Madvillainy, Madvillain

Madvillainy, Madvillain

Stones Throw, 2004

Madvillainy, the crazy collaboration of underground rap artists under the name of Madvillain, the crazy super-villains. Not evolving quite in the same environment, the two were not necessarily brought to meet.

Madlib is a talented producer, known notably for his remixes works of the Blue Note Records collection on Shades of Blue. If you are interested in Jazz, you will find remixes of very famous artists like Donald Byrd, Ronnie Foster, Gene Harris or Herbie Hancock. Personally, Madlib gave me the love of Jazz through this album. Other than Shades Of Blue, we can find his production work with his alter-ego Quasimoto or artists like Lootpack.

MF Doom on his side became known at the beginning of the 90s under the pseudo Zev Luv X within the group KMD with his late brother DJ Subroc. After a long absence on the musical scene following the death of his brother, he will mark his return on the underground scene with Operation Doomsday in 1999 before some other projects under his aliases Viktor Vaughn or King Geedorah.

It is indeed the love of music that gathers the two. In 2001, fascinated by Doom’s work, Madlib sent him a demo with some beats through a common friend. We know what follows, the two meet to work together on a common project. During 15 days, the two of them create a strong friendship where they spend most of their time in the Stones Throw studio. They would have made over 100 beats during this period, very few of which would finally be retained for the album. Outside the studio, they are constantly together, meeting around their common passions for beers, weed or taking hallucinogenic mushrooms. Tracks like Figaro or Meat Grinder would have been recorded at this period.


I did most of the Madvillain album in Brazil. Cuts like “Raid” I did in my hotel room in Brazil on a portable turntable, my 303, and a little tape deck. I recorded it on tape, came back here, put it on CD, and Doom made a song out of it.

It is during Madlib’s trip to Brazil for the Red Bull Music Academy that Madlib will realize alone the major part of the production of the album in his hotel room with a rudimentary equipment, a sampler and a portable vinyl turntable. The producer would have randomly bought boxes of vinyl on site, vinyl that he would leave in his hotel room. As Madlib stated in an interview.

The result is as eclectic as magically messy. A crazy conceptual album like Hip Hop has never known. The short tracks, mostly under 3 minutes, and the near absence of choruses are what make this album so ingenious. Sometimes futuristic, sometimes obscure, sometimes retro-jazzy, the beats incorporate samples of all kinds, from jazz to soul while integrating Indian music, Shadows of Tomorrow, or Brazilian, Curls. The raging accordion of Accordion is as crazy as it is inventive, who would have used an accordion in a rap beat?

The overall atmosphere is difficult to identify because of the musical diversity of the samples, yet the album does not lose coherence. We find the murderous madness of a Kool Keith and his Dr Octagon. Madvillainy doesn’t allow to master the madness but amplifies it with an unhealthy atmosphere perfect for the dementia of the masked super-villain.

The artist with multiple alter-egos adopts a relaxed and slow flow, with a low voice. The lyrics display a clever complexity, introducing countless puns, innuendos and figures of speech, including alliteration and multi-syllable rhymes. The song Fancy Clown is a metaphor in itself, the “fancy clown” seems to be a lost soul in this unhealthy world.

MF Doom

Don’t make me have to pound his tin crown face in
And risk being jammed up like traffic inbound from spacing

His rhymes, off the beat, move into the middle of the next line and work their way through entire verses throughout the song, for a consistently smooth delivery. The beats are definitely cut for Doom’s drunken, mumbled flow, very noticeable on Rainbows or Figaro. 

The two artists take us on a crazy journey through their acid soaked brains. They break the rhythms and allow themselves the greatest eccentricities. The beauty of Madvillainy is the mixture of disparate elements that at first glance would not work together. Yet their geniuses manage to defy the laws of music for an album outside of time.

By Grégoire Zasa

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