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Old 12-18-2012, 08:41 PM   #196
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The film clip for Madvillain's “Accordion” might be the least exciting hip-hop video ever. It's certainly the least colourful – and it's not even in black-and-white. But that about sums up Madvillainy. For all the hype, all the laudatory reviews, all the “greatest ___” lists it appears on, Madvillainy is, on the surface, unremarkable. There were no crossover hits. It is significantly shorter than most other hip-hop magna opera. There are no big-name guests, no instantly recognisable samples. The beats from producer Madlib, one half of Madvillain along with MC MF Doom, are hardly the kind to be found in hot night clubs, nor at the business end of singles charts. Even Doom is hardly thrown up in conversations about the best MCs. For god's sake he hides behind a mask on the cover of the album, his left eye visible if you look closely enough, his right just detectable in the right light. So what is it about Madvillainy that makes it such a hip-hop classic?

I remember when I first heard the album. After months, probably years of coaxing by the likes of Cassie, LM and later bollox in the hip-hop thread I decided to finally purchase the album – the three of you know my tastes, I figured why bother downloading – and I first played it in my car on the way to see Zola Jesus. It's funny – I didn't like it much on that first listen, and I left the concert much more impressed by Nika Danilova than I had been by Madvillainy. That was on June 2 – I bought Conatus that night and made it through about six tracks on the way home. I have not listened to it since, and yet, according to last.fm, I have played Madvillainy in full at least 10 times since. “Accordion” 24 times, “Raid” 15 times, “Fancy Clown” 14. Funny how that happens with music.

My original reaction to the album was this:

Quote:
I found it pretty inaccessible. Kind of a frustrating listen with all the sampling, instrumentals, shorter tracks. MF DOOM isn't high up on my list of favourite MCs. Production not quite what I hoped.
But knowing myself, I also said this in the same post:

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This, of course, is based on one listen. I'm sure I'll come around.
And did I ever. There was never really any major turning point for me either. I've had a sort of weird experience with this album; other albums I've not liked much originally but came around to usually clicked with me on one particular occasion; I heard something I didn't before, something that annoyed me previously didn't bother me in the slightest on repeated plays. But Madvillainy was an album that just grew slightly (and continues to grow) with every listen. It's like a parasite crawling under your skin, but one that you grow to love considerably instead of opting to have surgically removed. These days I can barely go a week or two without listening to it. Songs, verses, beats, even single lines pop randomly into my head and I am compelled to listen to the album again and it will remain with me for the rest of the day. In spite of itself – short tracks that end before you expect them to, a couple of instrumentals, a lack of obvious, immediate standouts – Madvillainy is extremely catchy. And in an atypical way – more often than not I find random lyrics jumping into my head, rather than beats or hooks, not that there are too many of those to be found.

Let's start with the beats. I don't know much about Madlib. To my knowledge this is the only album I've heard wholly or majorly produced by him, though I'm certain I've heard several other tracks that are credited to him. Throughout the album the beats are laidback but complex, which makes the album best listened to through good bass-heavy headphones. It truly is an album with which you will discover something new on every spin. His samples are incredibly well-done, but the most astonishing thing about it is they never become a distraction. That's not to say they are incongruous or innocuous, more that he works very well with his MC; he lays down the beat, gets out of the way to let Doom do his thing, then gets back to business when he needs to. Oftentimes it is impossible to tell when one track ends and another begins; indeed there are several songs on the album that I still struggle to name six months after first hearing it, because it all flows so expertly. The transitions between tracks are very impressive, particularly in the way Madlib manages to pair songs that, taken on their own, would not appear to suit adjacency. Take the transition between “Rainbows”, a slow, almost beat-less track which samples some horns in between barely-audible vocals from Doom, and “Curls”, a far more upbeat tune with much more committed rapping from Doom. Madlib samples some more menacing-sounding horns before a movie sample, “this villain was a ruthless masked conquerer with aspirations to dominate the universe”, then moving straight into the warped organ of “Curls”. It's not seamless at all, but it works perfectly, and it's a trick he uses again and again, which helps keep the album moving and ensures it never becomes predictable or lethargic.

