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February 17, 2004

{     Madvillain     }    

By now, everyone is familiar with the story of Metal Face Doom. Think of Kool Keith, switch Ultramag, coke addiction and Black Tail in exchange for KMD, alcoholism, and Marvel Comics, add in a splash of Ghostface Killah, and you're beginning to get the picture. With the death of brother Subroc in 1994, the once playful Zev Love X took a darker turn in his solo Fondle'em releases throughout the late 90s, gaining an ever-expanding cult following. As an MC, Doom's strengths are his unique voice, his distinct mumble-type delivery, and clever almost acrobatic wordplay deeply rooted in Golden Era '89 NY hip-hop. Although mainly thought of as an MC, Doom's beats have been pushed to the forefront in recent years with his Special Herb series and Nastradoomus remix projects. Behind the boards, Doom's production style encompasses dirty/dusty cartoon and read-a-long storybook samples, blaring horns, rickety pianos, and almost a complete lack of choruses and/or hooks. Doom's production style, largely dependent on each project's persona, seems to switch from creepy cartoon soundtracks to a more crisp production style reminiscent of 1980's soul/R&B. It can be argued that what James Brown is to Public Enemy, Anita Baker is to MF Doom. Arriving on the scene in the mid-90s as part of the Likwit Crew, Madlib and then-group Lootpack played a vital part early-on in the current indie powerhouse, Stone's Throw Records. Although known to grab the mic in either normal or 2x speed (as the outer space rhyme entity Lord Quasimoto), Madlib is easily one of the best producers in music today. Proving himself in a wide variety of genres with every passing project, Otis Jackson Jr's main strength lies in his live instrumentation (see his one-man-band Yesterday's New Quintet). Infectious jazz compositions consisting entirely of Lib's own multi-instrument capabilities, swooped up and cut in his tools of choice: the SP1200, the MPC 300, and most notably the SP-303 Dr. Sample. The results are jazzy loops, dusty chopped drums, rolling Fender Rhodes, and a tight upright bass complimented by understated vocal samples, Lib's sick sense of humor, and a genuine love of weed smoke. With enough personalities between them to fill up a schizo schoolbus, and enough releases individually to fill up half the record store (for one being an admitted pothead and the other rumored to be an alcoholic, they sure are productive) Madvillain is now ready after considerable shifting due to internet leaking. With each artist having so many releases, most listeners have a good idea what to expect. Rightly so, Madvillainy does not hold many surprises for fans, just a solid collaboration of two beloved cult artists. Although there is some subtle evidence of a meshing on the production side of things ("All Caps","Operation Lifesaver", and the very Ghostface "Rainbows"), each artist's style remains predominantly intact. But while other projects of this nature often result in forced, seemingly-uncomfortable groupings (fruit salad), the MadVillian sum is greater than its two parts (a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich). A clear example of this, "Meat Grinder" consists of classic Madlib production made complete with driving stand-up bass and slinky steel guitars combined with trademark Doom run-on ridiculous wordplay about "the hopeless romancer with the dopest-flow stanzas". Almost-textbook, but with each providing the other with a twist. For this record, circumstances seem to have ushered in a sense of friendly competition serving as motivation for both artists bring a focus to the project not always seen in their previous releases. Unlike last year's Jaylib collabo, MadVillain's 22 tracks see the entirety of the production duties being held down by Madlib. While we do hear Lib vocals on a few cuts (as well as two apearances by Lord Quas), this leaves most of the cuts with Doom vocals. For this project, we see Madlib once again venture into a more jazz-oriented production. Songs like "Money Folder" and "Great Day" are in much the same manner as Lib's YNQ material, yet given new energy with the inclusion of Doom. Other cuts, such as "Figaro", and "All Caps" see a fierce, more classic hip-hop style not seen in Madlib's production in some time. Lyrically, MadVillian is classic Operation Doomsday-style lyrics. Rhymes ranging from trademark ridiculous run-on braggadocio and old school references to heartfelt songs of love gone wrong (�Fancy Clown�-complete with Tex Avery samples) and the first song solely dedicated to glorifying weed smoke since 1995 (the also-heartfelt �America's Most Blunted�). Guest spots include Stones Throw staples Medaphoar (�Raid�) and Wildchild (�Hardcore Hustle�). Simply put, I can't recommend this album enough. This shit is overheatin' like Excitebike. The production is bananas and Doom's lyrics never disappoint. Clever rhymes over headnodder beats, neither of which take themselves too seriously. Easy as pi� 3.14. Word to Destro.

    » The Updated-Yet-Outdated MadVillain Page at Stones Throw     » Watch the Video for the 2nd single, "All Caps"

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