As the story goes, Madlib impatient and wanting Doom to record new tracks for the official sequel to the 2005 classic, Madvillainy, went ahead and “reworked” the original album, with all new beats and skits. First released as an elaborate Stones Throw box set, this $125 package (yes, you read that correctly), included the CD, plus several trinkets and doodads, such as cassette and 7” versions, all packaged nicely in a fresh looking Jeff Jank designed ensemble. The other option was to purchase the not-so-beautiful, invisible version of the album in MP3 format, as currently no stand alone CD or vinyl editions are available.
You know the music industry is in bad shape when an ultimatum like this is presented to the listeners, leaving most to say to themselves, “fuck it”, and simply download the album for free, illegally. It’s not like anyone was going to buy a CD or vinyl in this day and age anyway though, right? Certainly the rush to grab the limited edition box set, as well as the “take-it-or-leave-it” digital edition made Stones Throw a comparable sum of money, making up for any losses they might have seen last year with the steady decline of their regular CD and vinyl sales. Despite the condition labels like Stones Throw are finding themselves in these days, if Madvillainy 2 had delivered musically like its predecessor, this wouldn’t look like such a (gorgeously packaged) money-grab. Hey, we don’t fault them for it, it is what it is.
As far as Madvillainy 2 is concerned, musically the biggest challenge it faces, is being compared to its predecessor, Madvillainy. An underground classic in it’s own right, this was a collaboration between super-producer Madlib and super-villain MF Doom, hence the name. The chemistry between the two was perfect, sewn together with obscure samples from Fantastic Four records of the 1970’s, carrying the album’s theme on perfectly. Based on it’s sound, it’s evident Doom picked his favorite beats from Madlib’s masters, and magic was made.
Madvillany 2 however, is a bit of a misleading title, as a more appropriate title may have been Madvillany 1.5, as this isn’t exactly a “part two”, but instead a remix album. Secondly, while Doom’s vocals are present, this is not exactly collaboration between two artists, but one artist remixing another’s vocals, so even the Madvillain part of the title is a little nervous. It’s unclear what kind of creative input Doom may have had here, if any, but the production here sounds much more like a Quasimoto LP than a Madvillain sequel. Gone are the appropriate Marvel Comics read-a-long record samples, instead replaced with a random assortment of Redd Foxx bits and vintage British cult films, having little to do with Doom’s subject matter. Clearly Madlib has taken the front seat here, allowing skits and instrumentals to ramble on for minutes at a time, leaving the listeners wondering where Doom’s at.
Further misleading is that all of the song titles have been changed, or altered in some way. For example, “Curls” is now “Pearls”, “Figaro” is now “No Brain”, etc. We suppose this can be justified in the interest of artistic vision, since the song structure and track order of the original LP has been completely reworked. But again, we feel bad for the kid who leapt and spent $125 on Madvillainy 2 without reading the fine print (“this is the remix”). Well shit, if he has that kind of money to burn, we don’t feel that bad for him.
The biggest issue with all of this though is in the production itself. Madlib has a few fresh remixes here, “Bolder Holder” (aka “Money Folder”), for instance, maintains it’s original integrity as Madlib flips an(other) old jazz standard. But the difference in quality is evident when fish-out-of-water Madlib remix of “Space Hos” (from Danger Doom) presents a much fuller sound and style more akin to Doom’s liking than anything else on the album. Reason being, this song was remixed two years ago and previously released. When compared to much of the album’s other newer lo-fi, experimental renditions, it sticks out like a (really dope) sore thumb. Meanwhile, a couple of leftover collabos not included on the original Madvillainy, such as “Monkey Suite” and “One Beer” (now “Cold One”) also resurface here, which sort of help make this sound like an official sequel, but not enough.
It’s clear that with the passing of J. Dilla that Madlib has felt the need to help carry the torch for the sound Dilla established with Donuts, and that off-kilter style is manifesting itself in the production on Madvillainy 2. Unfortunately, this style of production doesn’t fit Doom quite as well as it does, say, Quasimoto, and coupled with these old verses, the result is a disappointing sequel. We totally get the science behind Madvillainy 2’s release, all of it speaks loud and clear to the listeners, many whom have stopped supporting Stones Throw all together by not purchasing music legally. While this release sort of forced the hand of people who hadn’t paid for music in over a year, ultimately it’s bittersweet. Everything about Madvillainy 2 – the price, the availability, and the quality of the music itself – is unfortunately a result of the music industry’s current battle. – D.T. Swinga
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