In the ever-evolving landscape of Hip-Hop, few groups stand out with the distinctive flair of CZARFACE. This supergroup, blending the talents of Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck and Boston’s 7L & Esoteric, returns to the spotlight with their latest album, CZARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE.
This release is more than just an album; it’s an odyssey through cosmic Hip-Hop and vibrant comic book culture.
Known for their high-profile collaborations with icons like MF Doom and Ghostface Killah, CZARFACE elevates their game in CZARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE by bringing on board artists such as Logic, Kool Keith, Nems, and Frankie Pulitzer.
Accompanying the album’s release is a series of innovative lyric videos on the CZARFACE YouTube channel, enhancing the listening experience with a visual exploration of each track. The group’s recent single, “Czarchimedes’ Death Ray,” features exclusive artwork by Lamour Supreme and two bonus tracks, further expanding the CZARFACE universe.
An exclusive Q&A with Esoteric on AllHipHop.com offers deep insights into the creation of CZARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE.
Esoteric, pivotal in the group’s creative journey, discusses the artistic vision behind the album, the dynamics of their collaborations, and how CZARFACE continues to push the boundaries of Hip-Hop.
AllHipHop: So we’re here to talk about the new project. First of all, for our audience who may not be familiar with Czarface, share a little bit about the group, what you guys stand for, and who is your target audience?
Esoteric: Czarface is a group consisting of me, Inspectah Deck from Wu-Tang Clan and 7L who is the producer. So me and Inspectah Deck handle a lot of the rhymes and 7L is doing the bulk of the production. Sometimes I help out a little bit. I think our target audience is just fans of lyrical Hip-Hop, really, that are into wordplay and punch lines and fly talk, just stuff that we really grew up on and helped shape the music that we make and why we continue to do it today.
AllHipHop: What was it like for you guys to connect with Deck to make this? You guys are not Wu-Tang, but you guys are Wu-Tang affiliates, like an extension of the Clan. So what was it like for you to connect with Deck to create Czarface?
Esoteric: It was a real honor. I am the 935th member of the Wu-Tang, so set the record straight [laughs]. We made our first record in ’98 together, and that was just a single. It was a single off of a 7L & Esoteric record, Deck was a feature, and we kept in touch since then. Then, around 2011, we came up with the idea of making an album together, and Deck was down.
Then, we needed something to bridge the gap between Staten Island and Boston and share some of our interests and mutual connections, and we came up with Czarface. Czarface is intended to represent the group’s goal in restoring… it’s like a superhero to save Hip-Hop in a sense, in a really broad aspect. But it extends to a world of comic books and action figures and things of that nature, so it’s a little bit wider.
AllHipHop: This is the thing, folk don’t know how deep Boston is in Hip-Hop. There’s such a heavy and historical concentration of Hip-Hop in Boston that folk don’t know. As we celebrate the 50th year of Hip-Hop, talk about Boston’s contribution to the culture.
Esoteric: Oh, yeah. Boston really helped shape the way I look at Hip-Hop. I grew up looking up to artists like Guru from Gang Starr, Ed O.G., Top Choice Clique, TDS Mobb, RSO. There’s a lot of groups that paved the way for artists like myself and artists that have come after us too. You know what I mean? So I think just being about 3 1/2 to 4 hours away from New York, that influence is going to shine on Boston too. So I think we’re all pretty East Coast focused with our music.That comes out with the Czarface stuff too. So I think there’s a lot of mutual ground between us and New York. That’s why I think the way that we connect with Deck is a natural fit.
AllHipHop: The stuff that you guys do, people always just focus on Griselda, but there are other people carrying that Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, that late ’90s, mid-’90s type of authentic urban, when they say urban, really street rhyming.
Esoteric: Yeah. Well, thank you. Yeah, thank you. That’s the goal, and that’s what we love making and really won’t compromise. We won’t change our sound. When we signed the Virgin. A lot of people thought we were going to change our sound up and get Pitbull on the remix and stuff like that, but we kept it true to our formula. You know what I mean? The stuff we love.
AllHipHop: Wait, why won’t you get Pitbull on the remix?
Esoteric: I want to tell you something. I would love to. Pitbull is one of my favorites. I always boggle people’s minds when I tell them he’s one of my favorite entertainers. I love Pitbull, but you know it doesn’t really mix with our sound. You know what I mean?
