#soundcheck – collab between mf doom and jneiro jarel: jj doom’s “key to the kuffs” is badass.

September 10, 2012

There are few artists in the indie hip-hop world as mercurial as MF DOOM. Always interesting, and almost impossible to pin down, MF DOOM has spent the past few years pairing up with other equally fascinating artists (Danger Mouse, Madlib, and Ghostface Killah) for a series of collaborative records. His latest is a partnership with renegade producer Jneiro Jarel called JJ DOOM. The record is Key To The Kuffs and it is badass.

The record opens with a sound collage of film clips featuring Cockney accents and glitchy electronics. Jarel’s IDM beats add a deeply layered but almost deconstructed feel rarely heard in hip-hop. (Given the similar conceptual roots of hip-hop and musique concrète I’m always surprised by how rarely either genre incorporates elements of the other…). DOOM’s rhymes are as dense as always, skipping wildly from the socio-political to the personal and back again. The record features some of the most high profile guests of DOOM’s career, including Beth Gibbons (of Portishead) on the genius “GMO.” (And I swear this isn’t just because I’ll go on an anti-GMO rant to anyone who will give me 2 minutes of their attention; it’s just a legit great track.)

DOOM gets unusually personal on the album highlight “Winter Blues,” a sultry string-laden track. In anyone else’s hands the same lyrics could easily play as a standard-issue ode to a one night stand. On top of Jarel’s genuinely beautiful production, DOOM’s rhyme is a plea for human contact. “Melanin on melanin,” DOOM intones; begging not merely for sexual gratification but just to feel close to someone. Key To The Kuffs is the rare hip-hop record that succeeds equally on the strength of the production as the lyrics. Jarel’s beats are dense, hypnotic, and often devastating. His skill is highlighted on the ambient instrumental “Viberian Sun Pt. II.” After a record’s worth of often heart-felt and always deep tracks, they end with the goofy “Wash Your Hands.” It’s a song about not washing your hands before going to the strip club (like a dirtier Del “If You Must”). Because, this may be one of DOOM’s most earnest records, but it wouldn’t be DOOM without taking a sudden left turn and completely defying expectations at least once.