In March 2004, Madlib and MF DOOM released Madvillainy – the only record under their collaborative Madvillain project and one that would change the rap game forever. To mark its 20th anniversary, 11 artists and creatives reflect on its impact.

Two decades on, Madvillainy continues to stand as an influential, boundary-pushing hip-hop landmark. Weaving together a vast range of influences and genres, its impact musically was matched by the lore around both elusive artists and how the Stones Throw Records release came to be. Or, more accurately, how it very nearly didn’t. 

Once the Madvillain pair united to form the supergroup in 2002 – a feat in itself given DOOM’s very off-grid status at the time – it would still be a couple of years until the music they worked on together would see the light of day. Fourteen months before its scheduled release, a demo version of the album was stolen and leaked online, prompting the pair to stop working on it for some time. Thankfully, though, the duo returned to it in autumn 2003 and gifted the world the eclectic 22 tracks of Madvillainy, achieving widespread critical and cult status in the process.


Bishop Nehru

Rapper, producer, MF DOOM collaborator

The project was probably the hip-hop album that had the biggest effect on how I viewed the genre, as far as the extent you can take things creatively and still have it be appreciated and looked at as timeless. The first time I played the album and really sat with it in its entirety, it was like a culture shock. I had never heard anything like it before in the genre prior and that’s something I can say not only for this project but DOOM and Madlib’s entire discography. It made me realise that you can incorporate whatever genres you want into hip-hop and make it your own.

Listen to Bishop Nehru and MF DOOM’s collaborative album, NehruvianDOOM.


Nappy Nina

Rapper, producer and writer

The storytelling that exists on Madvillainy has inspired me to make more cohesive records and to lean into my relationship with my persona as an artist. Me and artists around me have all borrowed from how ‘crunchy’ Madlib made the album as well as the way he weaves in other sonic scapes that aren’t lyrical. I know firsthand how this record has reached even generations below me. A seven-year-old kid I used to nanny is a huge MF DOOM fan, so much so that he dressed up as him for Halloween once. This takes on a new register for me considering that DOOM passed on the day as well. Every year there is at least a couple of months when I return to this album for an intense listen, especially when I’m on tour. It’s a record that makes me feel, as an artist, like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.


Thomas Hobbs


Madvilliany is like the hip-hop equivalent of David Lynch and Luis Bunuel directing a movie together; it is two surrealists combining their strange wit to create an addictive new formula. It has Madlib providing the kind of beats that make you feel like you’re riding on a Harley Davidson amid a neon pink sunset that’s dancing because the shrooms just started kicking in, and DOOM perfecting his comic book villain, stream of consciousness flow, particularly on Rhinestone Cowboy, where he reminds us he’s a true British eccentric: “Known as the grimey, limey, slimy, try me, blimey / Simply smashing in a fashion that’s timely / Madvillain dashing in a beat rhyme crime spree”. 

There’s a sunny feel to the sound, which is testament to the fact Madlib produced the majority of the beats while in Brazil, and the Osmar Milito sample on Raid reminds us that this pair aren’t just about breaking minds, but also getting limbs moving to warped bossanova dances. Thanks to the cryptic lyrics, which perfectly toe the line between outrageous and profound (like on Accordion, where DOOM famously talks about the clock ticking faster), and Madlib’s dream-like, layered production, this is the kind of project that will never not sound fresh: with every new listen the beats and the bars reveal new hidden depths. Subsequently, Madvilliany will always sound ahead of its time.


@onthisdateinhiphop / Bleep Tha Bastard


Madvillainy came at a time when Jay-Z had made his exit and 50 Cent & his G-Unit crew were running the mainstream. For those underground cats who wanted a bit more than The College Dropout to pair with their Revolutionary Vol. 2 from the previous year, MF DOOM & Madlib’s collaborative effort was the perfect alternative. No pun intended. If you were there, you remember the leaks ahead of the project and boy did they live up to the hype. RIP DOOM.


Flying Lotus

Producer, artist, Brainfeeder label founder, MF DOOM & Madlib collaborator

All you ever needed in hip-hop was this record. Sorted. Done. Give it to the fucking aliens.


Raji Rags

DJ, broadcaster

An album that changed my life.

