So DOOM has teamed up with an exciting producer (this time Jneiro Jarel), picked a theme to unite the team-up, and come out with an album under a moniker that combines the names and brands of the rapper and his collaborator. Not exactly a fresh formula, but one that has certainly worked in the past (Madvillainy, anyone?). On Key to the Kuffs, the duo known collectively as JJ DOOM work off of the fact that the man once known as Daniel Dumile was born in England, winding up with an album that references his semi-home lyrically, takes samples from Anglo-cultural material, and features famous Brits Damon Albarn and Portishead’s Beth Gibbons. In end, that theme is a bit too direct for the dude who’s best when he’s that blurry, dadaist supervillain.
At times, it seems as if DOOM is attempting to drop just enough about England into a track to justify the theme. “Banished” makes a sidelong attempt to mention the metal-faced rappers’ exodus (“No, not deported, be a little minute before things get sorted”) over a hyperactive, headrush beat. Jarel’s on the money here, car alarms and dubby bass prompting DOOM to ask if “anybody notice[s] time speeding up”. Albarn’s appearance on “Bite the Thong” attempts to sandwich that familiar voice into a barely-there chorus, distorted and faded far into the mix.
If there’s any British cultural tic that seems a perfect fit for DOOM’s style, it’s rhyming slang. The practice can be difficult to wrap the head around, but it essentially involves making a patterned jump from one word to a seemingly unrelated other word, all based around rhymes. That has been a good portion of DOOM’s game all along, connecting sound-alikes in a twisted web of verbal confetti. “Rhyming Slang” the track, though, lays back, pushing the swagger to 11, where a rapid, hulking mass of words would’ve worked better.
While it may not hit the heights of Madvillainy (to be fair, what could?), there are some strong verses and some equally strong production. Few other rappers could make a track about washing your hands after going to the bathroom interesting (“Wash Your Hands”). Even on a middling set, DOOM proves his retained relevance.
Essential Tracks: “Banished”, “Wash Your Hands”