Key to the Kuffs is a collaborative album from mask-wearing rapper MF Doom and producer/emcee Jneiro Jarel (Dr Who Dat?, Shape of Broad Minds). UK émigré Doom returned home and has been holed up in South London making music for the last couple of years, and his rhymes on the track Borin’ Convo seem to shed some light as to the reasons behind his relocation, “The Supervillan gets kicked out your country, And said the pledge of allegiance six times monthly.” Sounds like visa issues to me.
And so to the music. JJ’s beats mesh well with Doom – part of what makes them work is the attention to detail; indecipherable samples drifting in and out of the mix; strange, treated noises adding layers to the tracks and creating an atmosphere that is only heightened by Doom’s free-form musings. Wash your Hands and Bite the Thong shy away from the usual dusty Doom sound however and it’s nice to hear him over more expansive beats. The latter is a particular highlight, with a beat you could imagine Pharoahe Monch begging for. It absolutely thumps with insistent kicks, heavy synths and lush, descending organ stabs.
Counter this with the instrumental track Viberian Sun Part 2, with its long, drawn out intro, and strange ethereal effect-laden samples underpinned with ghostly percussion, and we start to appreciate the variety that JJ brings to the table. Ever wondered what Doom would sound like over an 808-fuelled club banger? Check Wash your Hands – falling high lines, pounding kick drums, pushy bass and the ubiquitous snare repetitions provide Doom with a more commercial soundscape to work with.
Key to the Kuffs demands close attention; blink and you’ll miss some abstract reference or twisted metaphor. Repeated listens bring reward, even though it can feel like attempting to break the Enigma code at times. But I’d take a bit of brain-melt any day: this is music that burns slow and long, each listen allowing for a deeper glimpse into this unique, and fairly twisted, mind.