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JJ DOOM, Keys to the Kuffs

No one ever said hip-hop was a one-ingredient dish. Chances are that if you’ve been dining on the musical equivalent of rice cakes, you’re either not listening to the right stuff or are content with others hoarding the filet mignon.

Enter hip-hop’s filet mignon. DOOM, the many-monikered supervillain, and one of a few blokes to dedicate a whole album to food, is at it again. While other emcees are too happy to cook with the same stale ingredients, DOOM relishes in the joy of fusing leftovers (samples) with exotic fruits, spices with carbs. And Keys to the Kuffs, his newest collaboration, this time with experimental producer Jneiro Jarel, is no different. Living somewhere between Vaudeville Villain and his Special Herbs stockpile, the album does enough to live up to the unreasonable expectations attached to any of the man’s post-Madvillainy releases.

With JJ at the helm, the soundscapes sound like an elaborate exploration of the track “G.M.C.” off of Vaudeville. Since the actual DOOM, Daniel Dumile, is currently simmering in his origins, having been kept by customs from returning to New York from London, his birthplace, it seems appropriate that he delved into his musical past for inspiration. In many ways, while the album and the JJ DOOM collab feels unquestionably new, it also has a distinct throwback flavor. Building off the synergy of “Guv’nor,” Keys to the Kuffs explores areas of the DOOM mythology that had never before been tapped. Forced to live away from his family, and freshly thwarted by the unimpressive powers of airport agents, it seems that DOOM’s superego is shot. Though he still boasts his superiority to other MCs (“catch a throatful/from the fire vocal/ash and molten glass like/Eyjafjallajökull/volcano out of Iceland”), he is also more inclined to let them defeat themselves (“go conquer and destroy the rap world like the White men”). Words that cut like steel, but that are also pointed at himself.

While enough humor bubbles in this hip-hop gumbo, with “Retarded Fren” and “Wash Your Hands” providing the standard DOOM fare, other joints like the romantically lustful “Winter Blues” let us know that the mad villain might be weighing the pitfalls of a life as rap’s unmatched champion. Though DOOM, in his various incarnations, has occupied the underground as comfortably as Hades, it seems that at least for the moment, his current exile is pulling on his heartstrings. Though Keys to the Kuffs is no magnum opus, occupying a place just a notch under Take Me To Your Leader in terms of execution, it is an important step for the veteran. The man is cookin’ up something mean. ―Bogar Alonso (@blacktiles)