I used to have a straightforward relationship with DOOM. I was a fan. A mega fan, tbh. But things changed when I booked him to DJ at my Livin’ Proof party in 2012. We paid him upfront. I even met him one week before without the mask. On the night of the party though, he sent an imposter in a DOOM mask to replace him. It led to an awkward miming to a pre-recorded DJ set from a skinny man in an oversized puffer jacket and metal mask. After the boos started coming in and those on the front row of the DJ booth were grabbing out to de-mask him, the timid looking imposter had to quickly exit the small Shoreditch basement, accompanied by his two gormless heavies protecting him from an angry mob of rap nerds.

This was a very surreal sore point for me. I couldn’t listen to his music for years. My DOOM vinyl and MP3s gathered literal and digital dust as they were cast aside, never to be listened to again. And then he passed away and the memorials and tributes came flooding in. I thought now was an apt time to revisit his catalogue. I’d actually forgotten how much I love(d) his music. A one of a kind artist, never to be repeated. The memories poured back, the bitterness disappeared and the exoneration process began. Even though he owes me money, we gained something priceless. We’re now part of DOOM folklore. And just like all other fans amongst us, he left us all the gift of some of the most unique rap music ever made.



Singer, songwriter and producer

“Living off borrowed time / The clock tick faster…”. Everyone immediately knows what’s next. As soon as those accordions come in…. Accordions going off in the club are mind-blowing! The phrasing, the percussiveness of DOOM’s words blending with music. Every note has its place. I’ll never forget the first time I heard it. I had an iPod at the time and my uncle (Marc Mac / 4hero) filled it up with so many amazing albums. Madvillainy was one of them and I was drawn in instantly. I wasn’t making music yet but, what I didn’t know is that I was indirectly downloading the info in my mind therefore being influenced. 

The beautiful thing about this album is that Madlib has the unique ability to repurpose samples. Every track you hear is essentially his own musical influences, from Sun Ra to movie samples. Madlib magically finds ways to use this in his production, which is like a beautiful full-circle moment of newer generations being introduced to older music without knowing it. A history lesson in itself.

And now I’d like to believe I’ve borrowed that in my own music. Creating your own world paying homage to all the things you love. This album transcends generations. It’s solely in its own lane. It always has been and will be for years to come. I’m gassed to say I was alive to witness it.


Dylan Green

Rap writer, author and host of Reel Notes podcast

The two halves of my journey through rap music can be charted as before and after Madvillainy; and based on much of the music coming out of the modern rap’s underground and mainstream, I’m not the only one. DOOM and Madlib not only made one of the greatest tag-team albums in hip-hop history, they created a blueprint and aesthetic for surreal cool that artists across genres have attempted to copy for two decades. They taught us to smell the beauty in the dank, to see the sharpness in the mundane and scuzzy. What other duo can make a song about giving a date a breathmint so funny and grand?


Ted's Draws

Hip-hop scholar, Illustrator

Easily the best album of the 2000s. Invented modern underground hip-hop. Opened up what a hip-hop song could be. It’s always in my head, and soundtracks my thoughts on a weekly basis. I don’t even have to listen to any of it anymore, it’s in my system. And, some of the demos are even better. Every time I make a beat I’m just trying to make a new Fancy Clown. If I ever rapped (and I won’t), this is what I’d try and sound like.


Lee Scott

Rapper, producer and co-founder of Blah Records

I think what it influenced mostly was rap song structure. How many sporadic one verse no hook songs existed pre-Madvillainy?’

It also transcended the typical underground hip-hop fan base. I feel the only other album to truly do that alternative underground rap crossover was Dr. Octagon. Madvillany kind of landed on the radar of music fans beyond just rap. Madvillainy is so hip-hop and yet wouldn’t look out of place on a playlist that included Massive Attack, Portishead, etc.



Radio host, sound designer

MF DOOM and Madlib coming together felt like it was inevitable – two worlds colliding, a kind of Marvel superhero thing. It changed my perception of what a hip-hop collab could be – not just two guys fighting for centre stage, more kindred spirits pushing each other in different directions. You listen to the album (and the remixes, and the sequel) and come away feeling elevated, like it doesn’t get much better musically in any genre. Landmark stuff.

Listen to LDLDN’s Madlib special on NTS.


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