Evil Wayz

Evil Wayz

  • Kevin Hainey
  • Eye
  • April 01, 2004

Hip-hop is already hard-pressed to produce a better album than Madvillain’s Madvillainy this year — or next. “Simply smashing in a fashion that’s timely / Madvillain dashing in a beat rhyme crime spree” is how MF DOOM phrases its successes in “Rhinestone Cowboy,” and it couldn’t be more precise — masked ice-pick-sharp MC DOOM and mastermind beat-conductor Madlib have joined forces as Madvillain to nab a fresh fusionist stash of all things jazzy and soulful right out from under the noses of their contemporaries, and there’s no stopping their getaway. On the phone from LA, the eternally blunted Madlib makes their achievements sound a touch more modest: “DOOM came out for a couple weeks to LA and we just faded and did what we had to do.”

Bottom line: Madvillainy is more addictive than crack. It’s especially ideal that such a dope opus is being dealt by legendary beat-miner Peanut Butter Wolf’s private Stones Throw label since it’s arguably the finest indie hip-hop distributor running, and it’s the space that Madlib’s otherworldly “invazions” have called the place since he first emerged with his crew, Lootpack, in the mid-’90s.

Peanut Butter Wolf breaks down their beginnings like this: “I heard that first Lootpack EP [1996’s Ill Psych Move] that Madlib’s dad put out, so I called the number on the back and told them I wanted to get it distributed by the company I was working with at the time. When I met with them, they knew about Stones Throw and we talked about putting out their stuff. I remember back then I didn’t even know that Madlib made the beats, I assumed he just rhymed and that DJ Romes made the beats.”

Drawing as much influence from jazz, soul and dub as he does from hiphop, Madlib is to the SP 1200 sampler what Ahmad Jamal is to jazz piano: an audacious innovator who explores tension, understatement and depth rather than flashy displays. Since Lootpack dispersed “Like yin and yang,” Madlib has broken out solo as Quasimoto and Yesterdays New Quintet (whose tribute to the Wonder, Stevie, drops April 20), mixed entire albums from the Trojan and Blue Note vaults and hooked up with crown prince of bounce Jay Dee as Jaylib. Quasimoto’s 2000 debut, The Unseen, has been hailed as one of the most important hip-hop albums of this fresh century, but with Madvillainy the man’s giving himself a run for his money.

When a highly weeded and chilledout Madlib calls me up between dayand night-long sessions in his recently built home studio (where he’s hard at play producing Percy P’s debut), he drops some insight into how Madvillain came to be.

“When I realized DOOM did all the beats and rhymes and cuts on his Operation: Doomsday — that was one of my favourite albums, lyric-wise and beat-wise for that year [2000] — I tried to see if I could link up with him,” says Madlib in a molasses-slow drawl. “My man Egon from Stones Throw got in contact with him but he didn’t really know too much of me and my music at the time, so Egon sent him a package of things and he was ready to work like the next day.”

When I check in with DOOM, he’s cruising around his current hometown of Atlanta running errands. He recalls hearing Madlib’s Quasimoto and Quintet work for the first time. “I was like, ‘Yo — this cat is ill!,’” says DOOM, who assures me there’s already a second Madvillain album in the works. “With as many beats as he gave me, I got enough to probably do, like, 12 albums.”

Rhyming since 1982, DOOM is no newbie to the MCs’ world. Originally dubbed Zev Love X, he made his debut on 3rd Bass’s classic track “The Gas Face” in 1989, and broke ground with DJ Sub-Roc as KMD in the 1990s before busting out on his own as MF DOOM, King Geedorah and Viktor Vaughn — his comicbookinspired alter egos. Despite all of his experience, DOOM is now gaining more recognition than ever for his befuddling rhymes and baffling flows.

DOOM explains his unique lyrical style as a mixture of freestyle and composition. “When I hear a beat, that gives me an initial thought,” he says. “Whatever that thought is, I just go with it. But instead of recording it right there, I’ll just be writing down the good parts — that sets the framework. Then after that, I’ll fill it in and edit it all later.” Says Madlib, “He’s an MC that can overpower the beats because he’s got a lot of crazy words. Witty and shit… good punchlines and shit… topics.”

Another old-school veteran, Peanut Butter Wolf, recalls meeting the widely respected DOOM. “I’ve always been a big fan of DOOM. The first time I picked him up at the airport I was kind of nervous, like, ‘Shit, I gotta drive this guy around? I hope I don’t crash!’”

Luckily they didn’t, but Madvillain will be crashing Revival this Wednesday with their exclusive four-date record-release party (which also drops down into LA, San Francisco and New York). Filling out the evening’s stellar roster will be a Jaylib set with the Beat Junkies’ prodigious J-Rocc stepping in for Jay Dee while Madlib rocks the mic, and DJ excursions through funky history courtesy of PB Wolf and Egon, who manages Stones Throw along with his own music career and label Now-Again.

“Toronto has been one of the most supportive cities for Stones Throw events in the past three or four years, and they’ve always been off the hook,” says Egon. “It just makes sense to come there since Toronto is hiphop’s cultural centre of Canada.”

So what can you count on expecting from this Wednesday’s show? As DOOM spits it on Madvillainy’s “Raid,” “Folks leave out the show feeling truly enlightened.” And this is no villainous exaggeration — hip-hop comes as natural to these cats as… well, as Madlib sayd, “Music is my life, basically. It’s like water or weed.”