Locked Grooves #1: Madvillain
LOCKED GROOVES #1
In the midst of the country's lockdown the Sister Ray team have vowed to bring a little insight into the albums that are soundtracking our isolation. First up....
MADVILLAIN - MADVILLAINY (STONES THROW), 2004
By the early 2000s Hip-Hop had, arguably, stagnated somewhat. The gangster rappers that made the '90s rap sound so edgy and febrile with innovation had either made it big and mellowed out or vanished into obscurity. Aside from a few auteurs like Ghostface and Kool Keith a lot of former heavyweights just sounded a little...short of ideas. Also (on a more personal note) the 'conscious' sound that some 'heads' were turning towards just didn't do it for me.
When I first heard Madvillainy, in my eyes, the landscape of rap music had altered forever. Created by the partnership of West Coast based producer Madlib and New York MC MF Doom, during its runtime of just over 45 minutes you're transported to a whole other world where Doom's playful, witty and creative wordplay ("Couldn't find a pen, had to think of a new trick / This one he wrote in cold blood with a toothpick / On second thought, it's too thick / His assistant said: "Doom, you sick, " he said "True" through acoustics") counteracts perfectly with the musically eclectic beats Madlib crafts from dusty old soul, jazz and psych records.
It results in an album that, if I listen to one track, then I inevitably listen to the whole thing. You can't help but be floored by the imagination of each of the pair. They both summon up invented alter-egos who pop in for guest spots. Madlib's indomitable Quasimoto character and (my favourite) Doom's more gangster alter-ego Viktor Vaughn who chases Doom out the studio on one track and delivers a blistering rap over a chopped up '80s soul tune about how his girl's been cheating on him with Doom.
Even the artwork is iconic. Inspired by Madonna's self-titled 1983 album it features a black and white image of MF Doom's masked and silhouetted profile. Madlib is found on the back clutching his bulky and trusty SP-1200. Like Doom's raps, these images reference the old school while drawing an aesthetic line in the sand and stating 'this is something new'. The rap LP as work of art, a continuous piece of music and a whole world to explore, populated by vivid personalities, madcap humour and cartoonish plot twists filtered through a blunt smoked haze. Perfection.