“V, the lead brown man and never count your chickens before you read SoundScan,” raps Viktor Vaughn on “G.M.C.” Viktor Vaughn may be worried about sales, but MF Doom clearly isn’t. In the world of hip-hop, Doom has carved himself too many niches to truly gain a popular foothold. When every album you record comes out under a different name, you’re pretty much destined for obscurity, regardless of how prolific you are. But here at Prefix, we let it be known: Viktor Vaughn is MF Doom. MF Doom knows what he’s doing.
And Vaudeville Villain is an essential record in any hip-hop collection.
Only a few months removed from the release of Take Me to Your Leader under the guise of a space monster named King Geedorah (and not long before the upcoming release of Madvillain, a collaboration with fellow workaholic Madlib), Doom comes back as the small time hood/aspiring emcee Vaughn. Like Take Me to Your Leader, Vaudeville Villain is punctuated with B-movie samples that tell a semi-coherent story, but more importantly, endow the album with a dark sci-fi sensibility that combines retro sounds with innovative beats.
Where the tracks on Leader never strayed far from their sampled melodies, producers King Honey and Heat Sensor (as well as Rjd2 and Mr. Ten on one track each) work magic by taking smaller bites of madness and whipping them into erratic masterpieces. The sinister pinging of “Lactose and Lecithin” bouncing off the snapping snares, the abbreviated evil of “Popsnot,” the Prefuse-esque glitch of “Raedawn” — the highlights beat-wise are too numerous to pin down. This is one of those albums where everyone you know has a different favorite track, yet no one can really argue with anyone else’s assessment.
Doom effortlessly holds the album together. His choppy flows are a perfect complement to the beats, and his gravelly voice works with the dark theme of the album. Morphing into his characters like a skilled method actor, Doom has no qualms about showing weakness, as Vik Vaughn ruins a budding romance on “Let me Watch,” gets shot at by an elderly woman on “Modern Day Mugging,” and gets his locker broken into on “Never Dead.” Guest emcees Lord Sear, M.Sayyid (of the now-defunct Anti-pop Consortium and currently of Airborne Audio) and Apani Be Fly provide contrast to Doom’s raspy vocals. Even Louis Logic outdoes himself here, and his verse on “Open Mic Nite Pt. 1” is ten times better than his performances on his latest record.
Anything Doom puts out is highly anticipated by true hip-hop heads at this point in his career, and Vaudeville Villain shows us why: he always delivers. From his early work with KMD as Zev Love X to Operation! Doomsday, and now with his shape-shifting cast of character albums, he’s cementing his place at the top of the pile. Villain is another chapter in that story, and if you consider yourself a hip-hop fan, you’d be a fool to pass up this record.