Label: Stones Throw Records
I liked Hip Hop when I was a little kid. I wasn’t heavy into it, my parents were still relatively strict at this point, so they tried to control what I was exposed to where possible. Plus this was the mid 90’s, so it was pre-internet explosion. But I knew who Wu-Tang were, I knew 2Pac, Biggie, Beastie Boys, Cypress Hill, Coolio, Luniz - I was a kid!! I had a few tapes with stuff compiled together. But as I got a bit older, I discovered punk rock and that was it - I was in the firm grip of The Offspring and Sick Of It All, and I consumed punk rock bands as fast as I could find new names written in the liner notes ‘Thank You’ section of albums I owned. The next few years I was on a mission to hear and lay my hands on eveything from Epitaph, Fat Wreck Chords, Kung Fu, etc etc
I didn’t completely turn my back on Hip Hop though. I got into Dilated Peoples amazing ‘Expansion Team’ album, I had some Jurassic 5, and of course as I became a lover of smoking pot I still played Cypress Hill. But in 2005 I discovered two acts, thanks to a compilation called ‘Punk-O-Rama’. One act was Atmosphere, and the other was DangerDoom. It was like the first time you you took LSD, or had a near-death experience - my mind expanded. Hip Hop had been hidden from me, but now I had managed to find some whole new secret world.
Doom’s drawl, dribbling so precisely over beats, was hypnotic. I needed more. Luckily, a friend called TJ who was way cooler than me had some more - he had the ‘Madvillainy’ album. It was perfect from start to finish. Weird tv samples. Comic book references. Jazz loops. Dusty Drums. Drug references. Enigmatic guest spots such as Quasimoto. Fantastic wordplay. It wasn’t hyped up, shouty, in your face rap about guns and cars. In fact, there isn’t really a hook or chorus on the entire album. The closest we probably get to a hook is the line “America’s most blunted”. Yet despite neglecting one of the most fundamental parts of formal, successful song structuring, ‘Madvillainy’ prevailed. It had a great impact at the time, people waxing lyrical about a Hip Hop album arguably for the first time since 1993. What was it?! Well, it demanded that you nod your head, but surely that on its own is not enough?! I think it partly comes down to that unique pairing of Madlib and Doom as artists. By this time Hip Hop had become about celebrity; how you looked, what your name was, where you were from, who you were signed to, who you had beef with, and who shot you. ‘Madvillainy’ helped to turn that on its head. They remained enigmatic. They brought the attention back to the music, to the craft of Hip Hop. What they presented was an antithesis to the established, mainstream version of Hip Hop. They weren’t the first to do this, in fact the two artists themselves had already crafted some amazing alternative Hip Hop work by this stage. But this album has something special that you can’t entirely put your finger on.
It arguably has not been replicated since. Madlib and Doom have remained underground Hip Hop cult icons, but they have never broke out into the spotlight. There are still multitudes of ‘Hip Hop Heads’ that have no idea who either of these two artists are. Of course, The Converted prefer it that way. It is collectively our secret, and we nod to each other when we pass each other in the street. Plus, despite the reverence for this album, Madlib and Doom have never teamed up to produce a real follow up, heightening the enigmatic nature of this first album. We The Converted are also okay with this. Another Madvillain project would be awesome, but the one they have graced us with is so perfect, that we are happy with what we have. This album celebrates its 12th birthday today, being released on the 19th March 2004. Boost a philly. Turn a Newport Light into a joint right before your eyes. Listen to this album. Celebrate America’s Most Blunted.