Lyrical Analysis: “Accordion” by Madvillain (MF DOOM + Madlib)

The lyrics can be found here.  Here is the official music video:

Daniel Dumile channels various traits of his personality into several characters.  One character, Viktor Vaughn, embraces a youthful, ambitious side of Dumile.  Another, King Geedorah, represents a colossal alien who commentates on humanity from an objective view-point.  On 2004’s Madvillainy LP, Dumile teamed with Madlib to create a character known to many as “Madvillain” (also referred to as “The Villain”/”Villain” on the recording), and it is in this character why so many have flocked to Dumile’s provocative flow.

In the opening statement of Madvillainy, “Accordion”, we have a chance to meet Madvillain — or at least, we hear a testament to his greatness.  What differentiates Dumile’s braggadocio from his contemporaries is in the nature of said testimony.  The opening narration, “Living off borrowed time the clock tick faster” is entirely detached from the rest of the verse.  The line vaguely contemplates upon the notion of time before sparking inspiration from an observer of said narration.  This is the masked man who tells the tales of the legendary Madvillain — MF DOOM.

Think of MF DOOM, in the context of “Accordion”, as a street poet or preacher upon a soapbox, dazzling the audience with hyperbole-ridden tales of a legend (Madvillain) whom is not even physically present (and indeed, artistically, Dumile literally hides “Madvillain” behind MF DOOM’s mask).  The very next line which follows the opening narration is spoken matter-of-factly, responding to the omniscient narration, as if one was reading a newspaper and remarking indifferently: “that’ll be the hour they knock the sick blaster“.

This line, as soon seen, starts a stream-of-consciousness description of Madvillain as a character.  The reason why this lyricism inspires such originality and thought within the listener is because Daniel Dumile is not the one boasting about Madvillain (at least, directly).  Instead, what Dumile does is create a third-person narrative, using what amounts to a street preacher (MF DOOM) to describe a main character (Madvillain) which personifies certain elements of a real personality (Daniel Dumile).

While “Accordion” is riddled with interpretive poetry, arguably four of the strongest lines are found in the following verse:

Keep your glory gold and glitter
For half, half of his n***** will take him out the picture
The other half is rich and it don’t mean s***-a
Villain a mixture of both with a twist of liquor

In these four lines, Dumile, as MF DOOM, describes Madvillain as someone who is unaffected by promises of monetary gain and illusionary, ‘glittering’ successes.  In the second and third lines, we learn of his rationality for this mindset.  While these lines strike hard just for the discussed content, the final line pulls together the reason why the audience is so captivated by “Accordion”.  “Villain a mixture of both…” is self-loathing and self-inspiring all at once, admitting that Madvillain, as a character (and thus, part of Daniel Dumile), embraces both extremes — “with a twist of liquor”.

While “MF DOOM” is telling of the “Madvillain” character/legend, the fourth line (“Villain a mixture…“) carries the same sort of off-handedness which follows up “Living off borrowed time…” — the opening line of the song.  This alludes a light-hearted glimpse into the actual character of “MF DOOM” (the street-corner poet/preacher), indirectly suggesting the characters within the world of “Madvillainy” see themselves as Madvillain.  Therefore, they view him in a heroic light, and not with the same villainous bent as most of the populous.

See RapGenius’ entry on “Accordion” for a line-by-line interpretation.

Lyrical Analysis: “The Robber Fancy” by Charles Dickens

“When from thy boiling store, thou shalt fill each jar brim full by and by, dost thou think that thou wilt always kill outright the robber Fancy lurking within — or sometimes only maim him and distort him!”

-Charles Dickens, Hard Times, 1854

The key word in this poetic warning to overly-reliant intellectualism is “Fancy” — capitalized in the book presumably for emphasis.  Earlier in the chapter, a schoolgirl (Cecilia Jupe) is called out for wishing to “carpet her room with representations of flowers”, simply responding how she finds the imagery “pretty and pleasant”.  She fancies the flowers, and immediately after her admittance of this opinion, her teachers brashly lecture how all her thoughts should come from a place of fact (as opposed to “fancy”).

The quote from above comes after a lengthy paragraph describing essentially a perfectly educated teacher (M’Choakumchild) knowledgeable in just about everything one could reasonably expect to know.  “The boiling store“, then, refers to M’Choakumchild’s mind, steaming with information to a point of overload.  With this stored knowledge, he desires to “fill each jar (to the) brim full” with the same knowledge, so that the process can forever continue — a world of men and women who know fact and nothing else.  The children of the classroom, in particular Cecilia (whom is filled with “fancy” and thus resistance towards this process), are the latest empty jars to be filled with said fact.

Dickens counters the schoolteacher’s over-confidence (“dost thou think that thou wilt always“) with the realistic notion that not everyone will always take so kindly to a world of fact and nothing more.  In the chapter Cecilia is clearly discouraged by this onslaught against the fun and fanciful world she once knew, before being subjected to a realm of fact.  Dickens recognizes her individual spirit, and jests towards the schoolteacher — calling “Fancy” a “robber lurking within“, as if to suggest that Fact is un-natural and that in the end Fancy lurks within every mental jar, threatening to overthrow that which has been artificially placed (Fact).

This passage essentially states how it is improbable to expect someone to completely bend to your chosen system, in this context “fact”, and expect them to adapt without compromise.  Indeed, it ends with the ominous line, “or sometimes only to main him and distort him!” — “him” referring to “the robber” which of course refers to “Fancy”.  Subjecting your mindset to another without regard for empathy will not only fail to truly add something new, but it will also pervert what was once natural and pure.  M’Choakumchild may be very well-versed in education and overall knowledge, but in the process he has lost his ability to relate to those he wishes to teach (Cecilia).  As Dickens says in the same chapter:

“If he had only learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more!”