This article originally was posted by myself on reddit, but has since been expanded and edited. Some knowledge of DOOM and Madlib is presumed.
2001 — pre-Madvillainy
In 2001 MF DOOM (born Daniel Dumile January 9 1971) was living between New York and Atlanta. His album Operation: Doomsday had released in 1999 but his record label, Fondle ’Em, had since closed down. Left without a record label DOOM produced work for other artists such as MC Paul Barman’s Paullelujah! album and the Godzilla themed hip hop group Monsta Island Czars where DOOM appeared as King Geedorah.
Madlib (born Otis Jackson Jr. October 24 1973) had joined Stones Throw Records in 1998 when label owner Peanut Butter Wolf heard his group Lootpack, subsequently releasing their debut album Soundpieces: Da Antidote! in 1999. This was followed by Madlib’s Quasimoto project The Unseen released in 2000, but by 2001 Madlib had abandoned hip hop in favour of his jazz projects, which were destined to be the demise of Stones Throw records.
Egon, Stones Throw’s general manager at the time, was trying to get Madlib back in to hip hop. A Lootpack reuinion album was attempted but didn’t come about, and then in an interview with LA Times (which doesn’t appear online, but is alluded to here) Madlib mentioned two artists he would be interested in collaborating with in thefuture: Jay Dilla, and DOOM. Coincidentally Egon had a friend who knew DOOM and so a package of Madlib’s music was sent to him in the hope of getting DOOM and Madlib together so that Madlib would return to hip hop. Likewise Madlib and Jay Dilla got in contact and in 2002 announced their collaborative Jaylib album Champion Sounds would be released in 2003.
2002 — Recording starts
At this time Stones Throw was being run out of a house in LA with Madlib making music in a bomb shelter underneath the house. After some negotiation DOOM came to LA and would spend his days at the house writing.
DOOM talked about the initial meeting in a 20011 interview with Red Bull:
I got a call one day from Peanut Butter Wolf, up there in Stones Throw, a good friend of mine. Big up, Wolf. He mentioned this cat Madlib, I wasn’t familiar with his work at the time. I guess he heard some of my stuff and he was reaching out to me, wanted to do a record together so he could give me some beats and whatnot. So at the same time, I was doing records with a lot of different companies. They offered to fly me out to LA, so I flew out there, met these cats. Cats was cool from day one. I got along with these dudes, good-spirited, good-hearted people. Real record diggers. Beatmakers. We had the same kind of vision about how we did records. The way we did records was similar, but he was still unique, though, had his unique style. That’s how it started. He reached out and ever since then he’s been my man.
In the same interview DOOM continued when asked about the recording process and collaborating with Madlib:
I can put it in a nutshell. It was more like, OK, I’m trying to finish this record so I can get back home. I’m staying in LA and I’m trying to get back to my children. So I’m working as fast I can without sacrificing the quality. So he’s working too like that, so I hardly see him, even though we’re in the same house. So he’s always in the Bomb Shelter and I’m up on the deck writing. He’d give me another CD and I’m writing, and he’s back in the Bomb Shelter, so I would hardly speak to him. We might stop and he’ll burn one and we’ll listen to the beat and then that’s it, and then the next two days I probably won’t see him. Then I was getting mad work done, knocking it out. Then, at the end of the week, we listened to the shit and be like, “Alright, here’s the angle I’m thinking of on this one, all we need is a verse and it’s done.” And then that’s it; we hardly spoke really. It was more through telepathy. We spoke through the music. He’d hear a joint and that’s my conversation with him. Then I’d hear a beat and that’s like what he’s saying to me. It’s real bugged. And still to this day that’s how we do it.
Stones Throw Art Director Jeff Jank was present at the sessions and spoke to Ego Trip Land about the recording:
I often picked up Doom from a hotel each day. We’d hit a liquor store around 10am. He’d write on the back porch, Madlib doing his thing downstairs in the bomb shelter.
The most important part of their process is simply that Doom understood Madlib right off the bat. He understood where he was coming from with the music, how it connected with the records they listened to from the ‘60s-’90s, and Madlib’s inclination to worked on his own in privacy. Doom was all for it.
