F Doom and Madlib, the two Indie-Rap superstars responsible for the mayhem of the Madvillian project, are known as much for their string of quality records as their persona-jumping. As both Indie-Rap and mainstream attempt to “keep it real” to uphold authenticity, both Doom and Madlib have sidestepped the debate, going under a variety of aliases (Quasimoto, Viktor Vaughn, Yesterday’s New Quintet and King Geedorah) and releasing albums that defy easy categorization. None of these identities would matter, however, if these two artists weren’t able to make them incredibly captivating. With a loyal cult of fans tracking their every move, these artists have been etching out distinct and frequently brilliant work. Madvilliany is no exception.
The success, in this particular instance, can partly be attributed to what Roy Lichtenstein called the use of “violent emotion and passion in a completely mechanical and removed style”. Re-working the concepts of authenticity into comic form as the painter did in his mature Pop Art works, Madvilliany’s removed and mechanical style gives Madvillian freedom to experiment with their craft, while maintaining both artists’ crystallized style. By preserving their technique, rather than patterning on any vogue minimal funk, Madvillian appears to extend the auteur status of both Doom and Madlib. With tracks like “Figaro” and “Strange Ways,” the duo takes mainstream hip-hop clichés and inverts them through Doom’s incredible flow and Madlib’s playful instrumentation.
Unlike Jaylib, Madlib takes the production duties for the bulk of the album, dipping into the most deliciously warped use of sampling since Prince Paul’s heyday. With his recent reworkings of both the Blue Note and Trojan catalogs as touchstones—Madvilliany infuses these ideas firmly into a Hip-Hop framework. This memorably results here in an homage to Sun Ra (“Shadows of Tomorrow”) with some of the most outstanding Quasimoto lyrics to date.
Despite a plethora of styles and interludes, Madvilliany captures a strong sense of development for the two. Witness the opener, “Accordion”, which appropriately begins with a limping accordion sample. The track, haunted by a hushed 808 snare lost in the mix, flirts alternately with the lost accordion and Doom’s relaxed prose, the bassline slowly progressing through the track. By the second verse, the upright bass reaches into deep funk pushing the track along like a rag doll. The interweaving of these elements by Madlib is exceptional, showcasing his command of both beat and groove.
Madlib’s warped rollicking breaks would be little, however, without MF Doom’s tripping and swooning rhymes—recalling the best moments of Ghostface Killa and even Big Daddy Kane. Although necessary, to quote Doom feels like a disfavor. His voice has charisma even when rapping lyrics like “When he’s on the mic the place get like ‘aww yeah’ / They know it’s gonna happen / Just keep your eye out like AIY AIY Captain".
Using punk rock efficiency, Madvilliany touches on 22 different tracks in less than 46 minutes. The brevity of each song makes the album appear to pay little heed to regular hooks or established structures. By trimming excess fat (read: R’n’B choruses), Madvilliany keeps a sense of spontaneity, cutting off unexpectedly and never allowing anything to get stale. And while the comic exterior to the album belies the intensity of the material, there is little mistaking that Madlib and Doom have created an album that is as raw and invigorating as any in Hip-Hop.
Reviewed by: Nate De Young
Reviewed on: 2004-03-24