Viktor Vaughn - Vaudeville Villain (Cover Artwork)

Viktor Vaughn

Vaudeville Villain (2003)

Sound Ink / Traffic Entertainm

"Twist the green, it's laced with antihistamine
Enough to make you make your face like Mr. Bean
V hit the scene like: 'Fuck it, give me a Mr. Clean!'"

A year ago, it was completely unthinkable that a hip-hop record could become my new favourite album. If you'd have told me such I'd probably have heaved with laughter before returning to the trusty chords of my favourite 'org' albums. But time makes fools of us all and, before I knew it, Daniel Dumile (a.k.a. MF DOOM, a.k.a Viktor Vaughn) had sucked me into a world full of obscure cartoon samples, quirky, dark rhymes and futuristic, menacing beats.
"It's like limbo
how low can you go
V go lower than your bimbo pantyhose
Damn yo...I say that's pretty damn low!"

Vaudeville Villain follows a kind of rough story--Viktor, a time-travelling, drug-dealing MC voyages between the various eras of hip-hop, with one of the final songs (the spectacular "Never Dead," featuring a captivating guest spot by M Sayidd) revealing how his journey began. DOOM's flow is exemplary throughout--his rapidly degrading voice perfectly complements the electronica-inspired beats, spitting out genius one-liners that reward repeat listens. There are no conventional samples used, no bullshit R&B-esque choruses and none of the boneheaded macho posturing that plagues mainstream hip-hop--just a dizzying, stream-of-consciousness narrative that brilliantly subverts hip-hop conventions. Take "The Drop"--in between verses that reference everything from Star Trek to Canadian martial arts actor Jorgito Vargas, DOOM skewers the dog-eat-dog banality of modern hip-hop:
"I'm joking on the fact that hip-hop has gone freak show
don't let the drama getcha
in the only genre of music where the fans shoot the messenger
bitch niggaz talk behind ya back like a catcher
either M-Y-O-B or B-Y-O stretcher"

This same attitude reappears on "Saliva":
"A lot of crews like to act like a violent mob
They really need to just shut the fuck up like Silent Bob"

"Modern Day Mugging" is another brilliant subversion of hip-hop archetypes. DOOM takes the tired scenario of mugging a clichéd ghetto and turns it into, well, the farce that such a scene blatantly is. DOOM's hilariously flawed character boasts of a gun with "no bullets, no clip" before getting shot by one of his planned victims--claiming in the end that "I woulda let her have it if I had the ammo!"

Of course, DOOM's flow is only half the reason I love this album so much--credit needs to go to the captivating production courtesy of RJD2, King Honey, Heat Sensor, Max Bill, et. al. The multi-producer approach works in the album's favour, ensuring every song sounds fresh and unique in its own right. RJD2 easily trumps his work on Deadringer with "Lickupon," a gritty, surreal beat coupled with subtle horn samples. Elsewhere, King Honey peppers "Mr. Clean" with dope Mr. Lif-style scratching, a playful old-school touch to a deliberately futuristic track.
"There's four sides to every story
if these walls could talk they'd probably still ignore me
contemplate war over a cuppa warm coffee
it's really getting gory, tell your problems to Maury"

I can't praise this album enough. It singlehandedly got me into hip-hop and I'd heartily recommend it to anyone--be they hip-hop heads, DOOM fans, DOOM n00bs or people who feel left out of the last five years of hip-hop, "Fiddy" Cent and all.

Recommended downloads: "Never Dead," "Lactose and Lecithin," "A Dead Mouse," "Lickupon," "Change the Beat (hidden track)"