Madvillainy is a record so brilliant, so unique that it couldn’t remain underground. It was an antidote to the horrores that plagued the radio. It was the antithesis of the the generic Rap-Rock* and the one-dimensional Crunk. It’s a record with a coherent concept. The lyrics are beautiful, funny and clever. The rapping is energetic and passionate. Almost no rapper raps with as much verve and passion as MF DOOM. Madlib’s production is even better. It’s wide-eyed, borrowing ideas from any genre it can. Madvillainy isn’t just the product of a talented rapper and a talented producer. It’s also a bold experiment. It completley destroys and rebuild the format with short songs that move quickly, throwing idea useless things such as hooks.
This is all true if your exposure of Hip-Hop can be summed up with Lil Jon, Nas and Jay-Z.
Madvillainy is such a wonderful failure that it’s surprising. It shoudln’t be. The Hip-Hop canon treats originality like the Nazis treated the Jews. It’s that Madvillainy actually fooled people into thinking it’s original. ‘Original’ artists like Tribe Called Quest are merely praised for hating women over a different style of beats. Madvillainy‘s gimmicks will fool the easily impressed that you’re listening to a precursor to El-P.
The few tricks that the duo pulls to come off as ‘original’ are pathetic. They barely hold for one song. The song’s format is short and without hooks. That’s cool, but Hip-Hop is already driven by the verse. Illmatic and Midnight Marauders didn’t have a lot of hooks either. Madlib is even worse. He doesn’t even pretend to be original. It’s just that people haven’t heard of Mike E. Clark or El-P before writing about this.
You know an album is awful when everybody mentions that it has an accordion in it, therefore it’s original. That song is called “Accordion”. This is how desperate they are to make you think they are original. Madlib may throw some funny noises occasionally, but his approach has already been beaten to death. His beats are smooth and calm. He may remove the basic breaks, but he relies on soul music like any other producer who’s scared of imagination. “Accordion”, in fact, doesn’t sound that different. He mostly mimics early Roots production, which is just a worse version of Black Moon anyway.
MF DOOM fails in the same way. He pulls some tricks, but he’s no different than Black Moon. His rapping consists of random words placed between references to how wack some rappers are and how good his own rapper is. He even occasionally talks about hustlin’ and pimpin’, just in case you’re worried he never heard of NWA. The whole ‘supervillain’ concept is present in a few samples, but that’s it. MF DOOM is a generic battle rapper who stays smooth because being loud isn’t cool anymore. He deviates a few times from this subject only to pursue even more generic subjects. On “Fancy Clown”, he gets heart broken. We already heard that. On “America’s Most Blunted”, he preaches about the beauty of weed. Cypress Hill already did that. There’s also some half-assed social commentary on “Strange Ways” that Chuck D probably ghost-wrote in his sleep.
DOOM’s slow is as boring as his lyrics. He has a unique voice, but that monotonous flow was never worked. It may have worked in a few Rakim songs, but without good lyrics it doesn’t do anything. It’s like a House beat that has a boring drum sound. MF DOOM doesn’t try to develop a personality with his vocals. There are no moments that show some emotion, like Tyler or Eminem or Cage. It’s the same old monotonous flow we already heard in a thousand Boom Bap record.
“America’s Most Blunted” is the only good track here, and the only one where the duo sounds like they care. If they love drugs so much, why not just make a Cypress Hill tribute album? It’s hard to make an original album with titles like “Hardcore Hustle”. If you wonder how dull the Hip-Hop canon can be, listen to this. Madvillainy is supposed to be one of the most original rap albums out there, yet it manages to be more boring than Liquid Swords. An absolute failure, but that’s classic rap to you.
*Which includes Pop Will Eat Itself, Urban Dance Squad, Linkin Park and One Minute Silence.
1.5 supervillains out of 5