Rap purist legends join forces for an utterly monolithic project
The Santa Clara
April 5, 2018
“Czarface Meets Metal Face” is a silly title for a kind of silly album, one contravening modern trends by unabashedly worshipping at the altar of early ‘90s East Coast hip-hop.
The new album from underground rap supergroup Czarface is 44 minutes long, about 42 of which consist of straight punch-to-your-gut rapping. Czarface is made up of Wu-Tang Clan member Inspectah Deck and underground mainstays 7L and Esoteric, although only the latter rapper appears on this latest record. Teaming up for the collaboration album is MF DOOM, whose stark bars can still please the classic rap fan in 2018.
The timing of “CMMF” leaves no room to breathe in between extremely dense verses of wordplay and rabble-rousing battle raps. Despite the straight-faced delivery of the MCs here, this is quite a fun album, harkening to a bygone yet dearly missed era of endless riffs on pop-culture, blatant absurdity and tons and tons of simile.
In this way, I see parallels between classic rock and the formation of a new genre, perhaps “dad rap.” Czarface and DOOM, and even some new acts like Run the Jewels or rap purist Open Mike Eagle, who features on “CMMF,” are the torch bearers of this revivalist sect, equally as stubborn but, importantly, equally as debaucherous as classic rock.
A crude summation of the dad rap ethos can be found on early-album cut “Meddle with Metal,” where Esoteric spits, “I miss that old sh*t, rappers used to be stupid def / Now they just stupid and deaf.” It is a not-so-deceptively simple line that sets the tone for the next 12 tracks (excluding a remix and instrumental capping the album) of plain spoken, uber nostalgic insanity.
On “Captain Crunch,” he almost yells, apropos to literally nothing: “Off the roof of the duplex, willin’ to group text / With Steely Dan, Groot, f**kin’ baby Groot, the ghost of Dave Brubeck / Alex Trebek, and Boba Fett, who’s next?”
This tradition of name-checking for the sake of internal rhyme, but sometimes simply for the sake of name-checking itself, is omnipresent on “CMMF,” an artifact of rap’s 90s heyday when convoluted rhyme schemes were the be-all-end-all of master class MCing. Inspectah Deck, whose Clan reigned supreme in this time, pens the funniest verse on the entire album, whether intended or not, when he devotes the one-off, one-minute-forty-second “Don’t Spoil It” to listing African American films from the ‘90s and early ‘00s.
The thematic cohesion of the album is unharmed by exercises such as these since there really is no consistent base to begin with. “CMMF” loosely employs “hero versus villain” trappings, borrowed from the superhero comics and mid-century radio programs both with which Czarface and DOOM are deeply enamored.
But besides a few samples of this ilk, the major narrative of “CMMF” is as follows: MF DOOM and Czarface’s members are very good rappers. Other rappers in the game are not as good.
By the end of this 45 minute album, this point will be laid out loud and clear, if not wholly proved, but it is a novelty carnival ride nonetheless.
Ironically, the most consistent rapper on the album, DOOM, is the “all style, no substance” artist that dad rap as a whole detests— usually typified by contemporary trap artists who value melody over lyricism.
The main difference, of course, is that DOOM’s particular style is one of great technical lyrical skill and stuffed with nefarious rhyme schemes. His verses here on “CMMF” are certainly thrilling, but their vapidity is self-evident.
Esoteric is also consistently fun throughout the album, and notably less bad than his Czarface peer.
Inspectah Deck awkwardly fits undersized bars into the wide spaces of these classic-style beats, rendering otherwise harmless verses embarrassing.
Across all rappers, the struggle bars can sometimes be unbearable—one example, from the single “Bomb Thrown” states, “I’m in it for the long ride, like I drive a charter bus.” I could go on listing other cringe-worthy lines, but again, the period of rap which Czarface and DOOM are drawing from was rapt with similarly feeble writing.
The most brilliant proprietors of the dad rap genre are hailed as such because of a keen ability to trim the fat; “CMMF,” then, is quite the heavy album despite its light-hearted tone.
I hesitate to stick to this point however because incisive lyricism—while certainly more listenable—doesn’t necessarily lend itself to as enjoyable an album. And “CMMF” is above all enjoyable, for dads or anyone else.
The critical success of Czarface is a testament to the thriving niche of rap consisting of laid-back, analogue beats and smooth-talking MCs. Most of all, “CMMF” is an album for cars and kickbacks; so, unplug your headphones for this one and enjoy the ride.
Contact Peter Schutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.