Once upon a time, while on a late evening binge of marijuana and cartoons, a young adult named Zed felt it would be appropriate to create. Well, the "young adult" is actually 21 years old...and he's, like, a total hunk. Anyway, the man covered in glistening oils combined his favorite wrapper and his favorite produce in a cereal bowl. With all of his boyish might, he smashed the objects together as Adult Swim filled up the walls, projected from the television. The final concoction induced laughter, but was ultimately disappointing.
Zed's friends had previously hyped the product, "MF Doom [the rapper], Danger Mouse [the producer] and Adult Swim [the theme]. What could go wrong, man?" They did have a point, but what their red stitched eyes couldn't see in foresight was how a talented cast doesn't always translate into excellence. It's now the time in the story when we all jump back in time to see how these events spun out of control!
While the history of MF Doom goes far back into the 90's with MTV raps, the more immediate past saw the release of Madvillainy with producer Madlib. Although that record utilized jazz instrumentation in unconventional ways, The Mouse and the Mask takes a more straightforward approach. In addition to Madvillainy, MF Doom released three other albums in 2004. You could say he's busy, like trying to remove CD wrap. Producer Danger Mouse became well known when he combined the instrumentation of The Beatles' White Album with the rapping of Jay-Z's Black Album. This brought notoriety but not much cash for the mouse. In 2005, Danger Mouse got his first legitimate act when he produced the latest Gorillaz album, Demon Days, with those singles that were actually good.
Now, back to that night filled with dense herb: The Mouse and the Mask. You must realize, and this may be biased, that MF Doom can't do wrong. He's on a roll. At the same time, I've learned to expect more from the man. In previous releases MF Doom outshined his guests, but here he's one-upped by Ghostface and Talib Kweli. But then again, those are two of the better emcees I've heard recently. In the bass heavy "Benzi Box," MF Doom raps, "Jump 'em in like jump rope, double dutch / Then turn on the mic with a thumb stroke, subtle touch / Cuddle clutch, is this thing on? / Like the fling with Mrs. King Kong, this spring gone?" MF Doom has an almost laid back style that still sounds strong, with lyrical sensibility that knocks your brain around. Overall, the lyrics all carry the theme of Adult Swim. In the next song, "Old School Rules," the beat uses horns and piano for a very uplifting/happy sound. With Kweli and MF Doom rapping about watching cartoons on Saturdays and eating cereal, I can't help but think "single." Although, music these days doesn't get on the radio unless it's dumbed down.
One downfall of a lot of hip-hop albums is the skits. While they are usually funny on the first spin, the jokes get old and skipped like jump rope. On The Mouse and the Mask, the skits are funny, and short enough that they'll provide some laughs and not get stale. The ongoing joke of Shake wanting to be on the album, leaving messages on MF Doom's answering machine, is funny. How can a cartoon character trying to be cool and wanting to get on a hip-hop album not be funny? I'm sure the writing team behind Adult Swim had some input on the skits. So if you don't think Adult Swim is funny, then you should probably steer clear of this album.
I realize I'm not a "hip hop head." I didn't use the word "bananas" as an adjective once in this review. But as a music critic, disappointment isn't a noun that gets the juices in my ovaries flowing. What gets this clitoris pointed north is the thought of the MF Doom/Ghostface album to be released in 2006. I won't accept bad news there. It's important to remember that as good or bad The Mouse and the Mask is, it's still better than 97% of what's come out in 2005. Way better than mixing wrappers and produce, that's for sure.