Classic Album Review

Classic Review: Madvillainy

MF DOOM is a figure that takes many forms. Some of his known aliases include Metal Face, Viktor Vaughn, and Your Favorite Rapper’s Favorite Rapper. No matter the moniker, DOOM will rap about anything from his comically nefarious deeds (he is known to send imposters to his live performances) to what he ate for breakfast – all while wearing his signature Doctor Doom-inspired metal mask.

Like his partner in crime, Madlib is known under several titles such as Quasimoto and the Beat Konducta. As a self-described “DJ first, producer second, and MC last”, he has worked with industry giants like J Dilla, Freddie Gibbs, Kanye West and Erykah Badu, and is just as comfortable behind a drum set as he is an MPC. He is known for his distinctive production style that features samples of obscure records and boom-bap drums.

The two joined forces to create 2004’s Madvillainy, which is considered by many hip-hop heads to be essential to the hip-hop canon. A true watershed moment in the history of the genre, Madvillainy had a profound influence on the generation of artists that succeeded it: without it, we would have no Joey Bada$$, no Earl Sweatshirt, and no Tyler, the Creator.

After listening to the album, it is easy to see why it is so influential. Madlib’s dusty beats and DOOM’s stream-of-consciousness verses are indicative of the sound that is now commonplace in the alternative hip-hop subgenre. The album opens with “The Illest Villains”, an instrumental driven by vocal samples of various cartoons and movie trailers from the yesteryear. The balance of urgency and camp perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the project by characterizing our villains as a dastardly duo who, in spite of their unrivaled infamy, spend most of their time smoking weed (“America’s Most Blunted”) or trying to pick up women (“Operation Lifesaver aka Mint Test”).

I could write a dissertation on MF DOOM’s lyrical gymnastics and Madlib’s nuanced production choices on Madvillainy, but since the album was released 16 years ago, I’m sure it’s been done already. Instead, I’ll just say this: if you’re a hip-hop fan and you haven’t heard this album, what are you doing with your life? Even if you aren’t a fan of the genre, give Madvillainy a shot. It could change your mind.

Favorite tracks: Accordion, Raid, Figaro, All Caps, Rhinestone Cowboy

– DJ Mango