top of page

Timeless Affairs: Madvillainy

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

Welcome to Timeless Affairs, a corner within Steppin' Into Tomorrow, where we shine a light on essential albums that have shaped our culture (and lives in many cases). We lovingly revisit, explore and zoom in on these gems in their full length. Digging out stories and fun facts from the making of the masterpieces that have built the foundation of the music today and continue to shape the future.

Tijmen de Nooy Photography

On the anniversary of the sole release by Madvillain, the infamous joining of forces between the two producers and MCs: MF DOOM and Madlib, it's important to take a moment to celebrate its impact and appreciate its lasting legacy. The only project these two have worked on together, and one of the most celebrated hip hop albums ever. In my opinion, it really demonstrates the healing effect music can have on your soul, when it hits you at the right time and you happen to pay attention. ‘Madvillainy was the album that personally got me introduced to the brilliant lyricist MF DOOM, one of the rawest artists of all times, over the incredible beat-work by the one and only Madlib, and I have treasured this piece of music very close to my heart ever since.

Released in 2004, the ‘Madvillainy’ album consists of 22 songs, all under 3 minutes, with practically non-existent hooks or choruses, yet genuinely strong personality. Extremely sharp and refreshing, as a whole. Released on Stones Throw Records, produced in Madlib’s studio The Bomb Shelter (1950’s era bomb shelter) in L.A. Sampling the likes of Frank Zappa, Sun Ra, George Clinton and a variety of Brazilian records (since most of the instrumentals on the album have been created by Madlib during his trip to Brazil), resulting in a sonic feast celebrating the language of music and the music of language. I mean, the production on this album is just freaking awesome and has a personality of it’s own.

When MF DOOM and Madlib teamed up to create Madvillainy in 2004, they set out to create something truly unique and groundbreaking. The result was an album that quickly became a cult classic with its intricate production, inventive lyricism, and fearless experimentation. At the heart of Madvillainy are the songs, each one a gem in its own right. From DOOM's signature flow on the opening hypnotic track 'Accordion' , to the hauntingly beautiful "Rhinestone Cowboy," every song on this album is a testament to the creativity and talent of these two. One of the most remarkable things about Madvillainy is the way that it seamlessly blends together a wide range of musical styles and influences. There are moments of jazz, funk, soul, and even psychedelia woven throughout the album, all coming together to create a unique and unforgettable sonic experience.

DOOM himself, whose birth name is Daniel Dumile, has used many alter-egos in his storytelling throughout his career. He chose to bring in different points of view with perspectives from MF DOOM, the villain with a heart of gold (‘MF’ being short for Metal Face), Viktor Vaughn, the young apprentice of MF DOOM, Metal Fingers when he’s making beats, King Dumile, King Geedorah, an etheric being based on the monster from Godzilla films, to Zev Love X, member of the K.M.D. crew and more. After adopting the MF DOOM persona in the late 90s and performing under anonymity with a mask inspired by Marvel Comic’s supervillain Doctor Doom there have been a few speculations around the mysterious mask disguise.

“The whole mask thing, really… Aight it was a time in hip-hop where things, from my point of view, started going more into what things look like as opposed to what they sound like. Before, we ain’t know what emcees looked like until we went to the party and seen them rocking. Most times you see them rock at a show before you even knew. Before videos, pre-video, you really was going off the sound of the record, straight skills. See, once it started getting more publicized, and hip-hop started being more of a money-making thing, then you get these corporate ideas where you wanna put what it looks like to sell what it sounds like. But we’re dealing with music. So what I did I said look, I’m-a come with the angle of, it don’t matter what I look like, it don’t matter what the artist look like, it’s more what the artist sound like. So the mask really represents to rebel against trying to sell the product as a human being. It’s more of a sound. And at the same time, it’s something different and it fits with the theme of the rebel, the villain. To him, he don’t care about the fame. That shit is of no consequence. It’s more of the message and what’s being said. So I think it helps people focus more on what’s being said. But it’s still entertaining, it’s still like the theater, and has the appeal of something that could be considered entertaining, but that message is still there. The villain represents anybody. Anybody in here can wear the mask and be a villain, male or female, any race, so-called race. It’s about where you’re coming from, from your heart: what is the message, what do you got to say?” Source: MF DOOM in conversation with Chairman Mao at Red Bull Music Academy in 2011

Madvillain in Los Angeles circa 2004. Photo by Eric Coleman.

Madlib and MF DOOM are really a match made in heaven. By creating the union of Madvillain, they’ve put together one of the most creative and exciting alliances in hip hop history with synergy that is unheard of. Throughout the album both of them make cameo appearances in forms of prolific aliases, such as Madlib’s rapping alterego Quasimoto on the ode to cannabis ‘America’s Most Blunted’ and ‘Shadows of Tomorrow’, a tribute to Sun Ra. DOOM appears also as his alter-ego Viktor Vaughn on ‘Fancy Clown’ where his girl has cheated on him with none other than DOOM, ironically.

The words are put together in such an exquisite way that as a listener you can’t help but follow along, keep on coming back again and again, spending hours trying to read between the lines and fill in the blanks. The hypnotic flow DOOM spits on this album is dark, deep and otherworldly. Rapping about his villainous deeds from a standpoint of a narrator in a cartoon-like manner.

DOOM rhyming up a rainbow scheme with 66% rhyme density of multi-syllable rhymes on ‘Meat Grinder’.

Madvillainy’ has influenced a whole generation of artists in a multitude of ways. The impact is pretty much immeasurable. From Odd Future (just check out this priceless footage of Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt meeting DOOM for the first time), Bishop Nehru, Flying Lotus, Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Joey Bada$$, or Yasiin Bey (previously known as Mos Def), who described picking up the vinyl despite not owning a record player: “I bought it just to stare at the album. And I stared at it and I just kept going, ‘I understand you.’" It has appeared on numerous publications top lists of best albums of the year, of the decade, of all time, labeled as inexhaustibly brilliant piece of art.

On top of that, there have been several remixes and reinterpretations of Madvillainy since its release. One notable example is the 2008 remix album, "Madvillainy 2: The Madlib Remix," which features Madlib's reinterpretations of the original tracks. The album features alternate takes on many of the songs, as well as new instrumentals and vocal samples.

Overall, Madvillainy has had a significant impact on the world of music, and its influence can be heard in countless other works that have been created in its wake. Crowning achievement in hip hop, “Madvillain Bistro Bed and Breakfast Bar and Grill Cafe Lounge on the Water”, that’s serving “the finest of the finer things, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year”, as stated on ‘Bistro’ interlude. This timeless masterpiece will positively never get played out and there’s still more to discover with each listen.

R.I.P. DANIEL DUMILE 1971–2020

ALL CAPS when you spell the man name.

The year 2020 that got us all wearing masks, has fired its last merciless shot shortly before midnight with the surfacing news of the passing of the illest supervillain hip hop has ever generated. Devastating news that landed heavier than a ton of bricks. The universe he has created with his music has meant the world to me, therefore I’d like to dedicate this post to the man himself and encourage you to also take a moment to read one of the first articles on Steppin' that very insightfully zooms in on What the death of MF DOOM says about how we grief.

“Follow your heart, that’s the number one rule. Follow your heart. Lot of people might not see your vision yet, you know what I mean, people might call you crazy and think it don’t make sense. Follow your heart and just follow it all the way through and that’s when you see you make a new ground and people will appreciate it later on. You know what I mean? Never try to do something to impress the next man, or the next woman. It’s truly about what you see and what you have inside you. Everybody is a unique individual here, so you have something to contribute. So whatever it is, follow that and bring it out. Share it at the table with all of us.”

Source: MF DOOM in conversation with Chairman Mao at Red Bull Music Academy in 2011.


Steppin' Into Tomorrow stands with artists & labels and encourages listeners to support by buying their music directly from Bandcamp. If you've enjoyed this article, please consider subscribing to our monthly newsletter to stay in the loop.


James Brown
bottom of page