• Old 'Stache

Masked Maestros

written by: on October 7, 2011

MF Doom, a New York native born Daniel Dumile, is a hip-hop artist who defies all convention. At 41, he is well past the age of the typical rapper, but he also defies the image of a typical rapper, wearing a mask at all times and creating inventive lyrics laden with funny pop-culture references. More interesting is that MF Doom has been in the industry before. Originally known as Zev Love X, his first appearance was with his brother, Subroc, when they released an album as their group, KMD. Before the release of their second album, Black Bastards, Subroc was killed in a car crash. Elektra Records had second thoughts on releasing the controversially titled and themed album and promptly dropped the group from the label. Dumile wasn’t heard from for a couple of years and lived in anonymity and poverty. He eventually returned to the scene, sporting a mask under the Doom alias, paying homage to Marvel comics villain Doctor Doom.

Doom is a master of the multisyllable rhyme scheme. What’s lacking in the rhymes of a majority of artists is the rappers usually get lazy and settle with rhyming one syllable with each bar. Doom, however, utilizes internal rhymes, as well.  His lyrics are stream of consciousness, and like most rappers, there is a liberal amount of braggadocio. However, the difference is that Doom is proud of rhyming talent and production, whereas most other rappers are content merely brag about what they own. Doom keeps it lighthearted and rewind-worthy with his—although often obscure—pop-culture references and witty punch lines and one-liners. In a 2009 article in The New Yorker, Doom said he wrote down whatever would be funny and tried to create as many similar funny ideas as he could muster in a row. The stream-of-consciousness flow of Doom’s concepts is apparent in his music, and in a rising tide of mediocrity, he definitely stands out.

Madvillainy (2004), is the debut album of Madvillain, when Doom joined forces with producer Madlib. Doom takes a break from self-producing; Madlib handles most of the production in this one, and he does a good job. Madlib also had collaborated with the late J Dilla of Detroit and has produced for many diverse hip-hop artists, including De La Soul and Erykah Badu. Madvillainy still sounds fresh six years after, and it aptly fits its “alternative hip-hop” title. It certainly serves the average listeners something much different than what they’re used to. The album is peppered with instrumental interludes, vintage sound effects and random b-movie dialogue that create an entirely original vibe. The album’s unorthodox tone is secured on the early track, “Accordion,” which samples, as the title suggests, an accordion, as the lyrics set in, “Keep your glory, gold, and glitter … Your first and last step to playing yourself like an accordion.”

“Meat Grinder,” has an interesting intro, which is a looped sample of “Sleeping in a Jar,” by Frank Zappa. Using the line, “The jar is under the bed,” the song sounds particularly eerie and has a great effect. The song itself is also sampled from Lew Howard and the All-Stars’ “Hula Rock,” and something not heard often enough is a sitar in a rap song. The sitar makes the song sound ominous, complimenting the album’s theme, as well as Doom’s raps, much better than anyone could suspect. The song is exemplary of Doom’s multisyllable lyrical skill, as he rhymes, “Doom’s songs lit, in the booth, with the best host/Doing bong hits, on the roof, in the West Coast.”

“Raid” is an upbeat looping of Osmar Milito & Quarter Forma’s “América Latina,” where a muffled vocal sample is used instead of a chorus. Guest rapper M.E.D. mirrors Doom’s own self-deprecating humor with the line, “Thanks to rap, I ain’t got a dime.” “America’s Most Blunted” salutes weed, hip-hop’s drug of choice since Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic.” Adding a more vintage feeling, the old, hippy-comedy record, A Child’s Garden of Grass, is sampled, as the listener hears, “Creativity, it’s a known fact that grass increases creativity/From eight to 11 times/In fact, everyone finds they’re more creative stoned than straight.” The song has a powerful building bassline, bolstered by Doom’s simple statement, “Recent research shows it’s not so darn harmful.”

Showing Doom’s flair for finding interesting references, “Do Not Fire” is a standout instrumental interlude sampled from the “Street Fighter II” video game, and “Figaro” samples jazz great Lonnie Smith, with telling lines such as, “The rest are empty with no brain, but the clever nerd’s/The best MC with no chain you ever heard.”

Similarly, “Strange Ways” samples “Funny Ways” by British progressive rock band Gentle Giant, turning the whimsical song into a dark and brooding hip-hop classic.  The Gentle Giant lyrics are almost indecipherable, as the track plays, “My ways are strange/They’ll never change/They stay, strange ways,” and Doom lays signature voice and some street lyrics on top, with the memorable lines, “Slug through the vest/Shot in the street/For pulling heat on a father whose baby’s gotta eat.”

Altogether, Madvillainy is a success. The album is a triumph of Madvillain’s collective talent and lyrical ability.

Madvillian – Madvillainy Tracklist:

  1. “The Illest Villians”
  2. “Accordion”
  3. “Meat Grinder”
  4. “Bistro”
  5. “Raid”
  6. “America’s Most Blunted”
  7. “Sickfit”
  8. “Rainbows”
  9. “Curls”
  10. “Do Not Fire!”
  11. “Money Folder”
  12. “Shadows of Tomorrow”
  13. “Operation Lifesaver aka Mint Test”
  14. “Figaro”
  15. “Hardcore Hustle”
  16. “Strange Ways”
  17. “Fancy Clown”
  18. “Eye”
  19. “Supervillian Theme”
  20. “All Caps”
  21. “Great Day”
  22. “Rhinestone Cowboy”