“Andrew the Rapper”

When I was 16 I recorded a ‘rap album’ with 11 tracks, a 15 dollar microphone and a program I still use today — Audacity.  I made it mainly because I wanted to liven up the tedious routine of school and I rapped about very tame things (the class botany project; in-jokes with friends recorded for friends and Dance Dance Revolution, sampling South Park’s then-popular episode).  I even tried to make a “real” song, of which I’ll spare you the details.

Among friends, from then on, I was of-course known by my rap alias, “Hateorade”, not necessarily by choice, but always in good-spirit.  The 14-minute album-in-question, “Hate or Die”, did manage to get played in said science class and yes, when the first track, “With a Beat” came on, a few people started dancing (and laughing).

The memory of my friends’ and classmates’ reaction, in addition to the ‘recording process’ itself (i.e. “Name me some stuff and I’ll make a rap about it,” leading to the classic, “Pancaked”) are clearly why I made the project.  The intentions were so pure and the results were so horrible, but everyone just kept going with it because it was honestly pretty funny – this was in 2006.

This is my ultimate take-away from making music: what you record in the present turns into something which helps understand who you were in the past (and thus, who you are today).  I think when I revisited this, years later, this realization refueled my desire to record music.

Fast-forward to the end of 2010, throughout 2011 and into early 2012 and I began to reimagine my favorite moments in music as platforms on which my perspective could stand – this was done by looping portions of songs, then rapping over these loops.  Those are heady statements, too, because the practical result was some uber-lo-fi, uber-quiet raps over weird-ass samples; amassing maybe a collective 1,000 views on YouTube (and over 17 tracks, that’s even less than you think it is).

It was early 2012 and I realized I had recorded about an album’s length of material, so I released it on DatPiff.  I also realized, judging from said ‘album’, that I was a terrible rapper and it was ridiculous to think anyone should waste their time listening to such “armchair Hip Hop”.   This, in itself, was enough for me to ask the question: “Could I do it any better if I actually tried?”

So I did try — really, really hard.  That very summer I made up my mind I was going to make a rap album that was somewhat listenable.  There was also a serious sense of urgency to the project because part of me was a bit sketched out by talks of doomsday and Mayan Apocalypse.  I knew the world wouldn’t end, but I did wonder: “If it would, what would I want to say now?”

I was making music as if it was the last thing I was ever going to make.  Once it was made, however, I realized that life was still continuing and, since I had at least tried to make something, my sense of urgency faded.  Life kicked into full-gear and I was too busy balancing work and school to really find time for rapping.

During this time period, I used Laptop Rap 2 as personal motivation.  Whenever I felt like everything was too much, I remembered that at the end of the day, I made Laptop Rap 2.  It sounds so silly now, but it was quite an accomplishment (in my own head).  Over time, however, inner(/net) criticism dissolved my halcyon daze and I was back to square one: “Could I make an album which would transcend internal criticism?”

Spoilers: Yes.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that making Hip Hop music, in the 100%-DIY manner I choose to make it, is both therapeutic and a powerful tool for self-motivation.  I’m telling you all this because I wanted those who know me in-person to understand my intentions and that no, I haven’t lost my mind.  If you really respect me as a person, you will indulge my rap-fantasy and give my tunes a listen – you’ll be surprised.

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.