Updated: Aug 21, 2020
Madvillain - a duo consisting of Madlib and MF DOOM dropped this underground project 'Madvillainy' in 2004. This is considered by some as the best rap album ever made - I can't help but disagree. It's good don't get me wrong, but I find faults within the album.
Production wise it's very overrated. Again it's good, but the whole lo-fi and abstract style just doesn't sound amazing. Usually there's a main instrument with all sorts going on behind it, such as on 'America's Most Blunted' where you get this guitar riff but then so much catastrophic noises behind it. It's very sample heavy, using loads of boom bap drums and guitar baselines which usually are the highlights of the beats. As I said the production is good but not as good as people make out - it came out the same year as Kanye's 'The College Dropout' and the production on that is so superior. The beat on 'Accordion' gets tiring after a while just being the same looped accordion, luckily though I think the song ends just before it gets tiring - this beat did grow on me quite a bit. My favourite beats have to be the quick paced guitar strings on 'Shadows of Tomorrow' or the catchy drum patterns and clicks of 'Figaro' - the production improves during the second half in my opinion.
Lyrically, Doom is very good. His complex lyricism and punchlines/metaphors such as "Where reckless naked girls get necklaces of pearls, Compliments of the town jeweler" on 'Curls' which is a great example of his skill. He also loves a double entendre here and there such as on 'Accordion' where he says, "And he hold the mic and your attention like two swords // Either that or either one with two blades on it". As I've said he's great with the pen, just wish the production behind him was a bit better. I think when it comes to Doom's delivery, he can also sound a bit lazy and disinterested as well at times - but I can't deny his smooth flow and crazy rhyme schemes make for an enjoyable listen - he said it himself, "The beat is so butter, Peep the slow cutter".
Feature wise, there isn't many features on here unless we count Quasimoto (which is just Madlib with a hi-pitched voice). The features all are at a similar level to Doom, and impress such as M.E.D. on the track 'Raid' who has a great verse with some good punchlines as he talks on weed, his rapping ability and his shooters. The Quasimoto features are pretty solid overall, such as on 'Ameirca's Most Blunted' where he has a great rhyme scheme and that high pitched effect genuinely works well on his voice. Wildchild performs the song 'Hardcore Hustle' solo, using a fire flow and some great metaphors to make the track worthwhile, while we also get a feature from Stacy Epps on the interlude 'Eye', who's lo-fi vocals have a great groove to it as she talks about getting high, presumably from weed.
There are many skits and interludes on this album, beginning with 'The Illest Villains' which has a crazy instrumental and is a sign of things to come, setting the mood well. There is also the 'Bistro' skit which uses bed and breakfast as a metaphor for the album which is an enjoyable listen. Then there's the three instrumental tracks 'Sickfit', 'Supervillain Theme' and 'Do Not Fire!' which are some of the most enjoyable beats on the album and I kind of wish Doom rapped over them.
Most of the subject matter on this album revolves around Doom's dominance in rap and his lyrical abilities such as on tracks like 'Accordion' and 'Meat Grinder'. There are obvious other moments in the track list where Doom tells a story, such as that of a snitch on 'Rainbows' or how he talks about his younger life including stealing due to his poverty and drug use on the track 'Curls'. On 'Operation Lifesaver', Doom tells a funny story of a girl with bad breath, while on 'Fancy Clown' Doom finds out his girl has been cheating on him - with his alter ego Viktor Vaughn - so the stories that are told throughout this project are comical and entertaining. The song with the best subject matter has to be the politically charged 'Strange Ways', which takes a look at both problems with the police, such as them arresting drug dealers who are dealing to make an earning and the problem with war. With incredibly thoughtful lyrics such as "Some will go of they own free will to die // Others take them with you when they blow sky high // What's the difference? All you get is lost children", my only problem with the song is it isn't longer and able to cover more ground. There's a nice range of subject matter and it definitely serves its purpose as an album for those who enjoy technical skill.
To look at some other tracks, 'Meat Grinder' tells a story of Doom with a prostitute before he moves onto talking about his dominance in the rap game again. The rhyme scheme of this song is crazy, as is the complexity of his lyrics as well as the metaphors/entendres. Once again, the only thing stopping this song from being even better is the production is decent - but nothing more. Madlib then joins in on the rapping under his alter-ego Quasimoto on the track 'America's Most Blunted', a song all about weed and how good Doom is at rolling it. The beat was alright again as mentioned, and Madlibs verse was actually solid with a good rhyme scheme - but I can't fully get into the song because of how messy Madlib's verse sounded sonically. With all the multi-layering effects it just sounded like a jumbled mess. 'Rainbows', the following track, is the worst song on the album and the only song I don't at least think is decent. It tells the story of a well known snitch, and with eerie/menacing lyrics it fits the purpose well - but I couldn't hear a word Doom was saying, it was just sunken into this retro beat which wasn't really that good bar the catchy drum pattern. An easy skip on the tracklist.
'All Caps' is a prime example of my issues with the album and why I don't think it's a 10. It's full of great bars and punchlines as he attacks his competition over this flute-inspired instrumental - but it doesn't sound too different from the rest of the album - and just doesn't do anything that would make me want to return. The finale to this album is 'Rhinestone Cowboy' - and bar 'Rainbows' this is probably my least favourite on the album. The beat sounds so similar to what we've already heard - and while I can appreciate the rhymes on this song, it just sounds pretty similar to certain other tracks but dragged out. Nether the less, it's still a listenable song.
To conclude, this album was great - but I expected a lot more from it. The abstract sound and the fact it sounded like it's decades old was a little offputting - I definitely get the hype around it, but I don't know how often I'd personally return to it. It was a great experience, but as I said nothing was really inviting me back. It had no standout songs, and was mainly a mix and match of songs I'd say are from a rating of 7-8 mainly. Doom outdid Madlib in my opinion, and despite the fact I think it's overrated - I still enjoy the album.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: Accordion, Meat Grinder, Raid, America's Most Blunted, Operation Lifesaver AKA Mint Test, Figaro, Strange Ways, Fancy Clown, Great Day
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Rainbows
OVERALL RATING: Light 9/10
*REVISED SCORE: Review may not match favourite tracks and overall rating because I've since re-listened and changed my score.*