“(Accordian) was one of the first beats I heard. It just happened to be a catchy beat. I was just writing down my first thoughts for all my rhymes right there. There’s not a big concept behind it, it’s like a freestyle verse. It depends on the project. It depends on how much time I have to do it, how much information I have available. A certain amount of time has to pass to add texture to it. That one just happened to be at a time when everything was coming to a culmination of information. It was simple and easy to do. Wasn’t hard.”
Nov 2002–2003 — The Leak
In November 2002, Madlib visited Brazil as part of Red Bull Music Academy and continued work on the album. He later spoke to Scratch Magazine about digging for records while in Brazil:
I was digging with Cut Chemist and all them in Brazil. I was pulling out whatever, crazy-ass records, and niggas was like, “There ain’t gonna be nothing on that record.” I made a whole beat tape, they was tripping. That’s the most records I ever bought in my life, right there. I spent like five Gs on shit you ain’t never gonna see, and most of them didn’t even get here. I had two boxes that got lost. Nobody knows where they are.
I did most of the Madvillain album in Brazil. Cuts like “Raid” I did in my hotel room in Brazil on a portable turntable, my (Boss SP) 303, and a little tape deck. I recorded it on tape, came back here, put it on CD, and DOOM made a song out of it. Niggas be sleeping, thinking they need all this gear.
Other instrumentals created while in Brazil were used for Strange Ways and Rhinestone Cowboy.
Madlib also took demo tapes of the unreleased Madvillain and Jaylib sessions to Brazil, where they were stolen and both albums were soon leaked online.
The tracklisting that appeared online with the leaks were incorrect and presumably made up by the leaker, with titles such as powerball 5 used for Figaro, horny for All Caps, and jack off for America’s Most Blunted. Stones Throw would later give a break down of the tracklist differences though it was later removed from their website. On their old website they described the tracks:
“These tracks are rough cuts of the first tracks made by Doom and Madlib in Fall 2002. These tracks are quick mixes and/or unfinished; one of them is a Madlib solo track recorded in 1999; some others are only instrumentals. All of them were made for the artists alone to hear. Please support the truly independent hip hop that Madlib, MF Doom, and Stones Throw are committed to by shunning weak bootlegs and reserving judgement on the music until the music is released the way the artist meant it to be heard.”
At the time albums leaking on to the internet was still a fairly new concept and Stones Throw was unsure how to proceed. Jeff Jank spoke to Pitchfork about how everyone was feeling:
Those were the early days of internet leaks, and we thought it would completely ruin sales. People were approaching DOOM and Madlib at shows to tell them how much they liked the album, so they were like, ‘Fuck it, I’m done.’ Madlib started on other stuff, and DOOM, well, you never know what he’s doing.
Late 2003 — Finishing the album
In between the leak, the Jaylib album Champion Sound flopped commercially selling 16000 units by 2004. DOOM meanwhile continued to do his own thing and released Take Me to Your Leader under the moniker King Geedorah, as well as Vaudeville Villain as Viktor Vaughn produced by Heat Sensor, King Honey, Max Bill, and RJD2.
Then at some point in mid 2003 Madlib and DOOM reunited to finish the Madvillian album, and also got together to perform at Stones Throw’s Coachella set in April though no information of this set is online possibly because they performed at the same time as Talib Kweli.
Jeff Jank spoke to Ego Trip Land about the 2003 recording sessions:
Both guys just figured they were done with it, on to the next thing. The process of getting them back to work took most of 2003, and the very last parts of the album were much harder than everything else. Right towards the end just about everyone was frustrated, and I ended up being the last guy in the studio doing a some minor edit here and there, which I’d never done before at Stones Throw.
It was during this process that DOOM made the decision to re-record all of his vocals, and change some lyrics. Peanut Butter Wolf spoke to Pitchfork about the change:
On the original version of [the] album, DOOM rapped in a really hyper, more enthusiastic voice. Then he decided to rap in a more mellow, relaxed, confident, less abrasive tone. I think he did it to make it different from the all the other projects he dropped those years.
