Press Play: “Madvillainy” still holds up 17 years later

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Photo credit/ Autumn Bohner

“Madvillainy” is the only collaborative album from the rap duo MF DOOM and Madlib.

Michael Kelley, Staff Writer

Today marks the anniversary of “Madvillainy,” the iconic collaborative album by MF DOOM and Madlib.

When news broke on New Year’s Eve about the tragic death of the underground rapper MF DOOM, fans shared their appreciation for his work on social media. Other rappers like Playboi Carti also spoke about how MF DOOM impacted their rapping.

Since MF DOOM has a short solo discography, he is predominantly known for his collaborative albums. In 2004 MF Doom and Madlib released “Madvillainy” to much acclaim from critics and fans alike.

Seventeen years since its release, has the album aged well enough to live up to both of their discographies?

Like most MF DOOM albums, “Madvillainy” starts with an introduction that is anything but normal. “The Illest Villains” is based on old-school horror films like “Frankenstein” and “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.” This track is also a nod to MF DOOM’s supervillain stage persona.

Since each track blends into one another, the project can confuse listeners who have never heard an MF DOOM album before. For example, the first track from the album, “Accordion,” carries its instrumentation over to the next track “Meat Grinder.” However, this tactic works to establish world-building.

Some of the tracks on this album include autobiographical lyrics. The track “Curls” sets up the lore of MF DOOM’s past, and we learn about his childhood struggles. While the tracks “Raid” and “Money Folder” are about the success that MF DOOM has brought onto himself.

This album also features unique sampling. “Operation Lifesaver AKA Mint Test” includes samples from old cartoons and lyrics that detail MF DOOM’s humorous encounter with a girl. The humor featured in the track contrasts the melodrama of Madlib’s tracks.

The use of sampling is featured again in “Figaro” which samples from organist Dr. Lonnie Smith’s “In the Beginning” and “Jeannine.” In this tack MF DOOM delivers his signature style of rhyming, making it a stand-out favorite of mine.

Another one of my favorite tracks off this album is “Hard Hustle.” The main person rapping on this track is Wild Child, whose voice is like butter. The instrumentation on this track also delivers perfect rhymes on every line.

The album also features tracks that take on serious subject matters. “Strange Ways” serves as political commentary towards police brutality. The track explains in detail the systemic racism regarding the policing of Black neighborhoods.

One complaint I have with the album is the use of Madlib’s alter ego Quasimoto on some tracks. These tracks feel out of place, and Madlib’s high-pitched voice can be daunting.

Overall, this album is a solid effort by the true villain of the rap community. I appreciate the detail in the instrumentation and samples throughout the album. Although the album dropped 17 years ago, it still holds its value by providing solid tracks.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Vinyl
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Twitter: @mkelleyww