What we’re listening to (#13): ‘Madvillainy’ by Madvillain

I guess you could view Madvillain as a ‘supergroup’ looking back – Madvillainy would provide Metal Face Doom (aka MF Doom) with his first commercially successful breakthrough, and would become another notch on the belt of the famed Madlib, one of the most prolific and praised producers in recent history, working with likes of J Dilla and Talib Kweli.

Madvillainy was there debut album, and remains their only album besides a complete remix of the same record released by Madlib in 2008 – the fact that this duo has been hailed one of the best in the 21st century tells you all you need to know about the potent nature of this album.

Madvillainy is known for bucking the trend of hip-hop albums of past and indeed present. The duo felt no need for catchy hooks and choruses, opting instead for short bursts of verse in an album that has 22 tracks. MF Doom’s lyrics are notorious for their simple flow and conscious change-ups which catch the listener off guard, and Madlib does not hesitate to employ various instruments and sources for his samples, from an accordion to old cartoon shows.

Instrumentals are littered throughout the album with no discernible pattern – the 52 second “Supervillain Theme” is strangely ominous and matches the title of the track, with eclectic breaks filled by just toms, bass drums and snares, isolated without the bass or eerie string like progression. The opening track is actually an instrumental (though, with many vocal samples), setting out the background for the comic-book inspired aliases of Daniel Dumile, the man behind the mask of MF Doom.

It feels as if Madlib and MF Doom shouldn’t work this well together, but the unorthodox loop based beats behind the husky and low-voiced lyrics, which are well thought out and intelligent at that, are melded to perfect, with tracks flowing into each other seamlessly, a signature of Madlib’s production. Unconventional is what this album is about, and it’s pulled off with style – two distinctive styles merging into one phenomenal listen.

“They pray four times a day, they pray five,
whose ways is strange when it’s time to survive”

A personal favourite is ‘Strange Ways’ – sampling Gentle Giant, the beat is simple and hits with power after a short string sample for an introduction. The short breakdowns in the middle of the two verses provided breathing room, and Doom really excels when the tempo is upped throughout the albums.

An obvious classic, a great listen.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

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