For some reason, every year there is a major uproar over the integrity of the Grammys being compromised, which always baffles me, because this debate generally suckers in individuals who should know better. I thought that all of us were already well aware that award shows are complete bullshit and have absolutely nothing to do with integrity. Not unlike our political elections, the best candidates never even make it into the running, so who cares which of the approved selectees get to hold the empty tokens at the end, when they are consistently going up against each other in a filtered pool, comprised of the same collection of names year after year? One of the most contentious categories is always for Best Rap Album, even though it has historically been a fucking trainwreck since the beginning. Will Smith took Best Rap Solo Performance in back-to-back years, if that tells you anything, while 2Pac and Biggie never took home anything;, instead losing to more pop-oriented, widely digestible acts like Puff Daddy, Naughty By Nature, and Coolio. When everyone was in an uproar over Macklemore beating out Kendrick in 2014, that whole “competition” was already void to me the minute that Run The Jewels 2 failed to be nominated. This year, I saw post after post addressing how Chance The Rapper pulling in the trophy for his streaming-only release was a historic victory for independent artists everywhere — at least, those whose records feature collaborators like Kanye West, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, T-Pain, and Justin Beiber, have their music featured in NIKE and NBA x ESPN ads, and personally star in Kit Kat commercials. If Danny Brown wasn’t nominated, then don’t bother me. But, to be fair, the only two recent rap albums that I probably had in any real heavy rotation last year were Danny‘s ridiculously ambitious, left-field masterpiece, Atrocity Exhibition and the latest Czarface effort, A Fistful Of Peril.
A potent collaboration merging Boston underground mainstays, DJ 7L & Esoteric with Wu Tang‘s, arguably, most slept on lyricist, Inspectah Deck, Czarface may seem like just another super hero/villain themed hip hop project, but not only have the players involved been highly influential within their respective lanes, they were actually on the ground floor with the whole comic book/rap crossover element that has infiltrated the genre over the years. In fact, some of the first real attention that 7L & Esoteric ever garnered arrived in 1996 when the duo — still operating under the collective moniker of God Complex — released the track “Secret Wars,” which was overflowing with nothing but comic book references (primarily Marvel-based). Their first collaboration with Inspectah Deck would arrive only 3 years later when the emcee appeared on the title track of their debut EP, Speaking Real Words. the same year that Image Comics would actually introduce a Wu Tang title. Deck would join them again on 2010‘s “12th Chamber” before the trio resurfaced officially as Czarface with their eponymous debut in 2013.
Since their inception, the project has gone in as hard with the comic book theme as anybody. Not only did the deluxe-CD format of their critically acclaimed 2015 followup, Every Hero Needs A Villain, include a 70+ page hardbound booklet with full original comic, Eso actually recruited the artist, Sucklord to cast a fully-poseable limited edition Czarface action figure, based on the character designs created by Mishka NYC‘s L’Amour Supreme. The group was even tapped by Marvel to assemble a new track for episode 5 of their Black Panther web series, with the recording sessions both operating as inspiration for Fistful Of Peril and yielding some of the material that would wind up appearing on the final album.
Over the last couple of weeks, the annual unconfirmed leaks have begun popping up speculating about this year’s list of titles for Record Store Day. At the top of rumored releases that I had hoped would prove legitimate is a Czarface read-along book/record set. Now, we finally have confirmation that it’s on its way.
The press release elaborates:
“Fresh off of their collaboration with Marvel Comics, Czarface has not only delivered a new audio adventure complete with narration, it has given us an extra-large, full color, action-packed 24 page comic book with it, housed in a beautiful gatefold jacket! In the spirit of the highly sought after Power Records series from the 70’s, you can read along with the comic and hear the story come to life on vinyl. […] Powered by the trademark sound of The Czar-Keys, a sound that’s been developed since Czarface‘s first LP in 2013, “First Weapon Drawn” serves as the soundtrack to Czarface‘s mysterious origin.”
First Weapon Drawn will be available on April 22nd for RSD 2017. Although the press release doesn’t specify the run size on these things, the leaks that we’ve seen places it at 2,000 copies.
Check out our first sample from the upcoming release, Czarface Theme, below.