Artist: Viktor VaughnTitle: (VV:2) Venomous VillainRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Paine
MF DOOM is on the verge of either sealing his crown as underground king, or over-saturating the market worse than the Roc-A-Fella franchise. Never short on creativity, DOOM closed 2003 with his Madlib collaboration, MadVillainy, one of his most successful works to date. Earlier in that same year however, it was DOOM’s Viktor Vaughn alter ego that was hailed by fans with the Vaudeville Villain album. Vaughn is DOOM’s nostalgic, teenage-minded incarnation. DOOM told AllHipHop.com, “When I’m in Vic mode, I’m thinking from the perspective of a 19 year-old cat.” With at least two other albums due, with VV2: Venomous VillainDOOM snuck out a sequel to his villainous self.
Madvillainy was a slight departure from the DOOM listeners were used to. It contained the same stream-of-consciousness themed content, but DOOM’s delivery was altered to match Madlib’s unique up-tempo production. This album is a return to DOOM’s precise, and classical, B-Boy timing with even darker themes. “Doper Skiller” teams DOOM with Kool Keith (a.k.a. Dr. Dooom) to share the tasks of demonstrating why most MC’s can’t be original. As expected when two of Hip-Hop’s most creative minds unite, the track shines off the album. But don’t expect too much weirdness or avant-garde stuff; the track is very conventional Hip-Hop. DOOM uses this persona to tell stories very consistently. Sometimes these tales seem to lack plot, but in his own masterful way, DOOM describes a setting to the most mundane detail. “Bloody Chain” is a moment where DOOM recounts a sexual rendezvous with more attention to detail than usual (with Poison Pen tagging on an alternate view of the same tale). Viktor Vaughn maintains his dark, eerie, 50’s radio drama theme, and there clearly is a definite connection from this, to the first installment.
The production of this album is completely unlike anything DOOM’s ever worked with. Like Public Enemy’s Revolverlution, the beats were submitted via a contest. Budding producers Diplo and Swamburger provided some beats, as Kutmasta Kurt drops some scratches. IZ-Real, a former artist signed to B-Boy Records (BDP) is the coordinator of this project. Still, the sound defies all we’ve known. There is a classic Hip-Hop presence, undoubtedly. The DJ and scratch element of this record is extremely high, a welcomed treat, featuring many cut-in’s and scratches of classic verses from Nas, Group Home, and others. The beats themselves sound much cleaner than that which DOOM is known for. The percussion is deeply rooted in Hip-Hop convention. The frequently used synthesizers are not. “R.A.P.G.A.M.E.” is an absolutely fabulous, with a great, crisp piano loop and basic percussion. Just as MadVillainy appealed to a new crowd, perhaps this will reel in some electronic fans to DOOM’s mastery.
The Viktor Vaughn catalog is proving to be some of DOOM’s most conventional work. For some, that’s a refresh return to the way it’s always been. For others, that’s boring, and lacks the creative genius of Take Me to Your Leader and the forthcoming, MMM…Food. This album lyrically captures the essence of DOOM then, now, and always. Musically, it’s the fastest, most electronic DOOM album yet. At times, that seems to work. At other times, it just comes across as watered down and rushed. Whatever the case, this will be a revealing treat to many fans, and perhaps a starting point for outsiders.