Artist: DANGERDOOMTitle: The Mouse & The MaskRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Jason Newman
As the popularity of both producer Danger Mouse and rapper/producer MF Doom has exploded over the past 18 months, it seems only natural that two of the most inventive and creative artists in Hip-Hop should combine their talents on one record. With The Mouse & The Mask (Epitaph), the duo, under the moniker of DANGERDOOM, has crafted one of the best Hip-Hop albums in recent memory.
Produced in conjunction with Adult Swim, Cartoon Networks late-night programming block of which Doom and Danger are both devoted fans, the concept album is laced with references to Adult Swim shows such as Harvey Birdman, Space Ghost and Aqua Teen Hunger Force (featured the most as its Doom's personal favorite). Using both samples from the show and original material as skits, the edgy humor ensures Mouse & Mask as that rare Hip-Hop album where the skits are not just tolerable, but funny.
The phrase Rewards repeated listens is often music critic slang for an overrated album you won't admit is crap. In this case, however, Doom's non-sequitur lyrics and Mouses nuanced beats warrant the phrase. At only 40 minutes, Doom packs in more words than on any of his previous releases, dropping his standard barrage of obscure phrases and even more obscure references. In one of the most bizarre topics ever chosen for a Hip-Hop track, Doom bluntly states his intentions early on Vats of Urine: Everybody talkin bout pistols, gats, its boring/Came with a new topic to flip you: vats of urine. Dont look for any deep metaphors. Just enjoy the sheer weirdness. The Mouse & The Mask is filled with lyrical wordplay that maintains Dooms leftfield madman status.
In keeping with the theme of cartoons, Danger Mouse's playful beats rely generously on strings, keyboard stabs and 70s funk horn blasts that rank as some of his best work yet. On standout tracks The Mask and Old School, you can picture Mouse thinking back to Saturday morning superhero themes as guests Ghostface Killah (My money green like my nickname is celery.) and Talib Kweli, respectively, murder their tracks. Elsewhere, Cee-Lo provides the rare hook on Benzi Box over what sounds like an unused Gorillaz beat.
The Mouse & the Mask is a near-perfect marriage between these two forward-thinking individuals. Rather than diluting each others talents, the duo once again expand the boundaries of conventional Hip-Hop.