“What we have here is a failure to communicate”. Whether his identification papers say Zev Love X, Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah, or Metal Fingers, emcee MF Doom has rarely been accused of that famous line from Stuart Rosenberg’s 1967 film Cool Hand Luke. However, hooking up with Grey Album mischief-maker and Gorillaz collaborator Danger Mouse for The Mouse And The Mask, might find MF in the dock for just that.
The reason for this is that this three-fisted comic-book assault comes ready-wrapped in sampled and bespoke lines provided by Cartoon Networks’ Adult Swim, a late-nite animation feast for grown-up types. We’ll have to take the press blurbs word for this, as this apparently nudge-nudge, winkwink-some fare has yet to air over the popular airwaves of this sceptic isle.
Its not as strange a super-villain team-up as it may sound. Danger Mouse itself has square-eyed resonance for any brit over the age of 25 or so, while MF Doom has the Lee / Kirby silver age dynamics of Marvel Comics as primary reference point. The patina of screwy skits and play-centre goofing might even lead one to believe the deadly DangerDoom alliance is doing it strictly for the kidz. Danger Mouse’s cinema matinee loops coax and charm. The profanities are respectfully beeped, and all seems so far, so U rated.
But repeated listening strips away the play-centre misanthropy to reveal far more sombre layers. The comic grooves become darkly satirical, the funny voices harden into mocking frieze around Doom’s densely packed lines. Doom’s masquerade (“more spots than a leopard” – Mince Meat) becomes bullet-dodging, shifting personas to avoid snipes and snipers. The Ubiquity-style vibe stabs of Basket Case find Doom exclaiming ‘Just “cause somebody wears a mask / don’t mean they did sumthin’”.
Rhymes like “New York a hell of a finer town / Choose your words wisely / From the boogie down in Chinatown / Or be found with a hole in your designer gown” speak of fugitive paranoia, blings away from the solipsistic fantasies of radio rappers like Ja Rule and DMX. The lead-weighted b-line and Wu-Tang-ish piano of No Names (Black Debbie) recalls Sly Stone‘s Thank You For Talkin’ To Me Africa, and the last chance saloon aura is just as viscous.
The Fugee-la of the Cee-Lo boosted Benzi Box gives Doom his own keynote chant, while Talib Kweli provides light relief on Old School Rules, with Danger Mouse concocting a beat-ful soundtrack reminiscent of the Nationwide theme, as might be imagined by Lalo Schiffrin.
But lines like that taken from Cool Hand Luke (El Chupa Nibre) point to the paradigm-distrusting textures whisked together by the DangerDoom duo. And this is where The Mouse And The Mask‘s despondent heart truly rests.
Don’t be put off though, rarely has foreboding been so much fun. The interplay of Waldorf and Staedtler-style hectoring provides an interior critique rare in hip-hop. And though the sample-reliant rhythms seem trite at first, Danger Mouse’s store of sounds coalesce as uniquely as Doom’s subversive commentary.
Cwwumbs DM, Its not all doom and gloom.