It's not wise to mess with a hip-hop classic, which Madvillain's Madvillainy definitely is... but if you're half of the duo that made the album in the first place - and really, it's just a mixtape you made for yourself to listen to on a flight to Tokyo - you can make an exception. And even when he's just goofing around in the studio, Madlib is on point, recasting his collaboration with MF Doom using snatches of soul and rough beats.
Most discerning hip-hop fans will tell you that the album by New York underground legend MF Doom and West Coast producer extraordinaire Madlib, "Madvillainy," is a hands-down classic. And we all know it’s not wise to mess with a classic.
And really, "Madvillainy 2: the Madlib Remix" wasn’t meant to be an album at all. It was just a mix that Madlib made to pass the time on a flight to Tokyo. But more than likely, as it got passed around to friends, more and more got to nodding their heads, and now, it’s available as a $9.99 MP3 download on Stones Throw Records Web site, and also as a box set that comes with a t-shirt, comic book and more.
Back to the album. As a companion piece to the original disc, "Madvillainy 2" succeeds, but on its own, it’s notable more for the scattered moments of excellence as Madlib sifts through records and makes a mixtape for himself.
The complex work that informs much of Madlib’s formal albums is absent here; instead, snatches of soul, funk and world music are blended together for a grainy, rough sound that suits Doom’s gruff flow.
The opener, “No Brain” recasts Madvillain’s “Figaro” by mashing up a few seconds of Brasilian tropicalia with a soul loop or two, and bounces along nicely. “Light of the Past” is the version of “Shadows of Tomorrow” that should have been on the regular album, propelled by a bass drum, wood blocks and a triangle. Elsewhere, a rough-and-tumble funk loop drives “3.214,” big, corny ‘80s synths power “Sermon,” and “Cold One” closes the album with keyboard echoes and jazz drums.
The disc also has a few songs that have appeared elsewhere, including the newest Madvillain song, “Monkey Suit,” and a great remix of “Space Ho’s,” from Doom’s "Mouse and the Mask" album, that sounds like a 1950s cleanser commercial.
If you don’t have the original "Madvillain" album, go out and get it first. But for a quick look at what can happen when hip-hop’s jazzy, abstract genius is just making music for himself, "Madvillainy 2" is a nice appendix.
Download the album or order the box set here.