Album Review: Czarface – Every Hero Needs a Villain

It’s two years since Czarface released their first album, to some surprise from the hip-hop listening public. The three piece, Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectoh Deck and Boston duo 7L and Esoteric got together to produce something that played to both their collective and individual strengths, and compares with some of the more familiar work from their back catalogues. Now they’re back with a new record ‘Every Hero Needs a Villain’, and more tales of Comics, Cartoons, Movies, Sports and Rap luminaries.

Part of the brilliance of that debut was the trading of Inspectah Deck and Esoteric, and while Every Hero may inhabit much of the same ground as that debut, the pair of them feed off eachother with memorable effect. As Deck says “The whole Czarface collaboration is dope ‘cause it’s just straight-up, classic hip-hop. It gives you a Wu-Tang feel, but it doesn’t pull Esoteric out of his element. When I’m in Wu-Tang, I have to come a certain way, because we have a certain style of fan. But when I’m doing Czarface, it allows me to actually be an MC, it allows me to just spit. I love that.” When they add guests, they add to the mix rather than simply add their name, and seem to show the same joy in the project as its three conspirators. Underground men Large Professor and JuJu of the Beatnuts work alongside DOOM and R.A. the Rugged Man and Meyhem Lauren, while Deck draws in Method Man and GZA from the clan.

Behind it all though is DJ 7L, who’s pulled together some heavy funk and psych and even what approaches freak folk (often, heavy is the word) from his position behind the decks, and litters the record with his own cultural references, cutting up samples from TV shows, cartoons and radio programmes.

What’s left is a masterclass in old, and well-schooled hip-hop. From the opener Don the Armour, it’s quality all the way – the track acting as an introductory, super hero laden cut-up including the album title (well, almost) over this psych shuffle. Both Czartacus and in particular the brilliant Lumberjack Match utilise bold, riff heavy backings while Deck and Esoteric trade in light hearted mockery and cultural references (Dr. Who, of all people in the latter).

From there onwards there are many moments of brilliance, Large Professor’s steely instructions on the stripped back 8-bit like World Premier, and the back on your heels saunter of Red Alert being particularly good, but the best is yet to come with the brilliant middle section of the record that includes Junkyard Dogs (with JuJu), Sgt Slaughter and GZA’s contribution, When Gods GO Mad.

As Esoteric states “The chemistry is even tighter this time around. We know exactly what lanes we are cruising in and what weight class we are fighting in for Round 2.” Certainly, there’s no bird or plane, in fact damn it there’s no Superman (directly anyway) but there is one of the hip-hop albums of the 2010’s, and certainly in prime position to be one of the records of the year.

You can pick up the release on a brilliant and vibrant 2-vinyl set with Esoteric penned comic, as well as CD with extensive artwork / lyrics etc.

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