Living up to his Marvel villain-inspired alter ego, Daniel Dumile tends to never be too far away from controversy. Having been accused of sending a succession of doppelgangers to take his place on stage during a stateside tour in '08, the British-born, US-raised rapper was seemingly up to his old tricks again last month. Scheduled to DJ at Livin Proof's Saturday night party at Concrete, Dumile's management team are alleged to have demanded extra money shortly after the doors of the Shoreditch basement had opened. With ticket holders packing into the intimate space, the London-based promoters claim to have reluctantly met this additional payment. An hour later, what's said to have been an ill-fitting double—wearing sunglasses under the iconic DOOM mask—arrived at the venue. This somewhat amusing yet ultimately fairly despicable act appears to be the latest stunt from an enigma, whose collaboration portfolio includes major label A-listers such as Thom Yorke, Ghostface Killah, Gorillaz and Danger Mouse.
Rumoured to be stranded in the UK for the past two years after visa issues upon trying to re-enter the US, DOOM's latest pairing is with leftfield hip-hop maverick Jneiro Jarel. Recorded in south London, then later finalised in Jarel's New Orleans studio, Key to the Kuffs collates 15 UK-inspired tracks that weave cockney colloquialisms and other British references through an animated tapestry of off-kilter percussion. After an obfuscating intro formed from quintessentially East End quips, the album gets underway with the low-slung jazztronica of "Guv'nor." Following on, DOOM's appearance on Gorillaz's 2008 sophomore Demon Days is repaid, as Damon Albarn becomes the first guest vocalist to subtly crop up, with a typically deadpan contribution towards "Bite the Thong." Adding a further sense of occasion, Portishead's Beth Gibbons appears on "GMO," while Goodie Mob's Khujo takes the lead on "Still Kaps." Despite the well-worked delivery of these understated cameos, the album's most impacting moments come in the form of "Dawg Friendly," "Rhymin Slang" and "Winter Blues," which find the masked goon uncharacteristically navel-gazing.
In terms of the prospect of a DOOM collaboration in 2012, it's probably fair to say most asked last year would have welcomed the arrival of the delayed sequel to '04's Madvillainy alongside Madlib. However, Dumile's offbeat mantle with Jarel manifests in a cerebral romp that brims with madcap invention. By no means without flaw—perhaps 11 or 12 tracks as opposed to 15 would have streamlined the overall package—Key to the Kuffs certainly finds one of underground music's true antiheros in irresistibly infectious form.
Tracklist: JJ DOOM - Key to the Kuffs 01. Waterlogged
04. Bite the Thong featuring Damon Albarn
05. Rhymin Slang
06. Dawg Friendly
07. Borin Convo
08. Snatch That Dough
09. GMO featuring Beth Gibbons
10. Bout the Shoes featuring Boston Fielder
11. Winter Blues
12. Still Kaps featuring Khujo Goodie
13. Retarded Fren
14. Viberian Sun Pt. II
15. Wash Your Hands
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