JJ DOOM: Key to the Kuffs
There’s no doubt that abstract dimensions of sound exist in the hip hop world today. Whether it’s the elusive and mysterious MF DOOM and his witty, food-related rhymes, or the new-age, space-oriented drum master known as Jneiro Jarel, a diverse range of music can be and is in full rotation daily. In fact, these two underground hip hop wizards crafted an album so unlike anything you’ve ever heard, you’ll be locked into their spell; ironically it’s the Key to the Kuffs. Is this metaphor too corny for you yet? Good, because this album is just as weird, if not more so… but in a good way.
The ever-familiar vocal samples MF DOOM uses in his production introduce the album and the duo known as JJ DOOM. They tell a story and bring a sense of nostalgia for heavy DOOM-heads. My personal favorite track, “Guv’nor,” takes off as a mellow and synthetic instrumental booms as DOOM starts on his somewhat-tacky English tangent. Since DOOM was in UK during the recording of this album, I can understand the English references, Cockney-slang and slight accent; it’s a little weird, but DOOM has never been one for the ordinary. “Banished” clashes and DOOM gets off to some hardcore rhyming, very reminiscent of his pre-Madvillainy days. Jneiro Jarel sports some interesting drums; they are somewhat choppy at times, but that is a similar style to how MF DOOM himself makes beats, so DOOM fits well over Jarel’s production.
As the next few tracks come and go, it starts to feel a little out of place. DOOM’s rhyming is instantly classic and Jneiro Jarel’s beats are exotic, but there’s something about putting these two together. At times, DOOM fits like a glove over Jarel’s instrumentals, yet at other points he sounds like he’s stretching his style a bit. Jneiro Jarel has a very spacey sound and infuses some electronic into his production, but I find that DOOM is best over a jazzy beat, like the ones produced by Madlib on Madvillany.
The Beth Gibbons-featuring “GMO” is one of the most comfortable tracks on the album. Both producer and emcee seem to be on the same page on the track. The instrumental features that bonafide DOOM sound and the Portishead vocalist adds in her two cents on the chorus. Other tracks like “Winter Blues,” “Retarded Fren,” and “Viberian Sun Pt. II” are all great tracks which can accrue praise for their production and rhyming alike.
On paper, the album looks a lot better than it actually sounds. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a must own for DOOM fans but don’t expect an underground classic or anything. It is a solid hip hop record but it does not quite live up to the pre-release hype. Jneiro Jarel is a phenomenal and multi-dimensional producer and MF DOOM is an underground hip hop king but together, their sounds are just a little too different and that gap gets in the way of the overall quality of the album.
MP3: JJ Doom “Guv’nor”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl