Saturday, July 28, 2007

Viktor Vaughn / "Vaudeville Villain"

To pass the time until I can receive and review the new Okkervil River album, here's a look back at one of my favorite hip-hop albums featuring one of my favorite emcees (MF Doom). 2003 was a great year for Daniel Dumile (aka MF Doom, aka King Geedorah, aka Madvillain, aka Danger Doom, aka...). His recording "Take Me to Your Leader" under the alias King Geedorah was one of the most bizarre yet compelling hip-hop albums of the decade; he was just finishing up "Madvillainy" as Madvillain, which would go on to be one of the most acclaimed albums of 2004. But the real highlight was his debut under the alias Viktor Vaughn: "Vaudeville Villain."

Unlike most of Doom's recordings up to this point, he did very little of the production work on this album. He instead handed those duties over to legendary underground hip-hop producer RJD2 and an accompanying group of little known producers (King Honey, Heat Sensor, Max Bill). The aim is clear: Dumile wanted this album/alias to be distinct and separate from his previous work. Instead of his production being the focus (he famously used made a beat using the theme song to "Scooby-Doo" on his landmark album "Operartion Doomsday" under MF Doom) of the album, his delivery is front, center, and drawing all possible attention. He drops more classic lines on each track than most rappers can pull off on an entire album or more.

"V bring the beef like a trucker to Fuddrucker / Delivery to all y'all motherfuckers and bloodsuckers."

"Holy Moses, my old earth know me closest / On how I played it back and stayed bent like scoliosis."

"It's like a barbecue all swine cookout / To fuck up they plans like a blind man look out."

Dumile has long-stood as one of rap's finest (yet most bizarre) lyricists, and he takes both to another level on "VV." He even takes a rare serious turn on tracks like "Let Me Watch," which deals with a young girl (young enough that her mom thinks she's "too young to date") falling quickly in love with Vik, only to find out that he isn't the man she thinks he is and that his maturity is actually substantially lower than her's. The guest spots, particularly on the two "Open Mic Night" tracks are generally hits though there are admittedly a miss or two. As an added bonus, the skits are kept to a minimum, always a pleasant surprise on a hip-hop album.

"Vaudeville Villain" is the highest point in the consistently great catalogue of Daniel Dumile and I cannot recommend it strongly enough. Whether you are a strong hip-hop fan, a casual listener, or even mostly indifferent to the genre, this album will have you listening to it many many times, with each listen trying to catch yet another swift and intelligent wordplay you'd missed the time before.

Rating: 9.3

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