Published in UIC Radio
By the year 2004, California label Stones Throw was reaching the peak of its Hip-Hop relevance. Two years before J Dilla’s posthumous album, Donuts, released in 2006, the label was scourging for underground Hip-Hop figures that could best suit their mysterious and subliminal caricature.
At this point, artists such as J Dilla and Peanut Butter Wolfe (the label’s founder) were creating a buzz within the scene. Until 2004, Stones Throw relied on the shimmering figure of the artists to perforate the label’s name beyond the west coast. The perfect duo to execute that ideal was the label’s sampling martyr, Madlib, and the quirky and puzzlingly animated lyricist, MF Doom.
Image from stonesthrow.com
Madvillainy was in production for nearly two years, with Madlib and Doom going back and forth with creative altercations, working to find perfect harmony. In an interview held at the Red Bull Music Academy in 2011, Doom exclaimed about the process him and Madlib had gone through. He would emphasize the process being mostly an isolated experience, with him and Madlib working in different rooms most of the time. Madlib would pitch in the beat, as Doom would rehearse his bars over the cadence.
The work amassed to a twenty-track catalog. Through the established notoriety of these two figures, the album managed to garner the attention from the dedicated followers of the underground movement. However, throughout the decade, the album went from an underground masterpiece to a studied threshold in Hip-Hop history.
There seems to be a no better example of a perfect balance between two creatives. Madlib already proved himself to be a master of sound in his previous works, which was a no-brainer that the production of the album would serve to bewilder the common mass.
Image from stonesthrow.bandcamp.com
To only further the rage, Doom comes in with his poetic, whimsical, and abstract penmanship. The way Doom wrote his lyrics and expressed his vernacular was a staple of his character. His references were subliminal, hidden within the whirlwind of humorous settings and colored characters.
No other rapper to this point perfectly emulates his style. The perfect song that exemplifies this is the song entitled Curls. With Madlib warping his MPC around the sample of Waldir Calmon’s ‘Airport Love Theme,’ Doom envelopes the atmosphere with his witty and breathless flow.
“If you want a sip, get a paper water fountain glass. How I’m supposed to know where your mouth been last? Hands so fast he can out-spin the Flash.”
Here, he mentions the immaculate skill set of both Madlib and himself in these three lines.
Image from nts.live (Waldir Calmon)
A decade and a half later, this album still established a cultural shift within Hip-Hop’s scope. Much of Hip-Hop’s following opened their horizons and accepted the underground movement as a necessary process of the genre’s evolution. From the demonstration that these two led, Hip-Hop has now expanded its boundaries further for other-worldly sounds.
Hip-Hop can be about whatever you rap about and whatever sounds you want to use, as long as it’s dope and can reciprocate with the listener. Quoting Doom himself:
“It’s about where you’re coming from. You’re your heart. What’s the message, what you got to say? That’s mainly why I brought the mask into the fold.”