Reviewed by Robert Gabriel, Fri., April 16, 2004
MadvillainMadvillainy (Stones Throw) A vibraphone sample morphed into shards, drum kicks smeared across cinematic memories, and clanging guitar patterned in its conjecture all coalesce as Metal Face quips "you heard it on the radio, tape it, play it in your stereo, your crew will go ape-shit." Madlib and MF Doom split personalities with the sweeping precision of "a real butterball: Either I get a strike or strike out, gutter ball." As Madlib throws on the skins of Weldon Irvine, Jaco Pastorius, and Sun Ra by way of his SP1200 reanimation device, MF Doom ushers in the diabolical ceremony with uncanny postulates such as "it's too hot to handle, you got beef sandals." Clandestine, sinister, otherworldly, "known to smoke a whole mountain of hash to the ash," Madvillainy is a gutbucket jazz quintet's comic-book nightmare come to life. Not only does it capture the unstructured verse of a masked maniac within a sheer net of plausibility, it parades his inner dementia among instrumental adornments of the highest order. As the playfulness of "America's Most Blunted" provides only a fraction of the story, "Fancy Clown" clings to the album's dissonant underbelly with ulcerated thoughts of "I gave up the skirt, now I gotta hear from the street, how dare you drag my name in the dirt and cheat." While "Strange Ways" considers why "some will go of their own free will to die, others take them with you when they blow sky high," "Great Day Today" settles on the hope that you "get it like a whooping when you holler at your seniors." Putting the challenge back in hip-hop, Madvillainy musically dares you to "slip like Freudian, the first and last step to playing yourself like accordion."