The Best of KMD/Madvillainy (Nature Sounds/Stones Throw)

Apr 7, 2004 at 4:00 am
Hold it right there, kid. Before you go and jump on MF Doom's stainless-steel jock and proclaim him "the only hip-hop MC still getting stupid-fresh in the zero-quatro" or something, you'd best read up on his backstory. After all, one doesn't just become a supervillain overnight. As any comic book worth its pulp will tell you, most antiheroes were once good guys, until unforeseen circumstances forever altered their personae. In Doom's case, it was the death of his brother and DJ, Subroc -- followed by a horribly disfiguring accident -- that caused him to change from Zeblove X (the clever-tongued MC of Afrocentric Age group KMD) into Viktor Vaughn (Doom's alter ego and metal-faced phantom of the hip-hopera).

Imagine A Tribe Called Quest with a slightly harder edge and just as much love for the boom-bip -- that's what KMD was all about. The Best of KMD contains both of the group's fabled studio albums back-to-back, which means you can finally replace that 20th-generation cassette you've carried around forever. The 1991 offering Mr. Hood is exemplified by the coming-of-age classic "Peachfuzz," yet it also contains some nifty beats (and utterly brilliant samples) that reveal the late Subroc to be a musical genius. Meanwhile, 1993's Black Bastards is just as sublime, but with a much darker tone, as evidenced by the single "What a Niggy Know," which addresses racial stereotyping and cultural identity over what could be a Level 42 or Scritti Politti sample.

As for Madvillainy, the highly anticipated meeting between MF Doom and superstar producer Madlib, it has a Marvel Team-Up-worthy quality that's just what you'd expect from America's Most Blunted characters. Viktor Vaughn may be a "Fancy Clown," but he packs a still-amazing flow, while Madlib has finally found a suitable foil for his fiendish sonic experiments. You don't need to kill a million people on your album when you can slay 'em with metaphors, and that's just what happens on tracks such as "Meat Grinder," "Money Folder" and "Hardcore Hustle." Madlib flexes his beat-making powers on the instrumental "Supervillain Theme," but it's Vaughn who carries the album with his megalomaniacal delusions of grandeur, which actually do sound quite epic. If Marvin the Martian made an album with Magneto, it would sound an awful lot like Madvillainy.