No doubt about it, this is a smart move. Czarface is an album-length recreation of the moment that established & defined the career of 7L & Esoteric -- a collaboration with Inspectah Deck, Speaking Real Words.
That shit was The Fucking Blueprint for indie rap success: you buy a feature verse from someone with serious credibility, you get them on the best beat on the album, and you tour on that shit until the money runs out. Right at the dawn of the Internets Era, 7L & Esoteric were there, ready and...well, ready and fully funded. That was over a decade ago, and since then the 7L & Eso brand has gotten drowned out as 100,000 other indie acts attempted to follow in their footsteps.
So how do you plot a comeback? Pretty much exactly like this. The press release for Czarface reads like an updated Blueprint for the 2012 Blog Rap scene. Deck insists they're keeping it realer than real: "The industry doesn’t need another well packaged, put together 'act'" he says...but when your project has guest spots from Roc Marciano, Action Bronson and Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire it's hard to pretend there's no packaging involved.
Now, any project in 2012 should feature all three of those cats. Don't get me wrong.
Is there still an underground? Esoteric desperately wants to have an Empire to fight against: "CZARFACE is a vigilante, anti-hero character who serves as the face of the project, and his focus is on annihilating the media darlings that the mainstream caters to." In an era where Rhymesayers and Def Jux (RIP) artists are placing on the Billboard Top 10 album charts and major label rappers are selling fewer units than ever, what the fuck does "underground" even mean in 2012?
The underground won. Rap is just a huge open-air slaughterhouse now, and there are more rappers than actual hip hop fans. Every open mic avenger in the 90's wanted it to be about skills, and now they're all coping with the consequences of getting exactly what they wanted. The underground blew up, the industry burned down, and now we're pimping ourselves like it was part of the plan all along.