#Bandcampgold-Kiwanuka by Michael Kiwanuka produced by Danger Mouse
An albums first song needs to put you squarely in their world, so the rest of the songs can expand it. Think about how important it is to start Eric B & Rakim’s Paid In Full with I Ain’t No Joke. My go-to favorite first song-off-an-album this year was Cuz I Love You by Lizzo. It really sets the table for the boisterous heartfelt ride your about to go on. You Ain’t The Problem might actually have it beat. You Ain’t The Problem starts with the tambalas, drums certainly but not the kind you may have been expecting. You hear a crowd a woman laughing and the music really kicks in. We don’t actually hear Michael Kiwanuka until one minute twenty two seconds into the song. When the voice comes he is singing in sharp bursts to meet the pace of the music. When he says “Don’t hesitate, time heals the pain, you ain’t the problem…” it’s as soulful as the songs he is known for but this time it’s groovy fuzzed out and moving. Kiwanuka builds on the advancements made by Danger Mouse and Michael Kiwanuka on 2016’s collaboration Love & Hate. The sonic background is dense, as an example, Rolling moves as fast as the first song; thick with handclaps tamborine bass and guitar. You have to think of Michael Kiwanuka as both the author and the instrument. Danger Mouse’s job is to challenge the instrument.
What makes it one of the best albums of the year is that somehow it’s complications manage to feel simple. A lot of post-Ocean R & B is daring to be daring. You can feel new sounds and ideas being hurled into songs where they normally wouldn’t be and it doesn’t always work. As a singer, Michael Kiwanuka has a voice that is clean and clear. His songwriting matches. His songs sound essential rather than attempted. Famous producer, super nerd, and great twitter follow Young Guru once spoke of him as the new Bill Withers and I think that really is his best comparison. He makes everything clear.
If your Danger Mouse and you have access to that unique an artist…why not brew these songs as advanced as you can…as thickly orchestral as they allow? The voice will always be there to keep the listener on track. That being said, when things slow down its really beautiful. Piano Joint (This Kind Of Love) is an amazing heartbreak song that benefits from its intro.
I’m not giving Danger Mouse credit for Kiwanuka (the album or the dude) I loved Home Again when it dropped in 2012. I’m giving him credit for shifting him from automatic to stick shift and putting them both in charge of the different gears.
Kiwanuka is the best pure R&B/Soul album this year. The crescendos of instruments mixing with background singers that give way to the single brooding voice of our narrator on Living In Denial take their place in the history of music. At fifty one minutes and thirteen seconds with fourteen tracks, the average length of song is about a minute and a half longer than your supposed to provide in 2019. Kiwanuka is not consciously bucking conventions; Hero is certainly a radio friendly song and You Ain’t A Problem as well as Rolling are danceable. The great albums set their own tone and make you adjust. Whether it fits in the musical landscape or not. The day it came out a friend of mine texted me saying simply “This Kiwanuka is special.” I can’t find a better way to sum it up.
Stream or purchase below:
Operation Doom Discography 2000-2005
M.F. Doom was so active during this period of time I am going to have to separate this into stuff you need to hear and stuff you absolutely don’t.
King Geedorah-Take Me to Your Leader=Simply put one of the best produced independent albums ever. Doom is on the boards for every song producing, arranging, mixing and mastering and he is so utterly perfect that the skits will bring tears to your eyes. He drills down on sampling the Godzilla universe and finds soundscapes no one before or after could. The downside is Doom doesn’t rap on every song but he does rap on over half which is more than enough to carry it. Other voices put in admirable work (Hassan Chop on I Wonder and Mr. Fantastik on Anti-Matter). It is not nearly the cluttered hostile thesaurus fight of Monsta Island Czars.
MF Doom-Mm…Food=All but 3 tracks are produced by Doom. This was actually the first Doom album I heard and like all solo Doom ventures (I’ve encountered thus far) it surpasses its mission statement. This should be a fun exercise in food metaphors but he can’t himself One Beer is fire with lines like “Crooked eye mold nerd geek with a cold heart/probably still be speaking in rhymes as an old fart.” These songs are not jokes Deep Fried Frenz is a must hear peak into the diminishing relationships you experience on the way up. It is jam packed with quotable lines delivered with his trademark icey cool.
