Madvillain – Madvillainy

Hip-hop is dying. A couple years back, Nas proclaimed Hip-hop was dead, that oddly anachronistic statement sounds almost prophetic. Not that Nas has been relevant since Jay-Z dissed him on “The Takeover”, but I’ll be damned if he wasn’t onto something. Wale’s Mixtape About Nothing is basically the closest we’ll ever get to a dissertation on the genre’s slow descent into nothing but a “game flooded by has-been’s, never-will-be’s, ringtone rappers.”

Well back in 2004, around the time Nas looked into his crystal ball and right after Kanye flipped the industry upside down with The College Dropout, underground Hip-hop heroes MF Doom and Madlib, two older guys with a long history in the industry, teamed up to take over the world as Madvillain, a supervillain team obsessed with two things: ganja and Saturday morning cartoons.

Who knew such an oddball pairing of the adult and the childish would produce the decade’s greatest Hip-hop offering: more visceral than Kanye’s holy trilogy, more original than Outkast’s Stankonia, and more forward-thinking than anyone else in the game. With Doom’s lyrical virtuosity, a “rhyming klepto” with no reservations about cracking a joke and no limit onto how many chains he can smack together with his Green-gloved, malicious fist, and Madlib, a bass-pumping, blunt-toking super Producer, the sky was the limit.

Madlib was no slouch on the job, digging deep into pop-culture pastiche and pulling out enough samples to make DJ Shadow blush and the Dust Brothers weep. From these lo-fi, grainy, hazy pieces, he slacked together a loose, workable narrative of supervillainy, evil deeds, marijuana (“Recent research shows it’s not so darn harmful” Doom informs on stand-out “America’s Most Blunted”), and sexual depravity.

However, supervillain rappers and bass-heavy, sample-centric albums waere nothing new, and even the mix of the two wasn’t exactly bracing, even if it was catchy. What separated Madvillainy from the rest of the pack was that it was just different: no other Hip-hop album sounds like Madvillainy, whether it’s the samples, the lyrical content, Doom’s decaying vocal chords, Madlib’s Quasimodo entries, or the focus on short, effective lyrical bombshells dropped by Doom, often one verse per song; this album is idiosyncratic in a way no other can be.

But it was its lyrical density and infinite quotability that made the album so damn memorable. We all knew Doom could rap, with his solo output proving this readily, however with Madvillainy, he basically annihilated anything previously heard in the game. His chains were infinite, his depravity was listless, his delivery was ruthless, and he could make a lyrical hook like no other. What other rapper had either the skills or the balls to use the phrases “Pattycake, pattycake” and “Figaro, figaro”, let alone in the same damn song?

He spit visceral imagery on tracks like “Curls” where there was a “land of milk and honey with the swirls/Where naked reckless girls get necklaces of pearls”. His tenacity was infallible, with tracks like “Figaro” and “Accordion” simply going on and on, rhyme after rhyme, until Doom simply dropped it as if he wasthe heart and when he stopped, it ended. Madlib’s fuzzy, pot-drenched atmosphere built around him, making the haze an almost tangible object, surrounding Doom’s run-on sentences. It was, and still, is entrancing.

Today, Madvillainy is recognized as one of the greatest Hip-hop albums of all-time. For me, it’s the defining statement of the decade for Hip-hop, where nostalgia and OCD style rapping techniques are thrown around almost non-nonchalantly, from Wale to the Cool Kids, but it’s influence is not what makes Madvillainy the legend that it is. It’s the timelessness, the lyrical density, and the dark humor. It’s the fact that even almost a decade later, MCs are still catching up to what two old-timers came up with after binging on smoke and cereal.

by Trevor “Turning a Newport lite into a joint right before your eyes” Johnson

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1 Comment

  1. New (Late) Review & Site Update « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] Madvillain – Madvillainy by Trevor Johnson […]

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