Off The Record: Danger Doom

Artist: Danger Doom

Album: The Mouse and the Mask

Any rap album that starts with a cartoon asking listeners “Why did you buy this album? You’re stooooo-pid” immediately catches my attention.

Danger Doom’s recent release The Mouse and the Mask is a concept album which brings comic book influenced mask-wearing emcee MF DOOM together with DJ Danger Mouse who is best known for his brilliant bootleg blend of lyrics from Jay-Z’s Black Album laid over beats which he composed entirely with samples from The Beatles’ White Album.

These two interesting personalities have come together to create a kooky concept album which is listenable and effective in its quirkiness.

The thematic and often cinematic album features guest appearances from a range of Cartoon Network Adult Swim characters as well as more traditional guest-spots by hip-hop heavyweights Ghostface Killah, Talib Kweli, and Cee-Lo. As crazy as an album which is based around an Adult Swim theme sounds the end product is interesting and makes for some oddly addictive listening.

Danger Mouse provides creative and bouncy beats and Doom drops lyrics in his style which combines esoteric pop-culture references and delivery which is monotonous in tone but not in meter.

He manages to sound like a combination of the crazy lyrics and non-traditional delivery of O.D.B. and Aesop Rock. The chemistry between beat producer and emcee is evident, and Doom lays his lyrics to the track with finesse, and manages to bring the same lackadaisical tone whether he’s talking about the history of hip-hop or ranting about vats of urine.

Standout tracks include “Benzie Box,” “Old School,” and “Basket Case.” “Old School brings Doom together with Brooklyn Banger Talib Kweli. The two emcees ride a beat that combines a foot-stomping bassline with infectious horns and soft piano melodies. Talib brings energy to the track with his perfectly metered lyrics. He is interesting to listen to and on this song often half sings his rhymes in cascading tones as he lowers his voice and brings a sense of urgency to a song about cartoons and eating cereal.

“Basket Case” is an outlandish concept track on an already outlandish concept album. It is based on the theme of society finally locking Doom away out of fear of his mysterious, masked ways.

The song paints a picture of a creepy dungeon life and is interlaced with audio samples which accentuate the song’s theme.

Danger Mouse creates a futuristic horror-show feel as he brings together a kick and snare drum beat, low horns and the chatter of wind-chimes to create a sound-scape which is eerie and melodic but still menacing. On one occasion the beat slows and a sample kicks in saying “This animal here… Unclean! He rejected society and retreated to the woods.” As the first sample trails off, a second kicks in with an authoritative man saying “Isn’t it true that at these times he often descends into a delusional state sometimes actually adopting another person’s persona?”

With the stage set, as the beat drops in Doom raps “I started punching when I saw him lunge in. He had me put on punishment when I ate the last Munchkin. So now they got me down here in the dungeon…” The song finishes off and transitions into a conversation between cartoon characters about differentiating women with the same name.

The sampling and cinematic concept album has been done before by Wu-Tang with classic Kung-Fu movies, but The Mouse and the Mask is definitely a unique project. Pick it up at Pure Pop Records in downtown Burlington.