Madvillainy at 20

I was in South Philadelphia visiting a friend when Madvillainy was released on CD and Vinyl. The morning of March 23, 2004, I ducked into a music store and paid $14.99 for the album and spent the rest of the afternoon driving around with the windows down (why, I have no idea - it was March!) listening to the CD on repeat. Sure, we stopped for touristy things, but Madvillainy was a staple in the car.

Keep in mind that 20 years ago, I only had an iPod so there was no way I could digitize the CD and transfer it to my device for the flight back home. I had maybe three full rotations through the album, then had to wait an excruciatingly long time before I could steal another listen. It was torture. 

When I finally returned home from Philadelphia, I quickly ripped the CD in iTunes, made sure the Metadata was correct, and slammed it on my iPod. It quickly became my favorite - and most listened - album of all-time.

So, here I am, 20 years later, reflecting on my perfect album. There are authors, journalists, and music critics who have a way more technical breakdown of this album, the samples, the lore… but this is my take on favorite tracks, mixed in with those expert opinions.

Album Retrospectives & Lore

‘Madvillainy’ Turns 20
A look back at MF Doom and Madlib’s singular masterpiece.
Searching for Tomorrow: The Story of Madlib and DOOM’s Madvillainy
Ten years after the release of Madlib and DOOM’s mind meld of an album, Jeff Weiss traces the history of Madvillain and details how these two mystifying artists came together for a rap classic.
Madvillain: Madvillainy
Madvillainy, one of the most anticipated releases in underground rap history, happens to parallel one of the most anticipated arrivals…


In my humble opinion, this is one of, if not the best track on the whole album. And it sets a whiplash pace with rapid-fire raps over a looped Daedelus’s Experience sample.

Who, outside of MF DOOM and Madlib, could get away with this? The beat and samples are complex enough, but layering DOOM’s rhyme scheme and flow over the top gives this track an incredible sway. It’s so hard to put into words just how great this track works.

Accordion music video on YouTube

How Madlib and MF DOOM Captured Lightning in a Bottle With ‘Accordion’
After an early version of ‘Madvillainy’ leaked online, the artists turned to an unorthodox sample source

All Caps

I'll be honest, when I first listened to the record, I kept hitting repeat on Accordion and didn't give the back half of the album much of a listen. Sure, there's some filler in between (Sickfit, Do Not Fire!, Operation Lifesaver, Supervillain Theme) and some lower-quality tracks (Operation Lifesaver, Hardcore Hustle), but All Caps is spectacular.

And the music video is even better:

All Caps music video on YouTube


Clocking in at 1:36, Curls is one of the shorter tracks on the album, but it's packed with backstory of DOOM's early drug use and how he'd steal and lie to his mom about it.

"His life is like a folklore legend..."

Fancy Clown

A rare diss-track from Viktor Vaughn to MF DOOM. Getting into layers here with alter-egos, it's the Vaudeville Villain calling out his girl for cheating on him with DOOM.

Again, layers.

There's been a place for you in my heart since we first met
A teenage love that didn't feel no hurt yet
My boys warned me you was poison like BBD first cassette
And still I put my chips on the worse bet

Stone's Throw Records had a contest to make a Fancy Clown video and it's pretty amazing, honestly:

Fancy Clown music video on YouTube

Rhinestone Cowboy

I can't think of a better track to close an album than Rhinestone Cowboy. This is DOOM at his peak wordplay. This first verse is just plain unfair:

Hold the cold one like he hold a old gun
Like he hold the microphone and stole the show for fun
Or a foe for ransom, flows is handsome
O's in tandem, anthem, random tantrum
Phantom of the Grand Ole Opry, ask the dumb hottie
Masked, pump-shotty—somebody stop me
Hardly come sloppy on a retarded hard copy
After rockin' parties, he departed in a jalopy
Watch the droptop papi
Known as the grimy limey, slimy— try me blimey!
Simply smashing in a fashion that's timely
Madvillain dashing in a beat-rhyme crime spree

You've successfully subscribed to Stephen Bolen
Great! Next, complete checkout to get full access to all premium content.
Error! Could not sign up. invalid link.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Error! Could not sign in. Please try again.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Error! Stripe checkout failed.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Error! Billing info update failed.