It's 10 in the morning, I'm baked out of my mind and as I'm picking at the remains of my leftover Greek chicken from the previous night, I'm doing my morning crossword:
5-letter word to straighten out? LEVEL
June 6, 1944? DDAY
Name of Jetson's mutt? ?
"It's Elroy isn't it? No, Leroy .wait, that's the name of the kid." I know the answer, I've watched the Jetsons as a lad. Yet, whether I choose to blame this minute failure on either the basis of being up too early at the crack of ten or waking up and hitting the bong before the shower, my certain substance-addled state leads my brain away from the page into a pointless philosophical melee of self-inquiry. Well I don't know the answer, but you know who would? MF Doom.
A writer at Pitchfork (ewww) once described the mind of Mike Patton akin to the countryside: A nice place to visit, but you wouldn't wanna live there in the kind of way Woody Allen sees it in Annie Hall
. I like to see MF Doom as the rap equivalent of Mike Patton. Both have questionable psyches, are loved feverishly by millions (of music critics), and both thrive on collaborating with every artist in music today. How they haven't collaborated with each other yet is beyond me. That aside, MF Doom's loony-ness is most likely based on his love of cartoons, along with weed, food, and hip-hop, preferably all at the same time.
Hell, the rapper himself is the living embodiment of a supervillain and that's just not the image I'm talking about. The man once known as Daniel Dumille was a Londoner relocated to New York and rapping under the alter-ego of Zev Luv X in early-90s rap group, KMD along with his younger brother, DJ Subroc. Everything was going rosy for the young Dumille until tragedy struck and Subroc died in a car accident. Unable to deal with the loss and fret with depression and disillusion, Dumille retreated away from the rap scene during the rest of the 1990s. In those years, the goofy young rapper (who kinda looks like a thicker Spike Lee sans facial hair) kept himself isolated where according to his official biography spent his time "recovering from his wounds". And alas, Dumille returned to exact his revenge and terrorize the rap industry. Now bitter, cold, and donning a metal mask over his face which wears at all performances and refuses to have his photo taken without it MF Doom became rap's premier "supervillain". With his creative and eccentric wordplay, rhyme flows and subject of lyrics, Doom's iron fist -- er, mask -- has spread like a virus across the rap globe. First the underground, and now Doom has been crossing over into the mainstream and ruthlessly conquering it by recently appearing on records by Gorillaz, De La Soul, Talib Kweli, and Ghostface. And despite his plethora of artists on his hip-hop rolodex, none of them seemed quite demented enough to equal the metal-ly MC.
Enter DJ Danger Mouse, a producer/DJ whose best known as the dude behind the Grey Album- a mash-up of Jay-Z's Black Album
and the Beatles' "White Album" and the Gorillaz's "Demon Days". He's also not so best known as being a producer/DJ with an affinity to don a giant mouse costume. Together he and Doom form the aptly named DangerDoom. Not crazy enough for you still? Well, how about various characters from AdultSwim guest on the album and "drop verses"? And that's The Mouse and the Mask
The talents of the MC and the producer are in full force on this outing. Doom's rapping is as manic and demented as ever, not to mention talented, while Danger brings his quirky production style of jazzy samples, graceful strings, Grime-heavy basslines and obscure Radiohead-esque sonic landscapes to fill the half-empty proverbial crazy cup. The songs, like late night TV, are warped enough to keep the attention of the most ADD-infused minds, yet catchy like an ad jingle.
The opener "El Chupa Nibre" with the title taken from a monster from Futurama is a blend of an eerie theremin-like melody, Jerry Springer-style blips, and a tight drumbeat. Doom right away promises to "chew and MC, like El Chupa Nibre/ Digest the group and sell the poop on Ebay." Pleasant. "Sofa King" meanwhile with its sinister violin melody makes those fun and immature puns from your early childhood sound like a battlerhyme. Aqua Teen Hunger Force guest, to proclaim their street cred. "The Mask" featuring Ghostface is brilliant display of hard beats, brassy horns, angular electronic melodies and two powerful verses from Doom and Ghostface, one of the few rappers whose eccentricity matches that of Mr. Dumille. As Ghostface raps about Slurpees and "terrorizing the globe with a Bill Clinton mask", one can only ponder about the Ghostface/MF Doom project in the works right now and whether it will out-crazy this one.
