Review Summary: Yet another fantastic collab album from DOOM.
Those who are familiar with DOOM know that he is no stranger to collaborative projects. In 2004 he released “Madvillainy” with Madlib under the moniker, Madvillian, and 2005 saw the release of the Danger Mouse collaboration, “The Mouse and the Mask”, as DANGERDOOM. Now in 2012 we have JJ DOOM and their debut album, “Key to the Kuffs”, which is the collaboration between DOOM and producer Jneiro Jarel. “Key to the Kuffs” is DOOM’s first full-length album as a MC since 2009’s, “Born Like This”. With this large gap of time that DOOM hasn’t released any new material, you would expect his approach on “Key to the Kuffs” to be a little different than before.
One of the first things you will notice when listening to “Keys to the Kuffs” would be the syth laden boom bap beats that Jneiro Jarel has laid down for DOOM. This style of production is very different when compared to the sample heavy, lo-fi beats of albums like, “MM…FOOD” and “Madvillainy”. Despite this difference, the production is still very similar to the way Madlib handled production on “Madvillainy” with many of the vintage sounding samples and the laid back style of the beats. The beats themselves are very strong and, although they have a lot of layers to them, aren’t overbearing. The synth used in many of the songs, such as “Banished” and “Bout the Shoes”, also add a whole new feel to DOOM’s style giving the songs somewhat of a vintage 80’s video game feel to them.
The album also features some of the biggest guests in DOOM’s career, like Damon Albarn of Gorillaz/Blur, Beth Gibbons of Portishead and Khujo Goodie of Goodie Mob. Although these are some pretty big guests most don’t seem to interfere with the album or outshine DOOM on any tracks. The only track that really seems out of place is “STILL KAPS” with Khujo Goodie due to the fact that it’s a really short song and doesn’t feature DOOM at all. Despite this one flaw the rest of the guest’s features are typically used as more of something to add atmosphere and texture to the songs and really work to the song’s advantage.
But let’s not forget the reason why most of us checked out this in the first place, DOOM. On “Keys to the Kuffs” DOOM delivers his trademark low gravely vocals with some of his wittiest lyrics to date. His vocal delivery is very similar to that on “Madvillainy”, in the laid back way he raps cohesively over the beats. He really doesn’t do anything different with his usual lyrical style until the track “Winter Blues”, which is probably the most personal song in DOOM’s career to date. The track “Wash Your Hands” is also notable because of its funny subject matter, being about not washing your hands and going to a strip club, and its more upbeat production than most DOOM fans would be used to.
While “Key to the Kuffs” may not be the next “Madvillany” or “Operation: Doomsday” it is another solid album from DOOM and proves that DOOM is still better than most other MC’s in rap music today. “Key to the Kuffs” is a potential rap album of the year and should be something that any hip-hop fan listens to in 2012.