The 12” of Money Folder/America’s Most Blunted released from these sessions and reached #66 in the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales chart on December 27. At this time the album was still being finalised. Stones Throw had hoped for a December 2003 release but this date would be missed as DOOM and Madlib continued working. It was only near the very end of the sessions that a new track Rhinestone Cowboy was added. DOOM explains:
The record was a little short and my man Egon, he was: “Doom, we need one more song.” At the time he was up in Stones Throw, he was the A&R dude. I had so many beats from Madlib, I went through them, picked the one that stood out the most. That was the one in a heartbeat, it wasn’t tricky to rhyme to. So that song came out of just needing to fill the slot, real spontaneous, like a week to turn the record in. “Here you go E, it’s done.” That’s how it came about, but it’s one of my favourite records as well, so a lot of the time when I’m under the gun like that, I tend to come up with that kind of thing. So I wrote it to the beat, just real quick. Crunch time.
In December 2003 the final editing and mastering of the album was complete and it was time to finalise the artwork and other promotion.
2003 — Cover Art
Jeff Jank discused the the creation of the album cover in 2011:
Back then, 2003, Doom didn’t really have public image. Hip-hop heads knew he wore a mask, that he’d been in KMD a decade earlier, but he really was a mystery. So, I really wanted to get a shot of him on the cover, just to make a definitive Doom cover. Specifically I was thinking of a picture of this man, who happened to wear a mask for some reason, as opposed to “a picture of a mask.” I don’t know if the distinction would occur to anyone else, but to me it was a big deal. I mean, who the hell goes around with a metal mask, what’s his story?
Eric Coleman came over with camera and film and just went to it one day. I don’t remember if we had a shoot planned or if he showed up on the right day. Doom and Madlib can be elusive with photos, so this was a score. We shot them at our house, where the album was being recorded.
I was thinking of the cover for King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King when I was working on this photo that I zeroed in on. I use to check out that big red screaming face on the King Crimson album in my dad’s vinyl [collection] when I was a little kid and it really shook me — I was actually scared looking through his vinyl. I hoped this picture of this guy with a metal mask would do the same to some other 5-year-old somewhere.
Another thing — just sort of a little inside joke of mine — was that the black and white photo [of Doom] reminded me in some way of the first Madonna album cover, just her in black and white — it said “MADONNA” and the “O” was orange. I saw the two pictures side by side and laughed at it like it was some rap version of Beauty & the Beast. So I put a little piece of orange up in the corner, partly because it needed something distinctive, and partly to match the color with Madonna.
2004–2006 — Madvillainy and Remixes
Preceeding the album Stones Throw released one more single, All Caps / Curls available on both 12" vinyl and CD.
Regarding the lyrics of All Caps “It’s a damn shame/Just remember ALL CAPS when you spell the man name”, DOOM explained the concept to XXL:
I’m not really dealing with frustration. I’m dealing with joy any time I’m doing music. I don’t really write stuff down if I’m in a frustrated place or an emotional kinda thing. I was just making an observation. Like, is this all caps? Eventually it’s gonna not be all caps, just out of sheer probability. So the song was made prior to any time when my name would’ve been in a different font or anything. There’s nothing really connected to it at all. When I rhyme I rhyme from a place of authority and I say things authoritatively, and that may come across as frustration, but it’s just creativity.
The CD edition of All Caps was released exclusively in Europe as a promo and featured a music video for All Caps directed and animated by James Reitano for TFU Studios.
MF DOOM’s artwork referenced old 60’s comic book stuff, so Wolf had suggested Madvillain’s “Money Folder”, and later gave me “All Caps” to use for the video. I showed Wolf and Otis some old tapes of those cartoons and then I called DOOM. He knew exactly what I wanted to do, and was really into it. We agreed to re-invent his character, rather than pirate any already existing characters. We talked about trenchcoats, fedora hats and CIA looking guys. We had a great conversation. Doom is a huge Jack Kirby fan, so I tried my best to reference that era in comics which happens to be my favorite stuff too.
On March 23, 2004 Stones Throw released Madvillainy to great acclaim. In it’s first week the album reached #179 in the Billboard Top 200, #80 in Top R&B / Hip Hop, #9 in Top Heatseakers, and #10 in Top Independent albums. It would sell over 45000 copies by summer.
The album would feature the All Caps video on the CD release and 22 tracks, all produced by Madlib except The Illest Villains, which was produced by Madlib and DOOM, and the narration skits which were produced by DOOM.
