Why did you buy this album? I don't know why you did, you're stupid
So says Brak, space villain turned docile imbecile, at the beginning of The Mouse and the Mask. Don't get me wrong, I love the album, which is why I'm noding it here. But there's something to what Brak says, because listening to The Mouse and the Mask has made me want to acquire everything that MF Doom has done. This is problematic. I've been doing some research and in spite of wasting all kinds of time on it, I'm still unable to navigate the labyrinth of aliases under which MF Doom has worked. Born Daniel Dumile and also known as Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah, and Zev Love X — and that's not even counting his alternate names in collaborations such as this one — the man wears a lot of masks.
Yet I digress. Already. So okay. In honor of Doom's teaming up with DJ Danger Mouse (yes, the same DJ Danger Mouse who did The Grey Album), the name on the cover of The Mouse and the Mask is DangerDoom. So that's what you'll be looking for. That and a picture of a mouse and crossbones wearing some kind of f*cked up Dr. Doom mask.
Brush your teeth, rinse and gargle
A true nerd who messed with new words since Boggle
... And used slang in Scrabble
Rhymed with a Northern drawl, twang and babble
Perhaps more than any of the other rap albums I've picked up since reading 18thCandidate's mind- and eye-opening node, The Mouse and the Mask could be a gateway drug for anyone who is kind of geeky, with an offbeat and, frankly, rather E2-style sense of humor, but — like me about six months ago — is skeptical of rap. Though the album cover gives no indication of it, The Mouse and the Mask features cameos in almost every song from characters from many shows in the immensely popular (among the aforementioned type of people) Adult Swim program on Cartoon Network.
If you're not familiar with Adult Swim but you think you match the demographic pretty well, you might want to consider checking it out before you dive into The Mouse and the Mask. If you don't like Adult Swim, you may end up liking TMatM a lot anyway. If you know and ever loved or even liked Adult Swim, you may be drawn in by the cameos and end up appreciating Doom's insane flow. Or, hell, you could just jump right in without any knowledge of rap or Adult Swim. I'm confident in the ability of this album to win over anyone whose preconceived notions about rap are not too strong to let them like it.
Doom, not to be confused with nobody
Especially since the flows he used was so nutty
Despite my tentative explorations of rap, I don't think I really appreciated what the term "flow" meant until I heard MF Doom. His voice is fine-grained-sandpaper-rough like a five o'clock shadow, vaguely amused, rarely and subtly expressive, and it trips and stumbles like a drunken master into your consciousness through some back door you didn't know you had. Once that happens, you start re-listening, and every single time you listen again you discover some buttery new rhyme until you've memorized the whole song. Doom's lyrics are highly literate and frequently straddle the fine line between being incredibly clever and just not making any sense, and like his names, untangling his allusions and sly references would take a fair amount of research.
Danger Mouse's beats are perfectly serviceable here, always catchy but never intrusive or trying to overshadow Doom. I'm no beat connoisseur, but I particularly enjoy the nasty synth in Benzie Box, especially paired with guest singer Cee-Lo's crooning, and the trumpet blasts in track 12. And the cartoonish tunes Danger Mouse lays down under the comical interludes are spot-on.
'Ey... If I may interject
Rap these days is like a pain up in the neck
Cornier and phonier than a play fight
Take two of these and don't phone me on the late night
If you're acquainted with mainstream rap, know that MF Doom eschews it. He condemns the pervasive gangsta mindset, and his rap contains only minimal amounts of crunk and bitches and such. What's the point in it, when there's so much potential in, say... vats of urine?
Yeah, when it's fresh, it's sterile
Some say digestible, even edible
If you was stranded out to sea, alone and in trouble
Survive dehyrdation, guzzle your own cup full
...Saturday morning cartoons and immaturity?
And we'll be right back after these messages
Fellas grab your nutsacks, chicks squeeze your breastesses
We ain't all that grown, it's still funny like
Goin to the store on your own with rainbow money
Doom hit the eye in the sky with a pie
Shrink said he thinks he believe he could fly
Spread his wings and flap like a goose
He'll show you how to do it if you help him get the straps loose
These are not your typical rap lyrics. But MF Doom is not your typical rapper, and The Mouse and the Mask is not your typical rap album. It won't blow your mind; it's not particularly thought-provoking or insightful. It's just compelling and clever and a hell of a lot of fun. Give it a spin, provided you have time to track down its predecessors. Chances are, you're going to want them too.
Track List (with information about guests and cameos)
- El Chupa Nibre (featuring Brak and phone call from Master Shake)
- Sofa King (featuring the cast of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and billywitchdoctor.com)
- The Mask (with guest vocals by Ghostface; also featuring a freestyle rap by Brak with commentary by Zorak)
- Perfect Hair (featuring another Master Shake phone call)
- Benzie Box (with guest vocals by Cee-Lo)
- Old School (with guest vocals by Talib Kwali)
- A.T.H.F. (featuring a freestyle rap by Meatwad with commentary by Carl and yet another Master Shake phone call; yes, this song is about Aqua Teen Hunger Force)
- Basket Case (featuring the cast of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law)
- No Names (featuring Stormy, Sparks and Dr. Quinn from Sealab 2021)
- Crosshairs (featuring Brak and his robot neighbor Thundercleese)
- Mince Meat (featuring a cartoon character, possibly non-Adult Swim, whom I am unable to identify)
- Vats of Urine (featuring the Mooninites)
- Space Ho's (featuring the cast of Space Ghost Coast to Coast)
- Bada Bing (featuring one last Master Shake phone call, and Meatwad performing a verse from "Beef Rapp," a song on an earlier Doom album, Mm... Food?)