9. JJ DOOM - Key To The Kuffs (2012)
"Not to interrupt / But anybody else notice time speeding up?" (from "Banished")
In music, it's so rare when old talent doesn't die hard, when an artist matures fruitfully -- few things are more beautiful than hearing a wealth of experience inflect the work of a professional. And Key To The Kuffs, at the very least, stands up as an album. It's conceptually sound (ostensibly about DOOM's experiences having relocated to London for the past two years) and doesn't make the mistake of relying too heavily on old tricks.
But in the arena of contemporary music, the JJ DOOM project comes down decisively on the side of electronic wizardry -- beat-mavenism and sample composition -- not rap. DOOM knows how to graft himself onto an adept and idiosyncratic producer like Jneiro Janal, but he's vocally heavier and less tonally sensitive, as on 2009's Born Like This.
Though Janel is far from a novice, his moves on Key To The Kuffs recall Flying Lotus's warning about "kids who started making beats six months ago, thinking they can get on stage because their drums are off," delivered during an interview two years ago. Janel employs DOOM's drum stutters, off-time breaks, and sample collages, but they don't necessarily deliver the hyperparodic comedy or handcrafted warmth they might in DOOM's hands.
The best moments on the album are songs like "Rhymin' Slang," where Janel and DOOM make an effort to sound like neither of their past projects, to great effect. Hearing DOOM over a pseudo-Calypso beat during "Wash Your Hands" will give new faith to anyone who thought the man would never be able to leave the old school.