On this highly anticipated release from arguably two of underground hip-hop's most interesting personalities- wunderkind producer/MC Madlib (a.k.a. Otis Jackson, Jr., Quasimoto, Yesterday's New Quintet) and eccentric rapper MF Doom (a.k.a. Daniel Dumile, Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah, Zevlove X) combine each of their unique talents to create an undeniably challenging and masterfully constructed record.
Although there's an unquestionable cohesion to each of the twenty-two tracks, an almost disjointed quality hangs over the proceedings. The result is an effect similar to a single long song cobbled together from various sessions- albeit a single, long, intensely captivating song. This doesn't come as a surprise, considering the tracks that would eventually constitute Madvillainy originated from a variety of source demos Madlib had been kicking around and, subsequently, have been kicking around the darker corners of the world wide web for a time.
From beginning to end, MF Doom's trademark smoky, grizzled, vaguely seductive delivery remains simultaneously inviting and world-weary. This is especially true on tracks like "Meat Grinder" and "Curls", where he lays down such words of wisdom as: "villain get the money like curls/they just tryin' to get a nut like squirrels in this mad world/land of milk and honey with the swirls/where reckless nekkid girls/get necklaces of pearls". Despite the fact that Madvillainy feels largely like Madlib's baby, Doom's exceedingly original and often brilliant wordplay paint complex portraits of a variety of topics and, in the process, manage to anchor the production quite effectively.
On the production side of the deal, Madlib's beats are consistently laidback and inventive, showcasing a bit more grit, emotion, and humor than ever before (check out the hilarious samples littered throughout "America's Most Blunted"). The production also appears to tread a similar path as his work on last year's Shades of Blue (an album on which he was afforded unregulated access to the Blue Note archives), conveying just enough to keep things interesting but never so much that the beats overshadow the rhymes. Moreover, the production manages to incorporate a number of diverse genres without ever coming off as gimmicky or contrived.
Even though it's barely April, Madvillainy is a strong contender for hip-hop record of the year. Hell, even the album art is great! A truly inspiring testament to the work two visionaries at the pinnacles of their respective games can accomplish. I certainly hope this isn't the last collaboration we hear from these two characters.
8.9 / 10
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