboration this big is bound to catch some attention, as it has from MISHKA NYC artist Lamour Supreme, who created the eye-popping comic-book-inspired cover art for CZARFACE. That's just a taste of the surprises that lie in store when the album is released in special, deluxe packaging on CD and double LP on February 19, 2013.
As Deck states, summing it all up: “When you see our face, you see the face of hip-hop, you see the face of music in this form. People do what they do—there's techno rap and all kinds of rap out there. But this is that speaking-real-words rap. Go ahead and dissect everything we're saying, you’ll get plenty out of it.”
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