In this post, I continue the theme of one-album-wonders (see my last post on Blackstar) from a rapper/producer duo. In terms of abstract, or, experimental hip-hop, Madvillainy is a timeless masterpiece. Most aficionados, including myself, would agree that it’s the best underground experimental album out there. When rapper MF DOOM and producer Madlib joined forces under the alias Madvillain, their goal was to give a twist to everything in hip-hop while highlighting their own eccentricities. They do this in three ways: theme, beats, and lyrics.
- Theme. The album’s theme is that of a supervillain in a comic book. Behind his metal mask, MF DOOM’s character is an amalgamation of all comic villains. Best described on the first track, “Madvillain, more accurately, the dark side of our beings. Perhaps due to this seminal connection that audiences can relate their experience in life with the villains and their dastardly doings”.
- Beats. Madlib brings back true sampling in this album, and, in a unique and bizarre way. He uses obscure samples of jazz, soul, even Hindi music, as well as 1940s mystery and crime films. All of this while sticking to the running villain concept.
- Lyrics. Madvillainy is in my top 5 most lyrically dense and complex albums. DOOM makes use of alliteration, multi-syllable rhyming, and even holorimes where the same rhyme encompasses an entire bar or verse. Very few rappers have the technical skill to do this. Even more, there are no choruses in the album, so DOOM can focus on wordplay and showing off his slick, yet, laid back delivery.
The most memorable track, mostly because of the humming accordion sample that wouldn’t normally accompany a hip-hop beat. DOOM’s lyrics are dark and densely packed with rhymes and puns, but he doesn’t do anything fancy beyond multi-syllables.
This track features DOOM in his element, dropping rhyme after rhyme with deep references. His style is somewhat free associative — meaning he experiments will several literary devices that don’t necessarily make logical sense. For example, his holorime:
Do not stand still, boast yo’ skills
Close but no krills, toast for po’ nils, post no bills
Coast to coast Joe Shmoe’s flows ill, go chill
Not supposed to overdose No-Doz pills
Do Not Fire!
My favorite part of madvillain is Madlib’s versatility with the board. He cuts samples from the most unsuspecting places and not only backs DOOM’s vocals, but also peppers the album with his own short-but-fitting instrumentals. This track is a case and point. It samples everything from streetfighter to music and dialogue from a 1970s bollywood film. Yes, you read that right.
Other impressive track on the album that I did not include for lack of space include: Meat Grinder, Raid, and Rhinestone Cowboys.