Ten years ago today Madvillainy was released.
I’ll admit it, I’ve been putting off writing about Madvillainy for some while now. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to write about, the opposite actually, it’s just hard to approach a classic sometimes with something new and innovated. I tried to think about DOOM, and what makes Madvillainy a classic. Was DOOM doing anything really new and innovated? Well, not really.
Six months prior to Madvillainy DOOM had released Vaudeville Villain under the moniker Viktor Vaughn. On Vaudeville Villain, DOOM had transformed from King Geedorah, the three headed space monster here to destroy earth from the pervious record, to the time traveling Viktor Vaughn. In my previous DOOM Discussions I talked about how DOOM’s villainous persona wasn’t as “villainous” as one would assume a villain’s to be. With Vaudeville Villain, DOOM for the first time, was truly villainous. The Viktor Vaughn pseudonym is easily the most angry and vile of DOOM’s villainous alter-egos. So where would DOOM go from here?
On Take Me To Your Leader, DOOM composed and produced every track on the album, under the name Metal Fingered Villain. Vaudeville Villain, on the other hand, features no production by DOOM. With the legendary Madlib, coming off the release of Champion Sound, a collaborative album with other legendary producer J Dilla, producing Madvillainy, wasn’t anything new, per se, for DOOM. Although the two had never worked together, DOOM wasn’t completely venturing into unknown territory with having producers outside Monsta Island Czars.
When it comes to DOOM’s lyrics, again, Madvillainy isn’t anything new when it comes to the evolution of DOOM’s style and sound. With shorter tracks, DOOM often spits one verse per. Maybe one of DOOM’s more appealing qualities is his complex and abstract lyrics. Tracks like “Accordion”, “Figaro” and “Great Day Today” require multiple listens in order to fully grasp the completeness of DOOM’s message with all tracks being under two and a half minutes in length. This is why DOOM is so appealing. Like a good movie, with multiple screenings the viewer with pick up on things they missed on pervious viewings. Films like Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York; Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive truly embody this idea. These films, much like DOOM’s albums, especially Madvillainy require multiple revisitings.
So DOOM is good, great in fact, but it’s nothing too different from Viktor Vaughn’s album or Operation: Doomsday in terms of lyrical style and quality. So what makes Madvillainy a classic? Well that would be Madlib.
The pairing of the two is immaculate. DOOM’s often monotone sounding rhymes, mixed with Madlib’s unique samples and production is the perfect match. Madlib brings out the complexity in DOOM with his beats and samples that don’t overpower or detract from DOOM’s lyrics. Tracks like “Curls” and “Money Folder” really illustrate this beautifully. Not to mention the three instrumental tracks on the album–all a showcase of truly how great Madlib is. In a way, the instrumental tracks remind the listener that this combination of producer and MC is mutualistic. It’s like on the TV show Community, when character Troy Barnes is introduced into a room that is the room temperature room, “I can’t tell where the air ends and my skin begins”. This is what it’s like listening to Madvillain.
Madvillainy has been on hundreds of best-of lists. It was the number one hip hop album of the decade on Rhapsody’s list and 25th on Pitchfork’s best albums of the 2000s list, but much like a religious experience, what makes Madvillainy so special is one’s own personal relationship with the album. It’s this connection with DOOM’s lyrics, Madlib’s “thick, woozy slabs of beatnik bass”, according to Spin, and fact that despite being a classic, it’s still an underground album that places it so close to our heats. Madvillainy will probably be known as the DOOM album, as well as the Madlib album. The two are just simply perfect together.