Review: JJ DOOM’s “Key to the Kuffs”

If  anything, DOOM’s new project Key to the Kuffs with partner in crime Jneiro Jarel will likely lead to even stronger calls for a Madvillain follow-up, rather than subdue the muffled cries for a sequel project. Still, it’s DOOM and it’s a full-length and while Key to the Kuffs might not be as essential as say Born Like This or Vaudevile Villain, it does feature six or seven tracks that evoke memories of why we fell in love with the Villain in the first place.

The fact that “Guv’nor” was released as a lead single certainly doesn’t help distance JJ from Madlib, but the comparisons should cease after track two. The production paints emotions of an electronic boom-bap wall of sound, and things hiss and thump along nicely especially when DOOM feels like tapping his talents. JJ offers serviceable production that sounds even better with beyond-serviceable rhymes.

Things pick up nicely and swiftly with “Banished”. Metal Face sounds young again and his rapid-fire delivery packs plenty of the clever punchlines and mountains of vocabulary that were used to (“Macro — micro thin, itch your skin, Villain strikes again, equivalent a hundred thousand milligram Vicodin”).

“Rhymin Slang” keeps the fire alive, and DOOM proves he still can’t be touched in terms of wordplay (“Rarely, scarcely, scary glaring stare. Let’s be very clear MCs is derrière. As well as aware, wearily, just don’t be nearly near, you hear me? Yeah”). This is DOOM’s niche and he wears it on tracks like this.

Still, to put it bluntly tracks like “Borin’ Convo” sound pretty boring. DOOM is older and his voice is more gruff these days. Parts of Key to the Kuffs really demonstrate this unfortunately, and if Metal Face’s voice isn’t his strength in 2012 then neither is his work ethic. The entire LP feature nine tracks with actual DOOM verses and a few of these let the beat ride out for a minute or so. It’s disappointing in a lot of ways and it also sheds light on a growing trend amongst hip-hop journey-men like DOOM (i’m pointing at you Wu-Tang! Cuban Linx two was three years ago!). The Damon Alborn and Beth Gibbons (Portishead) features really flew over my head and overall the instrumental tracks don’t offer much after a minute or so.

However the JJ DOOM project does gift us gems like “Retarded Fren”. DOOM is on point and JJ sets up a perfect loop and even changes things up with some electro-funk towards the end. JJ DOOM doesn’t offer a full solution for our withdrawals, but it does warrant a listen and Jneiro Jarel deserves some future attention.

The Villain may rise again and I believe he might need some motivation from his other half Madlib. Allegedly DOOM has been tied up in Europe with visa issues for the past year or two, so maybe a return to the states will give us something in the near future. Key to the Kuffs certainly isn’t Madvillainy 2, but some tracks represent hope that in the future DOOM might still have it in him.

-Daniel

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