In April 2004 one week after the albums release, the Stones Throw Fan Club 45 #8 was released and given away with initial orders of Madvillainy. Only 1000 copies of the 7" were pressed and it featured Madvillain’s One Beer. This was recorded during the late 2003 album sessions but was left off the album as DOOM had rapped over a beat that Madlib had already decided to use on Jaylib’s track No Games. Madlib tried to remix the song so it could be used on the album, calling it One Beer (Drunk Version), but it was deemed “too weird” for inclusion. Then the only copy of the Drunk Version was lost until years later when it was found and appeared on the Madvillainy 2 Box Set released in 2008. The original version with the Jaylib beat meanwhile appeared on MF DOOM’s MM..FOOD album in 2004.
Also in April, Madlib and DOOM took part in a series of four release parties for Madvillainy. Starting on Friday April 2 in Los Angeles at The Henry Fonda Theatre, the night included MF DOOM, Madlib & J-Rocc as Jaylib, Peanut Butter Wolf, and Egon all appearing. The tour then visited San Fransisco, New York City, and Toronto, and a special t-shirt featuring the All Caps video character was made available for the tour.
In May it was announced that the next Madvillain video would be for Rhinestone Cowboys, and that it would be directed by Andrew Gura and released in the summer.
One year later in May 2005, Both DOOM and Madlib appeared together on Closer from Quasimoto’s second album Return of Lord Quas. Then in mid 2005 two EPs were released featuring remixes of select Madvillain tracks by Four Tet and Koushik. These remixes were initially available in Europe only and contained instrumental versions of the remixes on the B-side. Rhinestone Cowboys is the only track without an instrumental version due to it actually being a new remix by DOOM based on a Four Tet remix of one of the Madvillain tracks.
2006–2008 — Madvillainy 2
Fans were understandably hungry for more Madvillain, and in January 2006 the Stones Throw website claimed “A second Madvillain album is on track for 2006 release.” While it didn’t materialise, some beats and pieces did get released over the coming years.
In October 2006, Adult Swim teamed with Stones Throw to release Chrome Children volume 1. The compilation contained a new Madvillain song called Monkey Suite. It was later revealed that this was a typo, and the correct title should have been Monkey Suit. An instrumental version of the album was also released containing an instrumental version of the Madvillain song.
In January 2007 Stones Throw and Kid Robot released the Madvillain figure based on the character featured in the All Caps video and it sold out the first day of release.
In 2008 Stones Throw released Madvillainy 2 : The Madlib Remix. A completely remixed version of the Madvillainy album reportedly created to inspire DOOM to finish his work on the follow up album. This was released as a box set which included the following:
CD Madvillainy “2” The Madlib Remix. 25 tracks.
7-INCH “One Beer (Drunk Version)” Madlib’s original 2004 version, lost until recently on the floor of his Bomb Shelter studio. If you saw the studio you’d understand.
CASSETTE The Madvillainy Demo Tape. 12 tracks, 36 minutes. This is the first and only official release of the infamous Madvillain demo that “leaked into cyberspace,” while the album was still in progress, as DOOM alludes to in the lyrics of “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
COMIC BOOK Meanwhile… the continuation of the All Caps video, included with the CD.
Of note, the album includes two non-Madvillain tracks:
- A remix of Air by Dabrye featuring DOOM entitled Butter King Jewels.
- A remix of Space Ho’s from 2005’s Dangerdoom album, a collaboration between DOOM and producer Danger Mouse.
Also included was Monkey Suit, the Adult Swim singles track originally released in 2006. This version contains an added snare, but is otherwise the same.
2009–2015 — Leaks and Rumours
In April 2009 DOOM invited The New Yorker to sit in on recording sessions for the sequel to Madvillainy, and the reporter witnesses DOOM writing the song Travis 911.
Dumile was sitting behind his computer cycling through the Madlib beats and taking notes. He was replaying video news reports about the chimp who had attacked a woman in Connecticut that February. The beat on loop was the same one he’d played the night before — jangling piano and a man muttering.
He clicked a button, and the news reports played over the beat. I struggled to find some connection between the two but said nothing. Dumile explained that he was working on retelling the story from the chimp’s perspective.
“I’m digging through these to get pictures for the actual facts of the piece,” he said. “It’s still the fact of shooting a monkey. What is this disrespect for life?”
In October 2009 J.Rocc played a new Madvillain tracks on Fat Beats Live on Eastvillageradio.com. Stones Throw reported the news on their website and mention that DOOM and Madlib are working on the new songs in LA. The songs were later found to be called Avalanche and Saviour Beans.
