Friend of the people: An Interview with MC Esoteric
Every hero needs a villain — and just like the comic book characters who first inspired them, Esoteric, 7L, and Inspectah Deck have their sights set on world domination.
The combination of their unique styles is their super power, so it’s no surprise that the rap supergroup Czarface has collaborated with fellow hip-hop legends like Wu-Tang swordsmen Ghostface Killah, Method Man and GZA, and even the masked marauder MF DOOM.
Czarface and Arvin Goods have once again joined forces on an exclusive pair of limited-edition socks. This latest project features a Dark Knight-inspired design with a tough Chrome Crusader graphic that feels like suiting up every time you pull them on.
We recently caught up with Esoteric to talk comics, music, and what’s next for our favorite hip-hop group.
What was the hip-hop scene like growing up in Boston? Was it difficult finding your footing at first, or was there a well-established scene that you were able to seek out and try to break into?
The scene was far from well-established at that point, but I think we helped bolster it along with a few other like-minded indie artists. Our first few records were recorded in the mid-90's and that was the time the indie / underground scene began to grow, so we were getting our hands dirty early to help it flourish. Many venues in Boston proper were still afraid to host hip-hop shows due to potential violence, so Cambridge stepped up and let us rock!
How did the formation of CZARFACE first come about? What’s it like working alongside Inspectah Deck? Did Wu-Tang have a big effect on you?
Yes, Wu-Tang touched everybody in the 90's, even the most casual listeners, so yes they resonated with our crew in a major way at the time. We were living, breathing, eating, sleeping hip-hop and they were blazing trails and influencing everyone on a global scale. Deck is a really easy guy to create with, and a true master of the craft. The mic is like an extension of his arms, he's really comfortable in the lab and I've learned tons from him. We decided to put out a record in 2010-2011 and didn't have a real identity behind it during the initial stages and then we collaborated with the Czarface aesthetic and thankfully people gravitated towards it.
You’ve since worked with Method Man, GZA, and done a whole album with Ghostface. What are their individual styles like? What do you think each member brought to Wu-Tang? How would you describe the way they each approach working in the studio?
Firstly, we wouldn't have been able to work with any of these artists if it weren't for Inspectah Deck. Deck brought his Wu-Tang brothers into the Czarface world and naturally we're better off for it. Authenticity is so valuable to us and the consumer in this artform, and all of these gentlemen are official, what you see or hear on record is what they live. I've had conversations with Ghostface that sound like they belong as a skit on an album, his charisma is very real. Deck bringing these swordsmen into the fold was a power move.
When did you link up with Arvin Goods?
I have had a long history with the brands founder, Dustin, who lived with one of my oldest friends Truth back in the day, and we hit it off through him. Truth founded Brick Records in the mid-90's and put us on vinyl for the first time, showing us that living off the music was actually a possibility. Now Dustin's vision with Arvin was so inspiring because they're trying to make a positive change environmentally, specifically in the way we manufacture goods as a whole. Arvin's intentions are pure and motivate us to make more significant and impactful strides with Czarface, so working together was a really good look for us.
Comic books must have had a big effect on you growing up. What drew you to them — and why CZARFACE in particular? What is it about that character?
Escapism brought me to comics, and building my vocabulary was a beneficial byproduct. The stories and the attitudes, while enhancing my imagination...those elements kept me hooked. When you're surrounded by so much uncertainty and angst as a kid, superheroes and their universes can provide a little therapeutic break from reality. Czarface was our creation, driven by the idea of bringing the people more than just music and building a world around the character.
You mentioned on a radio show once that you think you relate the most to Spider-Man. What is it about Spidey that you like about him?
He was always there for me, starting with the Electric Company and the cartoons from '67 that were re-run when I was a kid a long time after. His alias, Peter Parker is a vulnerable kid, dealing with everyday problems most youth eventually have to contend with...Spidey was a highly relatable character for anybody growing up then or even now.
How does 7L go about finding samples and making beats? Are you involved in that process as they’re being built?
His library of music is absurd, there's just walls and walls of vinyl, and that comes from his overall love of soul, hip-hop, r & b, and original soundtracks and movie scores. These genres really bring a lot of light into his life, and sometimes those inspire him to build beats that carry the vibe of what catches his ear. I'm involved occasionally yes, but usually in the late stages of the productions, sequencing the elements, adding some vocal samples or soundbytes.... he builds the backbone and real meat of the tracks first.
What's next for CZARFACE? What do you have in the works?
We have two or three different records that are cooking or fully cooked at this point and ready for deployment in 2021! I wish I could give you more details than that right now, but my lips are sealed until we're ready to announce them. Expect more merchandise drops, more comics, more action figures, to come as well!