In 2004 MF DOOM and legendary producer Madlib teamed up to form Madvillain. The result was a cohesive, innovative masterpiece of lo-fi production and euphonious rapping known as Madvillainy. Two inventive, vanguard minds tasked themselves with finding a revitalized way of expressing and presenting Hip Hop, the result was Madvillainy.
The rest is empty with no brain but the clever nerd
The best emcee with no chain ya ever heard
Throughout Madvillainy, MF DOOM exhibits his idiosyncratic style through jaw-dropping application of mutli-syllabic rhyming, assonance, internal rhyming and what can be described as almost capricious flow. Madvillainy certainly doesn’t adopt the style of a traditional Hip Hop album; there are barely any hooks and only three tracks are longer than three minutes. Instead, DOOM trusts in his lyrical ability coupled with Madlib’s unprecedented production to capture a sound that hasn’t been replicated since. The above lyrics from “Figaro” serve as one example of DOOM’s mind-boggling rhyme scheme. While he’s proven himself to be a more than capable exponent of the internal rhyme structure, here DOOM parades his ingenious multi-syllabic rhyme scheme. I’ve highlighted the 5 rhymes DOOM squeezes into two lines at the start of Figaro. MF DOOM truly paints himself as a professor of lyricism throughout Madvillainy.
One could argue that subject matter is at times diluted and sacrificed for flow, however the album can perhaps be viewed as simply a conglomerate of talent and innovation. DOOM’s ability certainly extends beyond his rhymes, his delivery and flow is seemingly effortlessly perfect, ranging from purposeful upward inflections on “Accordion,” to the gritty, raspy delivery of “Figaro”. DOOM really does leave nothing on the track, not spitting a bad bar the entire album. However, Madvillainy contained more than just intricate rhyme schemes, DOOM also flaunted his intelligence through witty wordplay and an impressive vocabulary.
‘’Got more soul than a sock with a hole’’
As a whole, Madvillainy is lyrically untouchable. Not only does DOOM spit almost inexplicably complex and multifaceted rhymes, he also smoothly rides Madlib’s unorthodox production. He may not always have the introspection of other top emcees but the pure exhibition of technical lyrical ability more than compensates for that.
‘’Hackthoo’ing’’ songs lit in the booth with the best host
Doing bong hits on the roof in the west coast
DOOM’s bars may be a lyrical behemoth, however they only fill half the canvas of the masterpiece that is Madvillainy. Madlib’s masterful production dictates the listener’s mood throughout the album. Ranging from melancholic, lo fi production on tracks Meat Grinder and Figaro through to abstract, base infused beats on Operation Lifesaver aka Mint Test and Sickfit. Even that is just scratching the surface, Madlib carefully calibrates a Waldir Calmon sample to make Curls a melodic masterpiece but opts for a more soulful sample on Fancy Clowns with equal levels of success. Madlib is a master of sampling, anyone who ever claims sampling is ‘lazy’ or ‘stealing’ should tune into Madvillainy and feel themselves be consumed by the expertly way Madlib can conduct a track through a pristinely flipped sample. The production on All Caps can only be described as chef-d’œuvre; a masterpiece. It’s a blend of five samples that results in a 2-minute journey lined with startling spontaneity and modulating tones that results in a beautiful, melodic concoction of sound.
Madlib’s production often sounds like it contains a degree of extemporaneity, like he’s just been put in the studio and told to go with his instincts for an hour. However in reality, the unique tone of Madvillainy would’ve required hours on hours of fine-tuning to fulfil Madlib’s sonic vision. The raw, practically thick sound perfectly encapsulates the rasp of DOOM’s vocals and the two sound as if they’ve been collaborating since birth. It’s tough not to just exhaust every superlative in the book for Madlib but he really does capture something very special in Madvillainy and was of course every bit as influential as DOOM in constructing this classic.
Spit so many verses sometimes my jaw twitches/One thing this party could use is more…booze
This passage is simply a thing of beauty. For the second time on the record (the first being on Curls) DOOM delivers a notorious ‘fake-out’. Setting himself up to say one thing, before either saying something else or nothing at all, the above example is fairly self explanatory. You can speculate he’s playing on the overboard censorship that radio airplay Hip Hop would receive, but it goes even deeper. Most won’t hear it the first time but DOOM also uses the eternal rhyme of ‘use’ and ‘booze’ to compensate for the censorship. It’s a perfect example of one of the many subtle intricacies DOOM delivers in his lyrics that you might not catch the first time but further contribute to his exceptional flow and rhyme scheme.
Tripping off the beat kinda, dripping off the meat grinder/Heat niner, pimping, stripping, soft sweet minor/China was a neat signer/
Madvillainy isn’t for everyone. It doesn’t always click the first time. However once it does, you’ll find yourself entranced in a sound that can’t be found anywhere else. You’ll find yourself mesmerized by the absurd complexity of DOOM’s lyrics, engrossed in Madlib’s simultaneously audacious and gritty production and in awe of the remarkable final product. Putting on a pair of good headphones, finding a quiet place and undergoing the immersion and sheer virtuosity of Madvillainy is an unmatched experience.