by Dylan Pennell (@dylan_pennell)
In a world where the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for better or worse, is running train on all of our favorite superheroes and villains it can be hard to remember a time when the idea of comics and geek culture didn’t inspire exhausted groans or gamergate-fueled vitriol. It could even be argued that as we go further down the rabbit-hole of media over saturation that obsessed fans have unfortunately made something as inherently lighthearted and celebratory as comics and bastardized there own version of Dogma, one unfortunately worth harassing over, but I’ve gotten ahead of myself. These heavy-handed musings on media and media culture are not what Czarface and MF Doom have on their mind on their recent team-up Czarface Meets Metal Face, quite on the contrary. To its credit, it’s a lighthearted wet dream for hip-hop fans who crave straight-forward beats, the wry witticisms of Doom, Inspectah Deck, and most notably Esoteric, and the old-school comic book humor at play on some of Doom’s finest releases.
Half of the fun of this cartoon meet-up is hearing each rapper simultaneously float above and ride the beautiful drum samples curated by producer 7L through to their logical conclusion. Each rapper packs in the comic-book references and braggadocios flame-throwing as a means of both proving their own lyrical prowess and simultaneously sending up the filler-filled trash-rap that so commonly populates rap radio in the past ten years.
Most notable about this record is the the feeling of pure levity that accompanies hearing the sound of these three rappers continually top one another as they rush from comic book panel to panel, fighting, shooting lasers, and shrugging off the haters. Unlike recent cinematic turds like Ready Player One, the goal of these guys isn’t to deify nerd culture, but remind us of the pure joy and fun to be found therein. One of the finest examples of this album’s strengths comes in “Captain Crunch,” a bass and ride-cymbal driven banger in which Doom takes on the world as Esoteric and Deck channel the same ferocity through an endless stream of allusions to popular villains. The song’s refrain “Look out, run through your town on attack mode” couldn’t be a more appropriate thesis for the record in full, each artist on full blast and fighting on their own terms.
In fact if there is a criticism to be lobbed at the album, it might be that they’ve managed to gather so many virtuosic musicians in one room and have failed to say anything terribly contemporary or with any particular gravity. At the same time, the album begs to be considered not for its gravitas but for its undying love for the spirit of playfulness and adventure of comics. In the same way that we accept a summer popcorn flick for being relatively devoid of much but spectacle, is it too much to simply enjoy something comparable from the hip hop world? Where there may not be lyrical substance, the wordplay and cadence of each rapper provides more thrills than even the most socially-conscious rappers often do. With gems like “Catch flight, bread good so he tends to pack light/ Got jokes, but don’t usually engage in no snap fight/ Could be considered a waste confrontin’ snacks on the back bite,” it’s hard to complain.
When all is said and done, with the snappy, vinyl-scratch Draconian beats laid down all over this record, it’s hard to imagine not revisiting it year after year, finding new allusions to uncover, new insults to awe, and enjoying the crisp artistry in Doom, Esoteric, and Deck’s undeniable flows and all of that is more than I can say for fucking Spider-Man: Homecoming.