DOOM’s greatly lauded reinvention of himself as an artist feels like it’s in a strange place, or at least a stranger place than the one he has conjured up for his characters. Luckily, he’s slowed down his output. Which makes sense, he’s a bigger name now and his style is so specific there was no way he was going to keep up his prolific pace he had during the mid-2000s. This sparsity makes album releases feel more like events, something a little more special. Which is all the more disappointing when the long awaited JJ DOOM album Key to the Kuffs is, for the most part, just another DOOM album.
He maintains his legacy of giving producers their due, the JJ part of this collaborative project comes in the form of upcoming beatsmith Jneiro Jarel. He provides a competent, if not slightly repetitive, backdrop to an album which sounds like it’s leaning more towards the mainstream. It’s a slight departure for DOOM’s beats, but it still has that lo-fi loop based core that his fan’s have come to expect.
Catch a throatful from the fire vocal/ Ash and molten glass like Eyjafjallajökull / The volcano out of Iceland / He’ll conquer and destroy the rap world like the white men
Lyrically DOOM is as strong as he’s ever been. He still verges and occasionally hits the cliché, but he stays strong with his commentary and ability to pick out obscure references from the strangest places. Plus, since being exiled to the UK he’s had time to lap up the local culture, which means this album is packed full of referential lyrics about Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and Icelandic volcanos.
But considering the wait, you’re simply not getting enough DOOM for the dollar, or should I say pound. Key to the Kuffs has DOOM on 8 of the 15 tracks. While instrumental segments and audio collages aren’t unique to Key to the Kuffs, having entire tracks by difficult lyricists kind of give the album a mixtape aesthetic to it. Especially when the guests don’t really take full advantage of what is easily their biggest exposure.
I think what has gotten the me most about Key To The Kuffs is how much I’m ready for DOOM to try something new. He might have slowed down from the prolific pace he had, but the formula that he created is more or less in the same place. Whether he needs new characters or the focus that only comes from a concept album, something needs to change before DOOM’s material can become something truly special again. That’s not to say that JJ DOOM is a bad album, it’s just ordinary by DOOM’s standards.
JJ DOOM’s Key To The Kuffs was released on the 20th of August