Then there's the songs themselves. “Accordion” is constructed almost entirely out of an accordion sample from a track called “Experience” by LA producer Daedelus. Madlib simply adds bass and a drum clap around it and lets Doom do his thing. The giddily happy “Raid” is built off some more warped piano, this time taken from an old Latino jazz/swing kinda track by Osmar Milito. (It's on Thom Yorke's iTunes Celebrity Playlist.) “America's Most Blunted” shows off Madlib's mastery with sample after sample after sample, creating an almost cacophonous beat with stilted guitar, grabs of bong hits, record scratches and finally a Sesame Street-aping advert for weed at the very end. “Strange Ways” samples a song called “Funny Ways” by Gentle Giant. The sample is only a few seconds in the original track, but Madlib speeds it up and makes it sound creepy and ominous here. “Fancy Clown” cuts and speeds up the chorus from soul track “That Ain't The Way You Make Love” by ZZ Hill and lays down the most gorgeously melancholic beat on the album as a platform for Doom to lament about a girlfriend who cheated on him. “Eye” has a slinky yet slick, icy-cold R&B beat while “All Caps”, perhaps the album's most well-known track, goes back to more warped piano to great effect. “Great Day” feels like you're out taking a walk on a beautiful Sunday evening while somewhat hungover and “Rhinestone Cowboy” features incessant cheering and clapping, a sort of victory lap. It's not superfluous though, and neither is it self-congratulatory. It simply brings an extra sense of joy to the listener, and it's deserved, given the murkier beats found earlier on the record. It might surprise some to know Madlib is from California; his production style owes more to the jazzier East Coast producers of the late 80s and early 90s. But all it does is prove that Madvillainy is a release that transcends location and time.

Madvillainy was also the first time I had heard MF Doom rap. On that first listen, much like the beats, I wasn't all that impressed. He isn't a quick rapper (at times he almost sounds like he is trying to catch up to himself) and his style is very laid-back, if verbose. There are literally zero choruses on the album. But spin the album a few times and you will soon have a new MC to add to your list of favourites. Doom may not be the most accessible or appealing rapper, especially to relative newcomers to hip-hop, but he does so many little things that only boost your appreciation on repeat listens. He is one of the best in the game with rhymes and it's only close listening that will reveal that. Take opener “Accordion” - he raps most of the song with four line rhymes that mesh expertly with the beat.

Livin' off borrowed time the clock tick faster
That'll be the hour they knock the slick blaster
Dick Dastardly and Mutley with sick laughter
A gun fight and they come to cut the mix-master


That's an incredible start but Doom is so smooth and laid-back in the way he raps, and slips so comfortably into the beat, that it can take a few listens to appreciate what he's doing. The lyrics to the song itself are really nothing more than your typical MC boast - “know who's the illest ever like the greatest story told” - but it is chock full of such well-crafted, memorable lines that it's one of the most addictive hip-hop tracks ever, let alone on the album. (Hell, Mos Def even did the song during a live set.)

Just keep your eye out, like 'aye aye cap'n

Got more lyrics than the church got 'ooh-lord's

Slip like Freudian / your first and last step to playin' yourself like accordion


Doom rarely settles into one style either, frequently changing from song to song. While “Accordion” features mostly full lines, the very next track, “Meat Grinder” sees Doom cram as many words into one line as possible, sometimes going five or six seconds without so much as taking a breath.

Then it's last down 7 alligator 7 at the gates of heaven knockin' no answer slow dancer hopeless romancer dopest flow stanzas

Many of his lines use words or phrases which are very seldom found in hip-hop. From the same track, when do you ever see a line like “the worst-hated god who perpetrated odd favours / demonstrated in the perforated Rod Lavers”? And the line is so calmly, so slyly rapped by Doom that it almost slips on by without you noticing that he's just referenced a former Australian tennis player.

“Figaro” is another track that shows off Doom's immense ability to rhyme mercilessly. Again, it's not necessarily fast, but it's very controlled and the way he crams so many words, references and phrases into such a short amount of time will leave your head-spinning. The whole track is extremely impressive – one line is “as he get older he get colder than a witch tit” - but take this section for example.

Do not stand still / both show skills / close but no crills / toast for po'ills / post no bills / coast to coast Joe Schmoes flows ill / go chill / not supposed to overdose on No Doz pills

Doom mumbles his way through it all with ease, without taking a breath. It's mind-blowing.

Don't ask me about the lyricism on this album, as I'm not really sure I get what it's all about. It seems to be relatively typical for the genre, with lyrics about girls, booze, drugs, money. There isn't any conscious social commentary going on here so if you're looking for a hip-hop album with a message, Madvillainy's not it. (Aside from “Strange Ways” which deals with petty crime and war.) But what it does have in absolute spades is extremely clever, witty rhyming, catchy, funny one-liners and hilarious little vignettes. Take “Operation Lifesaver”, for example, only a minute-and-a-half long, but a funny tale of Doom trying to hit on a girl at a club:

Wow, you caught me off guard
Tried to breathe out but she made me cough hard
Contact the god and let him know to slip two in; fine, how are you doing?
Can I get you a drink? This one's a shoo-in
Awkward situation that I'm on a mission to ruin
Her big butt and smile was like camo
Hit up the men's room I need more ammo... (fire in the hole)


And on it goes. Hip-hop is often funny, but rarely, if ever, is it as interesting, quirky and enjoyable as it is on Madvillainy. Doom is pretty hilarious on this album, and before I list a few more of my favourite lines I'll just post two of the funniest lines on the album.

