Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Madvillain [extended]

  • Operation: Doomsday [Sub Verse, 2001] B+
  • Madvillainy [Stones Throw, 2004] A-
  • (VV:2): Venomous Villain [Insomniac, Inc., 2004] A-
  • Mm . . Food? [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2004] ***
  • Live From Planet X [Nature Sounds, 2005] **
  • The Mouse and the Mask [Epitaph, 2005] A-
  • The Other Side: Los Angeles [Time Out/Deaf Dumb + Blind, 2007] **
  • Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6: A Tribute to . . . [Stones Throw, 2009] *
  • Born Like This [Lex, 2009] A-
  • Expektoration . . . Live [Gold Dust, 2010] **
  • Key to the Kuffs [Lex, 2012] A-
  • Piñata [Madlib Invazion, 2014] *
  • Bookhead EP [Lex EP, 2014] B+

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

MF Doom: Operation: Doomsday [Sub Verse, 2001]
KMD's reincarnated Zev Love X says his new handle starts with an abbreviation for Metal Face and is based on a Marvel villain who wants to rule the world for its own good. As concept, this could get tedious fast, but as a few skits it's one more scenic sonic on an album that reaches its high point when it samples not just the Scooby-Doo theme but Scoob himself, thus acknowledging that, as Scoob knows so well, some villains are just plain evil. Right, the album never comes into full focus. But it does flow, as music and as signifying. Message: this smart guy had some horrible setbacks and came out on the other side. A role model, you might say. B+

Madvillainy [Stones Throw, 2004]
No noticeable structure a dozen plays in--just a glorious phantasmagoria of flow. Give them time and Madlib's 22 bits and pieces in 46 minutes seem not just catchy but inevitable--press shuffle at your peril, although "Curls" and "Accordion" hold their own. As for Doom, well: "One scary night I saw the light/Heard a voice like Barry White/Said, 'Sure you're right.'" To emulate neither Barry White, the voice means, nor the kind of quick thinker who normally rhymes "fine, G," "hiney," "Chinee," "shiny," and "pine tree." Instead Doom sounds slow, probably because he's stoned. He loves rhyme so much that the only universe that suits him is one where a gutter ball leads straight to a butterball--and that is a stoned universe. A-

Viktor Vaughn: (VV:2): Venomous Villain [Insomniac, Inc., 2004]
Stuffed-up flow. Championship scratching. A lid on the C-movie dialogue. "Titty fat"/"kitty cat"/"pretty hat"/"pitty-pat"/"kiddies, brats"/"shitty gats"/"where they at"/"city rats"/"gritty stats"/"chicks be at"/"chitty-chat"/"pity that." "Instincts"/"pink drinks." Any questions? A-

MF Doom: Mm . . Food? [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2004]
Eat the theme up with your mouth Doom ("Hoecakes," "Kon Queso"). ***

MF Doom: Live From Planet X [Nature Sounds, 2005]
Scoff all you like at the very notion of a live rap album, but just remember--no skits ("Name Dropping," "I Hear Voices"). **

Danger Doom: The Mouse and the Mask [Epitaph, 2005]
I've seen enough Adult Swim to agree with Epitaph prexy Andy Kaulkin: "Danger Mouse and Doom [which I refuse to uppercase--R.C.] are both brilliant at taking chunks of popular culture and shaping them into art [I would say more art--R.C.]. The context of Adult Swim makes this already promising collaboration truly inspired." Both guys are so irrepressibly playful that they get serious at their peril--they're better off as a nonstop musical goof. Fave detail: Doom's rhyming of the ancient usages "beer and skittles" (meaning ninepins, not some modern candy or long-lost salty snack) and "jot and tittle." I promise to watch the DVD. A-

Madlib: The Other Side: Los Angeles [Time Out/Deaf Dumb + Blind, 2007]
Afrocentric mixmaster's multiculture speaks only da English--but in a beatful way (Outlaw Blues Band, "Deep Guilty"; Steve Grossman, "Inmate Man"). **

Madlib: Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6: A Tribute to . . . [Stones Throw, 2009]
J Dilla for Dummies (like me), in 42 shifting pieces ("King Chop [Top Line]," "Never Front [Ears Up]"). *

Doom: Born Like This [Lex, 2009]
Doom is like some vaudevillian who can make people laugh by tying his shoelace. He starts being funny when he opens his mouth. It helps that, as Sasha Frere-Jones once observed, his tongue is apparently too big for said mouth, but the clincher is how gracefully this klutz skates over the oddly rolling beats of J Dilla, Jake One and the Metal Fingered Villain . . . Doom (ellipsis in original). Not only that, he rhymes! Else only backpackers would give a shine! It's not just about supervillains, nuclear devastation and Batman being gay. It's about how when Batman is gay you can link "retard" to "leotard" for all eternity. A-

MF Doom Featuring Big Benn Klingon: Expektoration . . . Live [Gold Dust, 2010]
Quashing those imposter rumors, Daniel Dumile fully inhabits his signature persona to reprise Mm.. Food and Operation: Doomsday stuff not quite like the originals ("Act 2") **

JJ Doom: Key to the Kuffs [Lex, 2012]
After 2009's Born Like This I lost track of this London-born, Long Island-raised Trinidadian-Zimbabwean MC, whose sibilantly mush-mouthed flow has long rippled and pooled comically and imperturbably over signifying beats and spoken-word samples often his own. It didn't help that the former Daniel Dumile changed his handle from MF Doom, or that where MF stood for various things, the obvious never explicitly one of them, JJ merely honors his new beatmaking partner Jneiro Jarel. Nor did it help that he was compelled by the INS to resettle in London, apparently because he never became a U.S. citizen. So on his 2012 album this hyperaware jokester plays the Brit. One track goes on about "Cockney rhymin' slang," and then there's "Guv'nor," hardly the only song where the political mindfulness that's always been there becomes a focus rather than a substratum. Here be GMOs and dead Indians and food and water as a "secure investment" and an earthquake in Iceland and a discourse on melanin. Here also be the priceless couplet: "Not to interrupt / But anybody else notice time speeding up?" A-

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib: Piñata [Madlib Invazion, 2014]
Fabulous beats, absolutely, only . . . sorry, I know this is esoteric, but . . . Freddie Gibbs is to Rick Ross as Ryan Bingham is to Luke Bryan--"realer," but not therefore worthier ("High," "Broken") *

JJ Doom: Bookhead EP [Lex EP, 2014]
These repurposed bonus tracks from the "Butter Edition" of Key to the Kuffs cue Doom up at his most musical and connected, with guest productions so compelling they put Jarel's functional beats in perspective. The rhymes tend bleak, mad, kind of fucked up. Mixes by Beck, Jonny Greenwood, and others accept the mood for what it is and put the haunted, stormy, convulsive thing across. B+