‘Czarface Meets Metal Face’ exposes music’s dynamism
Music changes; if it didn’t, Gregorian chants would dominate Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Generation after generation, old sounds are phased out and new sounds come to dominate as blends of past-respecting influence and future-forward innovation. With this trend, there is and always will be a rift between older listeners and younger listeners — hence why your Baby Boomer mom “doesn’t get” Frank Ocean.
This contrast, as it pertains to hip hop, is especially evident on Czarface Meets Metal Face, a collaborative project by Czarface (a trio pioneered by Wu Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck including rapper Esoteric and producer 7L) and MF DOOM. Soaked in stripped down, boom-bap beats and clever lyricism, the album is nearly indistinguishable from dated projects like DOOM’s Mm.. Food or Wu Tang’s Enter The Wu-Tang. It sounds undeniably classic, despite its 2018 release, and makes evident the extent to which rap has changed over the past 15 years. No autotune, no mumbling, no booming bass. The production is low-volume and crisp, and the lyrical delivery is decisive and comprehensible.
The premise of the album is superhero-based: Czarface, a self-described hero, recruits Metal Face (a.k.a. MF Doom) to be his “villain,” a clever play on Doom’s famed Madvillain. This loose plot provides some structure and flow to the album, but more so allows for clever and entertaining skits and sampling, augmentations for which both the Czarface trio and Doom are well known.
What makes the album especially interesting is the dichotomy between sound and lyrics. While the tracks act as portals to the rap that used to be, their lyrical content is extremely current: The rappers trade musings on popular culture with lines like, “It’s on the tip of my tongue like Stan Smith’s face,” and “Only time you set-trip is when you binge on Netflix.” When combined with the album’s classic sound, these modern lyrics make the aforementioned evolution of hip hop even more obvious. The nearly 40-year-old Esoteric raps about modern shoe trends and streaming services, something one would expect from the likes of Drake or Travis Scott, but the music sounds nothing like today’s rap.
Now, I don’t want to indicate a bias against or dislike toward modern hip hop; I love and appreciate trap rap and all of its booms and mumbles. It’s simply interesting that, when placed in a modern context, outdated art exposes the changing of the times. The same could be said about Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych if it were repurposed with the face of Kim Kardashian or Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Little Fugue in G Minor” if Young Thug spit a verse on top. With Czarface Meets Metal Face, listeners are reminded of where hip hop was and where it is today.