From “Money Folder”, a wonderful, cheeky pun on girls and alcohol - “Don't mind me, I wrote this rhyme lightly off of two or three heinies / and boy was they fine, G! / one black, one Spanish, one Chinese”

And from “Great Day”, where Doom sets up the rhyme to make the listener expect to hear the line end with the word “bitches” before he literally interrupts himself and changes it - “And I wish they fix the door to the Matrix, its mad glitches / spit so many verses sometimes my jaw itches / one thing this party could use is more *ahem* booze”

Some of my favourite funny lines:

Hey you! Don't touch the mic like it's AIDS on it - “Accordion”
Borderline schizo, sorta fine tits though - “Meat Grinder”
Doom nominated for best rolled L's / and they wonder how he dealt with stress so well - “America's Most Blunted”
A rhyming klepto who couldn't go up in the store no more - “Curls”
Egads, she got enough style to start three fads / true that, she bad, I wonder what she might do with kneepads - “ Money Folder”
Remember our vacation out to Maryland? I dooked the maid Carolyn, she made me throw the towel in - “Fancy Clown”

And some of my favourite lines from the album for whatever reason. This is one of the best things about the album, there are just so many catchy lines that continuously pop into my head.

On one scary night I saw the light / heard a voice that sound like Barry White / said 'sure you're right' - “Raid”
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone / after you who's last / it's Doom, he's the worst known - “Money Folder”
When the smoke clear you can see the sky again / there will be the chopped off heads of Leviathan - “Strange Ways”
Oh my aching hands / from raking in grams and breaking in mic stands - “Rhinstone Cowboy

Literally every word of “All Caps” and “Great Day”, but these two bits in particular

Whip up a slice of nice verse pie / hit on the first try / Villain, the worst guy - “All Caps”
Couldn't find a pen had to think of a new trick / this one he wrote in cold blood with a toothpick - “Great Day”

I could go on and on and on about this album but that'll do me for now. To close, Madvillainy is the most unique hip-hop album I've ever heard and there aren't many albums in any genre that reward repeat listens like Madvillainy does. One of the best examples of the phrase “greater than the sum of its parts”.

I didn't like it at first. Six months later and it's become one of my favourite albums ever. Please listen to it. It's addictive.
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Old 12-19-2012, 06:29 PM   #197
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Anyone? this is the best thread we have!!
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Old 12-19-2012, 06:48 PM   #198
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Can't comment on the artist, as I've never heard anything by him (though this post does have me intrigued), but I did like reading your thoughts. Particularly given how drastically you changed your mind.
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Old 12-19-2012, 06:52 PM   #199
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Haha you were nearly the last person I thought would be able to comment so it's all good Thanks for reading!
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Old 12-19-2012, 06:54 PM   #200
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You're welcome! Hopefully someone will be able to properly discuss this with you, though.

I keep wanting to post something here myself, but I'm not sure what or whom I'd want to write about. Hmmmm. But I do like it when this thread pops up with some new essay.
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Old 12-19-2012, 07:35 PM   #201
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You were nearly the last, bet I'm the last!
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Old 12-19-2012, 07:37 PM   #202
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l TOLD YOU SO
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:04 PM   #203
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Originally Posted by cobl04 View Post
Anyone? this is the best thread we have!!
Yeah but that's way long, dude.
 
I shall read.
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:07 PM   #204
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It is pushing 3000 words

And I knocked it out in about a fifth of the time it will take me to write this 2000 word essay I've got due for philosophy...

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You were nearly the last, bet I'm the last!
Yep
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:10 PM   #205
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I read it, always enjoy this thread, regardless of whether I share an affinity for the artist, or am on the opposite end of the spectrum.
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:21 PM   #206
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I didn't really want to sound like a desperate 12-year-old girl, by the way all, I just enjoy chatting about everything and anything as you know
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:30 PM   #207
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I now know all about Madvillain. Thanks, cobbler.

But what I really got from all that (not being a big rap fan) is that I needed to go find that Thom Yorke iTunes playlist which seems to no longer exist.

And I'm also going to check out some Madvillain. That accordion thing sounds interesting.

FYI for future reviews: the parasite analogy didn't really work for me.
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:33 PM   #208
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I should have checked to see if that playlist still exists. It was probably around a long time ago.

Duly noted
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:37 PM   #209
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I had a bad bout with parasites. I'm scarred.
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:57 PM   #210
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One of my favorite posters, who I miss around these parts, onebloodonelife, once sent me some Madvillain stuff to listen to. I enjoyed it.
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