In late 2009 DOOM’s MySpace featured a mix called MADVILLAINZ BEAT CREW MIX, NOV. 21ST 2009, OAXACO, L.A.. It did not contain any new Madvillain, MF DOOM or Madlib songs.
In December 2009 the unreleased Saviour Beans was played in full by J.Rocc live on BBC. The ‘leak’ as it was referred to as was promoted by Stones Throw on their website.
PAPERMILL IS THE FIRST RELEASE FROM THE NEW MADVILLAIN ALBUM WHICH DOOM & MADLIB BEGAN RECORDING IN 2009. THE ALBUM IS CURRENTLY A WORK-IN-PROGRESS AND WILL BE RELEASED ON STONES THROW RECORDS
In January 2011 Stones Throw released Stones Throw Podcast 64, mixed by Peanut Butter Wolf and two new Madvillain songs are listed in the tracklist: Avalanche and Victory Lap. The later turned out to be Victory Laps by DOOM/STARKS which was officially released as a cassette in July 2011 as part of a collaboration between DOOM x Akomplice. The tape was billed as a Madvillainz remix.
It’s almost done, I can say that. But it’s been almost done for maybe like two years. I can’t say when it’s done, but I’ll be finished soon with my part by, say, January. But Madlib still has to put his little touches on it, but it’ll be soon. Soon.
Much later in 2014 Madlib also gave an update, where he told Dazed:
I’m about to go see him right after this and figure that out. I’m not forcing him to do it. He doesn’t even have to do it; I just want to know where we are at with it because we recorded like, 10, 13 songs, but out of those we probably only used 4, so I want to see how the recordings are going. It’s not close to finished because it has to be a continuation of the last one. It doesn’t have to be better or worse but it has to be a continuation.
Also in 2014 DOOM and Madlib both spoke to Bonafide about the second album:
DOOM: I mean we got a lot of it done already, part of that’s why we’re meeting up now to discuss some of that. It’s in effect but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when.
Madlib: Can’t rush with this kind of thing, especially after the first one.
DOOM: It’s the follow up, without over thinking it though, it’s a continuation, ain’t gotta’ be better or worse. Where y’all last left off at, next episode. We got a lot of songs done. Two or three more songs and it’s wrapped up.
In 2014 DOOM reportedly sent the following e-mail to Peanut Butter Wolf:
“I’m just about done, doing some final touch-ups over the weekend, then she’ll be ready. Sounding really dope.”
Wolf’s decision to post the message to his Instagram reportedly angered DOOM, and Pitchfork reported in 2014 “to date, no new songs have been sent.”
Wolf removed the post, but not before fans had taken a screenshot. Wolf claimed that it was a late April Fool’s prank, but later deleted that post too.
2014 also marked the 10th anniversary of Madvillainy and a re-release of the album pushed it back in to the Billboard Top 200, reaching a new high of #117.
Both Madlib and DOOM appeared together again in 2015 on Knock Knock, released as part of Med, Madlib and Blu’s album Bad Neighbor.
In July 2015 two new tracks leaked, Travis 911 (the song DOOM was seen recording in 2009 by the New York Times), and an Untitled song featuring M.E.D. which was later named F.Y.I.
In response to the leaks Peanut Butter Wolf tweeted:
Media leaking 2 unreleased Madvillain songs today, but I’m sitting on like 12 of them waiting til they’re finished.
2016+ — Avalanche
In December 2016 Avalanche was announced as a pre-order to ship Feb 2017. The song was released as a 7" record by Madlib Invazion, Madlib’s record label seperate from Stones Throw. The 7" was also packaged with an 8” Madvillian figure which was created by the same team behind the 2007 Madvillain figure by Kid Robot.
Avalanche had previously been leaked and played live by J.Rocc as a Madvillain track but it was now being released without the Madvillain name and instead is credited to MF DOOM & Madlib. No reason was given but it’s worth noting this was not released by Stones Throw, and Stones Throw tried to remove the song from the internet by making copyright claims on against Madlib Invazion on YouTube. This has led some fans to beleive that Stones Throw own the Madvillain name and this release wasmeant to get around releasing new songs on Stones Throw.
Since then no news has been released regarding a Madvillain follow up though fans continue to eagerly anticipate its release.