DangerDoom, 'The Mouse & the Mask' (Epitaph)

6
The Mouse & the Mask
Critical Mass
Label: Epitaph

by Keith Harris

If expectations are just disappointments waiting to happen, DangerDoom is a white-hot flame of anticipation fated to sizzle your rap-lovin' heart to a bitter char. MF Doom is the underground's masked mic surrealist; Danger Mouse is the creator of the illicit Jay-Z/Beatles mastersplice, The Grey Album. No creative collision between the two could possibly equal the soundprint that rings in the mind's ear of a rabid fan.

Raising the stakes to insurmountable heights, Danger and Doom have enlisted characters from the Cartoon Network's snarky late-night programming block, Adult Swim, to lend their voices to songs and between track skits -- an ideal collaboration for a couple of avowed animaniacs. (DM recently produced tracks for 'toon-poppers Gorillaz, and MF is named after the Fantastic Four's arch-nemesis, Dr. Doom.) Yet Danger Mouse never coasts on high-concept gimmickry. His work here is fittingly a cartoonish update of the sparse sound of '90s indie hiphop: Moody Wu strings pack extra Tang, whistling synth loops loiter casually in the background, wry bass lines move up and down with funky drum bumps. And Doom sounds like he's too imperturbably smoked-out to care what you think, anyway. On "Space Ho's," he disses the cast of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, 'toon by 'toon, before hijacking the faux talk show from its ponderous host so as to mack on Space Ghost's guests, Charo and Judy Jetson.

Still, Doom's playing it safe, generally trimming down to single punch line couplets ("We'll be right back after these messages / Fellas, grab your nut sacks / Chicks, squeeze your breastseses") rather than interlocking his rhyme patterns. Maybe the grating Adult Swim cameos wore him down; a recurring skit in which Aqua Teen Hunger Force loudmouth Master Shake badgers the album's creators will have you longing for the campy sound clips that spike Doom's other albums.

Another explanation: In the Marvel Comics universe, superheroes who think they've defeated Doom generally learn they've merely vanquished one of the villain's replicant henchdroids, the Doombots. To hear guest rapper Ghostface so easily upstage him on "The Mask" -- an even more highly awaited pairing of mighty equals than the main event -- you might suspect that Doom has foolishly dispatched 'bots to do an MC's job.

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