1. The cover reminds of Gladiator. Which was equal parts action and dreariness. With a some real quotable bits (be honest here, how many people have the “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius” quotation memorized? *Raises hand* *Homer Simpsons yells “NERD” in the background*). Sort of like this album, actually.
2. ”Accordion” is my second favorite track on the album, though “In living, the true gods / Giving y’all nothing but the lick like two broads / Got more lyrics than the church got “Ooh Lords” / And he hold the mic and your attention like two swords / Or even one with two blades on it / Hey you, don’t touch the mic like it’s AIDS on it” is easily my favorite lines that MF DOOM has ever spat, one of the first times in any hip-hop album where my jaw straight dropped. That being said, “Accordion”’s also a good indicator of what’s to come: if you don’t like how the drums and accordion aren’t quite in sync, if you don’t like the lack of song structure (the second verse in this song feels especially tacked on, though I’m not complaining), you probably won’t like this album. Also funny how two of the most critically acclaimed albums in 2004 proved that an accordion could be used to badass effect.
3. I’ve heard people call Madvillainy “the Pink Flag of hip-hop,” but tracks like “Meat Grinder”, what, with one of the best basslines Madlib’s ever laid to tape (and that’s saying something!), makes me think more of Double Nickels on the Dime. You know, that other (post-)punk album with really short tracks, except jazz-inspired.
4. Considering “Bistro” introduces the key players over a lovely harp, you realize there was no real need for “The Illest Villains” to exist. Anyway, dig the robotic “How do you do”’s in the background, like MF DOOM clasping random members in the audience’s hands in his own as he walks down the aisle and towards the main stage.
5. ”Raid” has the catchiest riff on the album. DOOM drops a great verse. MED drops a competent one.
6. The closing skit of “America’s Most Blunted” sounds like the most fucked up TV show you’ve never seen, ”So remember! M-A-R-I-J-U! A-J-U-A-N-A!” over a xylophone line. Also, marijuajuana is not a word. Otherwise, we have a great bassline leading that drops us into a stratching guitar quickie and vice versa, that makes a near 4-minute song feel half the time.
7. ”Sickfit” is a vaguely catching instrumental. Next?
8. Don’t like “Rainbows” much. It’s 3 minutes of MF DOOM’s “singing” (who thought this was a good idea?) and right as it’s about to put you to sleep, Madlib throws a blaring alarm at you. Cruel.
9. Mad props to Madlib who shoves as many sounds as possible into “Curls.” That’s a helluva song structure for only a 90-second song.
10. ”Do Not Fire!” is a useless instrumental. Next?
11. Not much to say about “Money Folder,” except it’s got some of the more bangin’ drums on the album.
12. The opening sample of “Shadows of Tomorrow” sounds like what white people think us Asians sound like. Decent song, though the one-note driving mechanism gets tired after a while around when Madlib takes over; should’ve just let his helium-voiced alter-ego Lord Quas (who sounds like he has an Asian accent here, probably because of that opening sample) handle the mic and we’d have a great one-minute song.
13. ”Operation Lifesaver AKA Mint Test” has got a great synth hook. Does anyone actually use the “Do you need a mint” line to hit on girls? Seems to me to be a wholly unoriginal thing to do.
14. ”Figaro” is my favorite song on the album. Love the bassline, love the twinkles; DOOM’s internal rhymes in the lines, “Do not stand still, both show skills / Close but no krills, toast for po’ nils, post no bills / Coast to coast Joe Shmoe’s flows ill, go chill / Not supposed to overdose No-Doz pills” counters the naysayers who claim he’s too lazy to be good, and despite the fact that there’s no piano to be found or that DOOM doesn’t sing soprano when he goes, “Wait ‘til you see ‘em live on the piano / When DOOM sings soprano like “un-a dociaaaaahhhno,” it’s still my favorite moment on the album.
15. ”Hardcore Hustle” is the worst track on the album because there’s no sign of MF DOOM or Madlib. Obviously, I’m being facetious about the absence of the latter, but the beat barely makes itself known while Wildchild awkwardly raps on top of it; jarringly too fast for its own good and disrupting the flow of the album, and a good 30 seconds of the track devoted to a man cumming and that’s a noise everyone no one needs to hear – ever. (Serious question for the ladies: do you guys like it when men make noises? Didn’t think so.)
16. ”Strange Ways” is a great vocal hook and a great string bridge introducing each verse.
17. ”Fancy Clown” is a great vocal – ahh, I’m just repeating myself here, aren’t I? Well fine, listen to that bassline – umm, yeah, I’ve said too. Hmm.
18. “Eye” sounds like the female hook off Dr. Dre’s “Let’s Get High” – you know the one – except, Stacy Epps actually sounds stoned out of her gourd while singing it.
19. ”Supervillain Theme” is easily my favorite instrumental cut on the album, a wobbly keyboard line that’s great for when you’re pretending to be straight thuggin’.
20. ”All Caps” is the third best song on the album: a mischievous piano line with flutes and trumpets thrown in for good measure. “Sometime he rhyme quick, sometime he rhyme slow / And vice versa, whip up a slice of nice verse pie / Hit it on the first try, villain: the worst guy” and, more poignantly, “Just remember: all caps when you spell the man name” might as be the fine print of MF DOOM’s business card.
21. ”Great Day Today” is okay for the most part (“Hey you, got a light? Nah, a Bud Light” is either lazy, genius or lazy genius), but the song really shines in the last thirty seconds when that organ comes in and takes over.
22. ”Rhinestone Cowboy” is a good closer, but a boring song. It’s a good closer because of the audience applause that signals that the show’s over and the duo coming back for a quick encore, but otherwise MF DOOM’s does the machine gun rhymes that he’s done better previously (compare “6’0 sicko psycho” with “O’s in tandem, anthem, random, tantrum” and “Known as the grimey, limey, slimy, try me, blimey”) while Madlib hands in a shockinglygeneric beat on an album full of unique ones. Also, it’s a 4-minute song on an album full of 2-minute ones.
—– —– —– —– —— —–
The third best album of 2004. The second best hip-hop album of that year. Look: Madlib is a great producer, obviously, but MF DOOM is only a great rapper when he wants to be; marijuana inspires creativity, sure, but it also inspires lethargy. And the rappers not named DOOM or not an alias of DOOM, with the exception of Lord Quas because he’s so pinch-cheekingly loveable, could’ve been cut and no one would’ve been too sussed. On the other hand, Kanye West is a great producer, obviously, and he and the people he brought in to rap on The College Dropout all rapped with a sense of purpose that’s lacking in just about half of these tracks. That being said, Madvillainy is obviously the best album in either MF DOOM’s or Madlib’s careers (not that I’ve finished (or plan to finish) hearing eithers, but I’ve heard enough that I’m not sussed about making that declaration).
Oh, and it’s a decade later, and I shake my head at the people who keep asking for a proper sequel (Madlib’s remix album of 2008 doesn’t count); it’s just going to disappoint you, babe.