DEF FROM BELOW – ALBUM REVIEW: Inspectah Deck & 7L & Esoteric – Czarface
Andy Brewer is a hip-hop fanatic from Melbourne, Australia. Thus, he is def from below.
I guess I must be living in the past. For every Future I listen to, I spin three Wu records. For every Le1f I warm to, I swing from the bough of someone like Action Bronson who might be contemporary, but harks back to another era. Hence, when one of the Wu family drops a new record I tend to stand to attention, no matter how greatly their relevance and quality control may have slipped in recent years. Here in full retro glory sharing the billing with Boston boom bap underground grouping 7L and Esoteric, Inspectah Deck may not evoke the same enthusiasm as Genius or Ghostface for this is an emcee that seems on face value more steady and solid than electrifying, and you might say that Inspectah’s flow doesn’t pop like some of his Wu contemporaries. Until you delve into his detailed rhymes that is.
And while Czarface sets a scene very much owing to the golden age of hip hop, the choice of 7L & Esoteric is meritorious, the sharing of the billing is modest, and the project evokes a strong sense that INS knows his lot and accepts it. Likely he won’t sell a bundle of albums at any point, but that doesn’t preclude him from making some damn fine ones; and in fact the balance on Czarface, the sense of hip hop harmony you might say, is sublime.
Witness Deck drop:
Vein popper flame hotter
Raging sharp art patray popper
Blade sharper, kamikaze brain bomber
Safe in the drama darts spray your armor
It has a nice synchronicity to Esoteric’s verse:
Stripes on me like a tiger
Whites on me actin’ hyper
Cypher then I leave a bite zombie from a viper
On paper Roc Marciano’s third verse looks a flop, but his flow strolling over the clever beat provides the emphatic coda that makes Cement 3’s stand out. That skittering stutter snare leaves few hints of what’s to come on Rock Beast which features a kick and snare beat so rough ‘n’ ready they likely procured it from YouTube. Basking in that sunset organ glow the rawness evokes early MPC days and Esoteric might just spark memories of a certain Brooklyn rapper of note on this number (someone you might see near the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush). After this blast it’s easy to let Savagely Attack breeze by you without noticing, especially with Ghostface Killah’s anti-climactic final verse. Sure it’s not as ordinary as he has become accustomed to trotting out for guest verses, but Esoteric blows him off the mic here. How embarrassment. I’d be happy to print his entire verse just to get him to the Dylan reference (respect), but I’ll leave you with just a teaser. “E-S reps, I wrote this in a GS Lex 95 / To get that nineties vibe / My melody, high and low fidelity darts / My whole team, 7:30 like when Jeopardy starts”. This may well be a good thing INS has got going here.
Marvel Team-Up shows just how good this very team can be, while sitting somewhere between Wu and vintage EPMD. Closer to the latter in fact, and I mean that in the nicest way. This is the track where you realise, as the MF Wu (I call that a nounjective) beats hunker down under a gorgeous rhyming synergy, that this grouping must be repeated. Don’t get me wrong, this ain’t no blockbuster, no blow the top off your ‘fro experience, but you get a sense it is going to become a firm underground favourite. I haven’t even gotten to the Action Bronson number, which should be sufficient to discourage anyone from sharing a joint with him if he has just stepped off a plane (“Let me go, I had to cheat that Iranian mustard / That’s the hash, only fucking with the upper class”). Sublime, as usual. And then there is the booming Shoguns featuring Cappadonna, and the thorough in any borough Let It Off; and if Bronson has some of the best bragging couplets going round right now, much the same could be said for eXquire’s flow (Poisonous Thoughts). It’s a steam train, all fluster and bluster and ain’t nuttin’ gon get in its way – he owns his verse to the degree it practically becomes his own track.
To top it all off, album closer Hazmat Rap leaves the listener hanging for more with that doom laden John Carpenter synth (Assault On Precinct 13 anyone?). Shimmy shimmy ya, who wouldn’t want to spit over this? Hell, perhaps I have misstepped, but I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to underestimate Rebel INS. Get your ears all over this one, it’s solid.