Review #365: Madvillainy, Madvillain

Karla Clifton
3 min readMar 27, 2023

#365: Madvillainy, Madvillain

It’s always a treat when RS reviews a post-2000 album. They don’t know how to talk about anything post 1970. This one literally ends with RS saying “Hell yeah!” Gosh, they sound like me.

In fairness, this record is a tough one to review. Midway through my first listen of this album (“Strange Ways”), my boyfriend said, “This one is all blending together for me.” It feels a bit like a musical collage. A couple of them (“Bistro,” “Sickfit,” “Supervillain Theme”) are just under or over a minute long. But the collage effect accomplishes exactly what Madvillain is intending to accomplish.

So back up — who the hell is Madvillain? No one, really. It’s a collaboration between producer Madlib (“Mind Altering Demented Lessons In Beats,” natch) and rapper MF DOOM (yes, it’s in “All Caps”). Their contributions to the album meld together in a really beautiful way. Demos of this record reportedly leaked online, which pissed the both of them off so bad that they almost didn’t complete it. Luckily, they got over it.

Madlib is a madman. Check out his Wikipedia page — he’s done about a thousand collabs with other people, including Talib Kweli and J Dilla (who we’ll see at #386). He reportedly made these beats in a hotel room in Brazil. And I was fascinated by his sampling instincts right from the start, from the horror movie screams on “The Illest Villain” to the Street Fighter II video game samples on “Do Not Fire!” to the extremely gross sex noises on “Hardcore Hustle.” (See also “Raid,” “Rainbows,” “Meat Grinder,” and “Curls” for some wild sampling.) He also makes a few rapping appearances, as his alter ego Quasimoto. (See “Shadows of Tomorrow” for a verse with an extremely unique vocal effect.)

This is widely considered to be MF DOOM’s (all caps!) masterpiece, ranked even above his solo projects. DOOM has a cult following and a badass mask — that’s him on the album’s cover, rocking all that metal. My favorite fun fact about him is that he used to send “imposters” to take the stage and rap for him, royally pissing off fans. And he responded by saying that he “might send a white dude next.” Brilliant.

Mos Def has said that DOOM “rhymes as weird as I feel,” and I think that about sums it up. He’s weird! He’s clever! He’s hilarious! Favorite moments include “Accordion,” where he accuses a rival of having More cheese than Doritos, Cheetos or Fritos, and “Figaro,” where he asks Where my n**** go? Figaro, Figaro. Similar hilarity on “Money Folder,” “Great Day,” and (another favorite) “Fancy Clown.” But the funniest bait-and-switch for me was “Operation Lifesaver aka Mint Test,” which sounds like it might be the record’s only tender moment until you realize that it’s about a girl he’s kissing with bad breath. This album is what the website Genius is for.

Most of these songs are short, but I liked the long ones, the one where DOOM gets to stretch his legs and talk about the real issues. Like weed, on “America’s Most Blunted,” which ends with a kiddie chant of Mari-juana! Their encore song is “Rhinestone Cowboy,” named after a Glenn Campbell song, and features all the applause it deserves.

The two were actually working on a follow-up to this record when DOOM died on Halloween 2020 in London, the same place he was born.So unfortunately, the world will never know if the sequel would be as masterful as the original.

Best Feature: Stacy Epps, who sounds like she’s singing underwater on “Eye.”

Review #364: More Songs About Buildings and Food, Talking Heads

Review #366: Rocks, Aerosmith