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MF Doom, Madlib break boundaries of hip-hop

Kenyatta Storin | Wednesday, April 14, 2004

“Madvillainy,” the long-awaited collaboration between rapper MF Doom and rapper/producer Madlib, is one of the most anticipated underground rap releases to come out in the past couple years. The album loosely follows the theme of villains and anti-heroes, as MF (Metal Face) Doom’s name pays homage to Marvel Comics mask-wearing supervillain, Dr. Doom. Between this novel concept, MF Doom’s unpredictable flow and Madlib’s innovative production, “Madvillainy” is one of the most original underground rap albums to come out in years.One of the most unusual aspects of “Madvillainy” is that it is a 22-track affair that takes place over the course of only 45 minutes. No hooks, choruses, or booty-grinding singles here. But since the album switches things up so frequently, nothing ever gets stale, and if anything, it just keeps you wanting more. Even the weed-induced skits flow well between songs, and are short enough to not get on your nerves like the skits on other rap albums.Of course, there is no way this 22-track setup would work without Madlib’s masterful production. For one thing, Madlib intersperses retro movie and television samples throughout the album, which further enhance the villain motif. These samples are well placed, so that they do not disrupt the album’s flow, and instead give the album more personality. Regarding the hip-hop beats themselves, Madlib makes sure there is never a dull moment, as his samples range from an accordion loop in “Accordion,” to Streetfighter II sound bites in the instrumental track, “Do Not Fire!,” to even some classical strings in “Strange Ways.”This is not to say that MF Doom does not do his part to better the album as well, for his quirky lyrics are a good complement to Madlib’s unconventional production style. He has plenty of clever lines, such as “Got more lyrics than the church’s got ooh-lords” or “It’s like they know what’s ’bout to happen / Just keep your eye out like ‘aye aye captain.'” And he has a good ear for playing with words, like when he starts out rapping “I wrote this rhyme off of two or three heinies” and then switches from beers to girls in the next few lines: “And boy was they fine, G! / One Black, one Spanish, one Chinese.” There are times when MF Doom’s lyrics are simply too random and obscure to follow, but he never has any mental lapses that make you doubt his ability.The most amusing flows on “Madvillainy” are when both MF Doom and Madlib rap under the guises of other aliases they have used over the years. For instance, in “Fancy Clown,” MF Doom raps as his alter ego, Viktor Vaughn, and disses MF Doom (himself) for hooking up with his girl. It is not everyday you hear a rapper create a self-diss track. In a similar vein, Madlib raps against his nasal-voiced alias Quasimoto on “America’s Most Blunted.” To say that schizophrenic raps are a rare breed in hip-hop is an understatement. Although you will find the tracks on “Madvillainy” too short to be included on your latest rap mix, you will also find that it does not matter. Unlike most rap albums that contain lengthy skits and filler tracks, “Madvillainy” is one of those rare rap albums that can be listened to from start to finish without any skips. It may take a few listens to get used to, and you may not be able to bump to it like a 50 Cent record, but it is still a quality album that shows the vast possibilities of hip-hop.

Contact Kenyatta Storin at kstorin@nd.edu