A mercifully short review this time.
We all love hip-hop right? Underground hip-hop I mean. You know, the De La Soul/Tribe Called Quest lineage rather than the Snoop Dogg/Puff Doddy/Doctor Dre school of a-hippin’ and a-hoppin’. Not that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with that stuff, it’s just, not as interesting obviously.
DANGERDOOM’s The Mouse and the Mask consists of underground pop production powerhouse Dangermouse and the world’s coolest masked supervillain rapper DOOM rapping about Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming. You know, Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and so on. No? Well anyway…
MF DOOM has relatively recently become my second favourite rapper in the world, after Kool Keith of course. I feel like admitting that marks me out as some kind of pasty white hipster, but it’s not my fault that black hip-hop fans seem to prefer boring commercial hip-hop. Or do they? I don’t actually know. Does that make me a lazy racist? If so sorry. Seriously though, DOOM is a crazy-cool mask-wearing motherfucker who simultaneously explores pop culture and mocks the absurd macho gangster posturing that has run rampant in commercial rap since the 90s.
Dangermouse’s work I am less familiar with, though that is being remedied. He is named after a cartoon mouse of course, so the theme of the record should come as no surprise.
I don’t really know how this album came about though, because it’s not really a promotional record. It’s the kind of album you’d expect to come out of this collaboration, tight beats, catchy samples, and non-stop crazy rhymes. Where Adult Swim comes into it is that there are samples from Adult Swim shows littered throughout, and several characters make guest appearances. Some songs are more directly influenced by the shows – A.T.H.F. is as you might imagine, all about Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and Space Ho’s is about Space Ghost.
I read somewhere that Dangermouse was doing some stuff for Cartoon Network, presumably Adult Swim, and thus the seeds were sewn. I can only guess the two of them came together over a love of these shows. Can’t blame them, having just recently discovered and highly enjoyed some Sealab 2021, Harvey Birdman and Aqua Teen Hunger Force (indeed, doing so kind of convinced me to get the record). Not all of these songs are about Adult Swim shows, but they are pretty much all related to cartoons in one way or another.
A lot of highlights here. The Mask features a ridiculously frantic guest-spot by Ghostface Killah or as he usually goes by in DOOM projects, Tony Starks. Old School features Talib Kweli, an implausibly catchy chorus, and possibly the coolest DOOM lyric ever when he enters the second half of the song. I won’t spoil it, you should listen to it right now.
Mince Meat is another splendid jam, yo. Oh, and Basket Case, featuring clips from Harvey Birdman, and DOOM’s attempts to defend himself in court, is pretty damn sweet. Also, the Sealab track No Names.
If you like your hip-hop slightly weird and yet totally fun and easy to listen to, this might be the record for you. Of course, if you like your hip-hop to be of the novelty pirate themed variety, then you’ll probably be upset at the general lack of generic nerd-culture references in favour of good honest Adult Swim cartoon love.