JJ DOOM: Key To The Kuffs
- Whatever the artist formerly known as MF Doom puts his name to generally turns to pure unadulterated gold: be it ridin' solo as MF Doom, Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah or the less imaginative DOOM moniker that he's recently adopted. So too his inspired collaborations with Madvillian, Danger Mouse and various members of the delightful Wu-Tang Clan, everything DOOM does is badass. With this knowledge fresh in your collective minds, it can't be too much of a surprise that whenever the decreasingly elusive, man behind the mask steps out of the shadows and releases even a single measly track my eyes bulge out of their sockets and my ears literally grow into giant, uh, tiny cauliflowers. That being the case, when a whole new record appeared relatively out of the blue, landing in my lap, I nearly voided my joy gland. This go round sees DOOM team his wonderfully husky, handsome and distinguished voice with vagrant American producer Jneiro Jarel, a figure that has been making and releasing music in some form for like ten years with very little fanfare or any real musical breakthrough to show for his precious, precious time. With one previous DOOM remix the only obvious link between the two I really wasn't 100% sure what to expect from their debut experiment, Key To The Kuffs, so I gave it a good long listen. It starts off in classic DOOM style, a mish-mash of various obscure dialogue collected from everywhere imaginable, warped and woven into a beat very reminiscent of a the type of production that DOOM has made his trademark - chopped up, looped samples dripping with an undeniable warmth - the organic elements as present as the synthetic. It's not long before Jarel leads DOOM outside of his comfort zone: the third track "Banished" is the most instantly striking cut from the record and it's an absolute boot shaker, a track that forces DOOM to rap at like twice his regular pace just to keep from being left behind- something it turns out the MC has no real issue with, attacking the track with a ferocious abandon that fits him like a glove. Despite DOOM being a British ex-pat, he's never really embraced the country that birthed him, instead heavily immersing himself in what I can only assume would be a pretty wickedly exciting time for a young man interested in hip-hop. New York in the late 80s, a location and era that spawned an insane amount of creativity. Oddly enough DOOM recorded the majority of the vocals in his birthplace of London after passport issues kept him out of the U.S. for an unreasonable amount of time and his new / old environment has rubbed off on the rapper more than ever before, referencing odd British things to a background of warped beats that have been infused with both American and English film and television samples which have an endearing quality to them and don't feel out of place here at all. The guest voices on Key To The Kuffs are minimal but they really leave a mark, with ex-Blur frontman Damon Albarn indulging his habit of sticking a finger in every pie he can and even more surprisingly legendary Portishead front woman Beth Gibbons lends her talents to perhaps the most distinctive track on the record, an off-beat collaboration that really tickles my pickle. The whole record is a wildly successful experiment in controlling chaos: despite every song rolling with its own very unique vibe, Key To The Kuffs still feels strangely cohesive, DOOM is just the damn backbone to any and every project that he's attached to. Though there's a literal lake of steamy hot tracks here, it's still early riser "Banished" that takes the cake, nothing else quite grabs hold of you and owns like this.
- Jay Edwards.