Viktor Vaughn-Vaudeville Villain & Venomous Villain=Upon first listen I really dug these albums. They took Operation Doomsday’s development of the villain character and pushed it meaner. Doom doesn’t produce any of the songs (the production style is less soulful and more jagged than other projects but that fits for the content) so he gets to let his pen fire. Venomous Villain has songs like Back End, Ode to Rage, and the startling story song Bloody Chain (where Poison Pen should have refused to rhyme after him). Vaudeville Villain has songs like The Drop (where he warns never trust no Kardashian back in 2003!), Raedawn, and G.M.C. All the songs listed are so unforgivingly lyrical so vividly actualized I couldn’t help but question if he was the utter evolution of Biggie able to threaten in ways that shake your bones switch up make you belly laugh with a silly reference, tell a crime story that pushes you to the edge of your seat and pulls you back by the end. These are not the known classics of Doom’s catalog but they are classics.
DANGERDOOM-The Mouse and The Mask=most reviews I saw for this framed it as a gag album. It comes out at the height of Adult Swim fanfare and is a perfect nerd fantasy. Danger Mouse is still in his daring try-anything-cool mind state and Doom still destroys all available space his voice fills. Too many funny crazy interesting lines to quote, and you get to hear Ghostface rhyme with Doom (I have a theory that Doom influence revived Ghostface and helped kick off his best period. Supreme Clientele drops a year after Operation Doomsday DANGERDOOM & Madvillain drop right around the Pretty Tony/Fishscale time period(Doom produced my favorite beat on Fishscale 9 Milli Bros).
Madvillain-Madvillainy=I expected the importance of this album but I was still awed by the structure of it. It reminds me of the debut album Pink Flag by the punk/art rock band Wire. All the songs are short and feed into one another. Neither Doom nor Madlib is even thinking about hooks. Lyrically I see Madvillainy as a cut off. He is now being reviewed by Spin and Rolling Stone so he backs away from the personal content of Operation Doomsday and stays in pocket just hammering away at the craft; dizzying verse after dizzying verse he is more a master of ceremony than ever but less the person we got to know. It’s not as bad a trade off as you would think (think Reasonable Doubt Jay v. Blueprint Jay).
MF EP(Doom and Grimm)=I really don’t have much affection for M.F. Grimm. The 2000 collaboration between the two is way too much Grimm who is a product of his time. In an interview he described the difference between the two of them very well. He said when they started rapping together Doom was on that conscious ish and he was rapping about breakin’ dudes legs. That is exactly the problem with Grimm. His ceiling as an MC is just over his hairline.
Monsta Island Czars-Escape From Monsta Island!=Easily my least favorite step on the journey. On The Mouse and The Mask Doom mocked his M.I.C. days calling them “Midgets Into Crunk” and they are that kind of joke. This album has 20 songs on it with just under an hour run time and no actual driving point. Only six tracks are produced by Doom including skits (under his moniker King Geedorah). My favorite of those beats is the rich and tense 1,2…1,2 but he doesn’t rap on it. This album did illuminate how special Doom is as an MC for me. One after another of this crew (King Caesar, Rodan, Gigan, Megalon, Kong, Spiega, it never ends) spat dour threatening verses with killer scrabble words dressed to impress and it was awful. On the one song he gets to himself Geedorah roars, muses, brags, is hilarious and distances himself from this mountain of average dudes he knows from around the way. This album illuminated the stark contrast between the average 90’s/early 00’s rapper and M.F. Doom.
On to the next phase!
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Tagged Danger Mouse, Dangerdoom, discography review, Doom, Doom Discography, Fishscale, Ghostface Killah, King Geedorah, M.F. Doom, M.F. Grimm, Madlib, Madvillain, Madvillainy, MF Doom, MF Grimm, Monsta Island Czars, NY Hip Hop, Pretty Tony, Supreme Clientele, The Mouse and The Mask, Viktor Vaughn