Doom has opted to work with more mainstream artists on this album, and the results are strong indeed. "Benzie Box" featuring Cee-Lo is arguably the pinnacle of the album. With a sleazy-as-a-Rick-James-afterparty bassline, flashy keys, and steady beat MF Doom plays the pimp rapping about double dutch and dirty socks. But there's more:
Sing a song of slaphappy crappiness
He came to blow like it was strapped to his chest
Surely I jest, the best on a wireless mic not an eye test
Yet I digress
Cee-Lo's ho-slappin' vocal hook is the icing on the cake. "Old School" is great outing featuring Talib Kweli that celebrates the notion of spending your whole weekend watching TV. A refreshing and sparkling soul sample, catchy hook, and a rather upbeat Talib Kweli dominate this little number. And on "Vats of Urine", Doom raps about vats of urine. Because he wants to.
Dangermouse's production allows for a wide mix of sounds yet everything sounds coherent with each other. The loony beats, head-scratching samples, and random appearances by Adult Swim characters give the album a feel of being stuck in a funhouse, but without ICP. "Mince Meat" utilizes a drugged-out chant that kinda sounds like the one from the "Wizard of Oz", a heavy-ass beat, and a bizarre Eastern melody. Doom meanwhile drops some spectacular rhymes:
Swoll hand itchin, the old man bitchin
Switchin with the fan with the gold band twitchin
Spittin like a bionic sneeze that freeze vodka
Just to clear the air like the Ionic Breeze Quadra
Sleek enough to out-sly a fox
for a chicken pot pie, thinkin outside the box
... Enough to taste her goody
But got no time to be wastin chasin putty
Out for Daffy Duck bucks, Porky Pig paper
Bugs Bunny money or Sylvester Cat caper
Offer DAT tape of rap, country or deep house
And I'll make mince meat out of that beat mouse
"Space Hos" is a great little rap that laments the lovable failures of Space Ghost and his crappy little talk-show. Riddled with pop-culture references and a bizarre yet insanely catchy whistlin', Doom argues that "Coast to coast, that destructo ray's a played out gag/ Add the cape and the pants suit, lookin' like a straight out Dag!" MF Doom's sense of humour is revealed continually throughout the album. He employs a similar device on "No Names":
As a few good men set sights to link with your chick
You have to find a new hen fight to drink your liq'
Ten years later, see how Enzyte'll shrink your... wallet
Doom also gets points for name-dropping Labatt's Blue, a fine Canadian lager, on "Crosshairs", revealing that the man always knows what to talk about. And that's what many people find so admirable about the guy. In a rap world where guns, hos, and money rule on one side and vague credos about "freeing your mind" and "keeping black alive" take part on the other, Doom has a devilish little niche in the middle where he incorporates both, but puts rapping about everyday objects and events above all other.
The only thing that really sets the album back is the presence of Adult Swim characters on the album can make it sound a little corner sometimes, especially when they do try to rap. That and "Perfect Hair" isn't too strong of a track either.
And you know what? It works. He's releasing up to 3 albums year, all usually under different pseudonyms, and the bulk of which have been fantastic. The Mouse and the Mask
, his latest, is simply another notch on this metal crown. An album so zany but catchy it demands attention and you can't turn it off or down. It also proves to show that mediums like TV and music can exist in a single sphere more often that one thinks, like that one late night when you were peaking on shrooms with your two older cousins and you remember being so stoked 'cause Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
was on and it sooooo totally synched up with the Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow
. Yes, its that good.
And yet, I still know the name of that damn Jeston dog.