AllHipHop: Now, it’s important that you said that because that shows that you have an intimate understanding of music and what music is and what kind of music works in different spaces. Is that something that you were able to develop as an indie artist, and is that still respected being signed to a major?
Esoteric: Yeah, I think so because there are a lot of groups in our vein that are continuing to push the envelope in the other direction. You know what I mean? For every artist that is leaning towards a trap atmosphere or drill at those soundscapes, other artists are following in a Wu-Tang footstep and pushing it that way. So there’s a good balance. I think Thanos, he wants a balance, and this is a balance of sound within the Hip-Hop landscape.
AllHipHop: Who are your top five comic book characters and superheroes?
Esoteric: Okay. I like Wolverine. I like Silver Surfer, Galactus, Dr. Doom. I know I got to say Spider-Man ’cause he’s obviously an icon. But I can’t front, Spider-Man, Venom, Batman, I could go on forever. There’s too many, Magneto.
AllHipHop: Spider-Man was going to be there. What is it about Spider-Man that attracts you so much? Have you pulled from any of his spider senses for your MCing abilities?
Esoteric: That’s a great question. We can all relate to Peter Parker in a sense, because he’s just an everyday kid with his issues that a lot of kids deal with. My son is in high school now, he’s 15. When you picture Peter Parker, you picture him going through high school, you know what I mean? Having an eye on a girl, av a bully, figuring outo do better in school, and maybe making sommaking
Then you are all of a sudden blessed with these powers from a radioactive spider, and then you get to do everything you really want to do and things that the bullies can’t do and jump from building to building and swing around town and stuff. So I think he’s just an action-packed character, really. Same with Miles Morales, and they got a unique thing that attracts, I think, the casual fan, the obsessive fan. Everyone can get into Spidey. Some other people like Daredevil might be an acquired taste, but Spidey is probably my top guy.
AllHipHop: How did you guys come up with a concept for this video to be really a comic book, a virtual comic book?
Esoteric: Yeah. We’ve always wanted to incorporate a lot more animation into our videos, into the music, and so forth because every album cover, the identity of a lot of the albums, is the artwork of Czarface. Whether he is in some situation in peril or he’s flying through the sky or he is victorious, or he was losing, the comic books from back in the day, everyone would see the cover, and that’s what make you pull the trigger and buy the book first. You know what I mean? ‘Cause you’re not looking through the book, you’re just looking at the spinner rack and you’re like, “Oh, okay, Black Panther, boom. That’s a dope cover. Jack Kirby drew it. You want to get that.”
I think the heavy comic book influence with Czarface made it a no-brainer to tell a story in the video that runs concurrently with the song. The conclusion is there’s a girl who is actually being created herself and using an old comic book with some corny heroes and changing the whole thing by being creative, cutting out little pieces of Czarface from different elements and making her own collage with Czarface being victorious in the book. So there’s a few themes that are running along in it, and we’re really happy with how it came out. The best thing about it is that you didn’t have to look at my face throughout the whole thing.
AllHipHop: Oh, here you go. What I love about it is that you guys are bringing back the thinking element of Hip-Hop. You don’t have to be critical of younger artists or artists who’ve adopted different styles of MC, and it doesn’t require a lot of pensive activity, but you guys, you make people think. It’s really artsy. It’s an artistic expression. How important is it for you guys to be a thinking woman’s cup of tea?
Esoteric: I think what’s important is that we love what we do, and I think that that’s what tickles our brains really, is to try to come up with something clever, play on words, maybe an intricate rhyme scheme, something that’s challenging. That’s the way that our brains probably work, and that’s what appeals to us. If you take Inspectah Deck’s verse from Triumph, which everyone hails as one of the greatest verses of all time, you look at some of the wordplay and the multi-syllabic structures, that’s a blueprint for you get all these visuals that he’s throwing out there when he’s rhyming and it stimulates your brain.
Whereas, I think there’s also a place for non-lyrical Hip-Hop, I guess, because the focus would be the melodies. There are a lot of rock songs, and I guess all songs that I don’t even really hear the lyrics, but I catch a vibe from, and they mean a lot to me. Sunflower, that song I love ’cause I associate it with my daughter. She loves it, but I just know a couple words from it. But I know it when I hear it, and I enjoy it, and it puts me somewhere. So there’s a place for something like that, but the stuff that we do is more trying to chop your head off with the mic.