Release Date: Oct 11, 2005
Record label: Epitaph / Lex
Genre(s): Indie, Rap
Rapping with cartoon characters was artistic suicide until Gorillaz dropped a bomb in 2001 with a platinum album and what turned out to be a surprisingly long shelf life. Next out of the box is Danger Doom, the stunning and welcome collaboration of two of hip-hop's most innovative artists, both of whom already have close ties to the world of animation -- Danger Mouse not only named himself after a cartoon but is also a part-time Gorillaz beatmaker, and the rapper MF Doom has imagined himself variously as a comic-book character and fire-breathing monster-movie hero (not to mention, he's rarely photographed without wearing an iron mask that makes him look like an early version of the Marvel supervillain Doctor Doom). Their partners for The Mouse and the Mask are the characters of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block, a cast whose creators share with Danger Mouse and MF Doom the same influences (obscure '70s superheroes, some making a resurgence on Adult Swim) and motivations (a parade of surrealist fantasies intersecting with real life, like the crusading happy meal that airs on Cartoon Network as Aqua Teen Hunger Force).
Forever stepping out with each other in endless new permutations, underground hip-hoppers often resemble a classroom of frisky 15-year-olds. Both partners here - super-producer Danger Mouse and masked veteran rapper MF Doom - are hot stuff right now: Doom was half of last year's impressive Madvillain project; DM followed his Beatles/Jay-Z mash-up The Grey Album by sculpting the superb anime-pop on Gorillaz's Demon Days. But while this buoyant link-up is no disgrace, its main ingredients - copshow brass, cartoon flutes, professor voices - are fairly familiar rap tropes.
Listening to Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton's work, one might guess that he cut his teeth on underground mix shows, and one would be right. Around the turn of the century, before he'd collaborated with an MC, Burton hosted a wildly eclectic program on WUOG in Athens, GA, which got a class of pasty Pavement devotees hooked on M.O.P. rarities and Agallah's "The Crookie Monster." A similarly ambitious series of compilation CDs and dance parties followed.