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.

Time Is Absurd

It’s interesting to think of time as being genuinely relative depending on which level of life you choose to focus your attention upon.  The Aquatic Mayfly lives but 30 minutes, while the Aldabra Giant Tortoise is on record for living 225 years (liver failure is what got him).  The human, on a worldwide average, lives for around 67 years.  Yet, each species lives life in the same general manner.  They are born into reality, and then they die, fading into non-existence.  The processes in-between are also similar, as each of these three species consumes food (the fly and the tortoise, primarily plants) which is processed into energy which is essential for life.  Is it so far-fetched to suggest, that if the fly and the tortoise were consciously aware of their lifespan, all three species would perceive the duration of their lives in the same relative amount of time?

Every individual process in any lifespan, has a beginning, and has an end.  Each system, however, is designed to be perpetual and infinite, fueled from collective sub-processes.  The processes within these systems are things which perish/cease to exist, but each process is always working towards the purpose of the grander system which it serves.

Think of the cells within your body forming tissue, forming muscles, forming body systems, forming you, forming the human species and finally forming the earth’s ecosystem.  Each process (let’s say, the tissue) is preceded by that which forms the process (the cells), and succeeded by the system which said processes (the tissues) form (the muscle).  Each individual system formed within this existence is the result of one singular path — one path of repeatedly successful micro-systems.  Collectively, these systems can join together, to become processes for an even grander system.

The fascinating thing about being human is that we are consciously aware of our own existence.  We can contemplate upon the very structure of such a thing.  We can gain an ego, simply because the human being is a pretty impressive thing, just like any mammal, organism or system.  We are really capable of quite a lot, but our conscious awareness allows us to get wrapped up in a perceived significance in our individual life.  Clearly, the human is just another process, resulting from several micro-systems, and the macro-system which it serves is that of the human species.

This concept is found many places — your computer, the numerical system, the formation of stars and galaxies, a musical album, cities within a state/country/etc.  You can keep filling that sentence with a plethora of examples, but the point will remain that this is a pattern which pops up all over our conscious existence.

If each process (each process resulting from succeeding micro-systems) — essentially everything — is just serving a macro-system of a grander nature, would not the details within every single process share a certain universality?  You would certainly start to see many similarities between seemingly random and non-connected processes.  Between an asteroid and computer byte, between a human and a galaxy; what each process served would certainly be very different, but everything still follows the basic “/micro-system –> macro-system/micro-system –> macro-system/” loop.  If smaller creatures and various animals could perceive existence in a similar manner to the human species, their perception of their individual lifespan would likely be extremely similar to that of a human’s.

Smaller creatures appear to move extremely quickly, and the universe as a whole seems to move very slowly — from human observation, at least.  Sure, the earth revolves around the sun at around 67,000 mph, but what does that even realistically translate to from our micro-systematic perspective?  We say “1 year”.  This really just sounds like saying “1 successful completion of a process”, in this case, the earth fully revolving one time around the sun.  On a whole, one year for the earth is quite a long time from our point of view — and this is not subjective, as our timescale stems from the Earth’s revolution around the sun.  Under this timescale, the Mayfly lives but half an hour.  We are measuring our micro-system by a macro-system’s standard, and this is clearly an absurd way to calculate our existence.  In this respect, Sun Worship would naturally make the most sense as a religion to subscribe to, as Father Time is certainly a Pagan.

Judging a micro-system’s time from a macro-system’s perspective is certainly the most natural way to perceive time, but while functional, it is philosophically delusional.  True perspective of existential duration stems from the perspective of the individual process, in relation to surrounding processes upon the same level as itself.  To really get a grasp for how significant a human being, as an isolated process, has in correspondence to known universal existence, think of things in terms of “1 Human Life” — the average worldwide lifespan is, again, 67 years.  Going back to my initial examples, a Mayfly would then live for 7 Billionths of 1 Human Life.  Our sun then, exists for about 184 Million Human lives.  When you look at things in this manner, you get an immediate understanding for the true duration-based value of your existence.

And from this, we also see that there is no way to measure time without relying upon a reference point.  This reference point, being, whatever individual process you choose to judge from — and in this we see that time as a concept is imperfect.  Completely, completely relative, and therefore one should place no philosophical or contemplative weight upon “minutes”, “hours” and “years”.  Existence is existence, regardless which system you find yourself a part of.  Hypothetically, if you could view every individual process, consciously and independently, I would imagine every lifespan to pass by with the same relative duration.