Madvillain - Madvillainy (2004), 6/10

The infamous duo crafted one of the most undeniably innovative and technically flawless works of production in Madvillainy. Both Madlib and MF Doom had already established themselves as remarkably individually talented in all aspects of lyricism, production, and sampling, yet their collaborative project signals a peak of powers for both artists. Doom established his presence with Operation: Doomsday and the Special Herbs series while Madlib launched into the new millennium as Lord Quas with The Unseen displaying his potential as both a lyricist and master sampler. Still, Maddvillainy exists as its own living organism birthed from this meeting of minds. While not exactly thematically flawless, the album is a standard for creative sampling, mixing, songwriting, lyricism, and narrative presentation in hip hop. It has some of the greatest individual songs in the genre from multiple perspectives and has a remarkably consistent feeling despite exploring so many different approaches to song crafting and use of textures. Even the instrumental tracks such as “Do Not Fire!” tell a story through Madlib’s creative approach to tape manipulation. Like many other great albums, the experience starts off strong and continues to develop new sounds throughout its play time, never letting off the creative gas and persisting in its pursuit of artful hip hop from all angles. While not every track is as immediately capturing and obviously infectious as “Accordion” or “Raid” they all contribute something meaningful to the larger project. Even a track like “Shadows of Tomorrow” that would sound entirely at home on Quas’ The Unseen enhances the progression of the album and contributes to the futuristic mindset behind the music. This consideration for the past, present and future is something that begins early and never subsides; partly what makes the album uniquely interesting and long-lasting. There are a few filler tracks that could be shaved off to make the album more consistently moving such as “Rainbows”, “Hardcore Hustle”, or “Eye”, especially considering its solid length of forty-six minutes. Regardless, it is one of the most consistent albums in modern hip hop and has garnered such a positive critical perception for good reason.