4/14 KUMD Album Review: Mobonix
The most recent offering from MF DOOM acolyte Mobonix, Machine Man tries to copy all the makings of a solid DOOM album without actually being a DOOM album. That is, aesthetically appealing production, a theme surrounding a fictionalized character, and non-traditional lyricism. However, where production succeeds, the lyricism, especially in regards to characterization, is lacking.By Basement DJ: Quentin Stille
First, in regards to production, DOOM and Madlib- who collaborated on the seminal Madvillainy- show up to produce a couple of tracks, with CX KidTronik, DJ Kool Akiem, DJ Wesu & Professor Ojo rounding out the rest of the album musically. All, whether recognizable or lesser known, perform harmoniously in crafting a cohesive sounding album- each track features simple piano, synth, or horn loops over even simpler drum beats. It is this simplicity that actually creates unified soundscape, as almost every song clocks in at under two and a half minutes, leaving the audience time to appreciate the sample or loop without growing too tired of it.
Secondly, when considering the raps and how they support or upend the overarching theme, Mobonix struggles to carve out an independent identity himself, and lack of justification in his lyrics take away from the human-machine hybrid theme. Our first glance at this identity is within the title of the album, Machine Man juxtaposed next to the skits and interludes of the album. The opening skit, "The Rise of the Machine Man" features a 1960's newscaster describing a monster, only to be interrupted by the voice of Mobonix, stating, "somebody change the channel?" This sets up a link between man and machine, specifically television, explored and reinforced throughout the album. On the title track, a mid-song interlude imagines a call-in talk show, receiving calls from "a man [who is] angry because he found a machine in his girlfriend's bedroom." The skit "Mcdoogalls" allows an on the street conversation to become a commercial for a burger joint. Essentially, Mobonix is trying to convey how prevalent television is within our culture, even outside of the screen. However, these skits and interludes are the primary indicators of the man and machine thematic element, whereas the lyricism displayed by Mobonix, while dexterous at points, often lacks substance. There is a point in more obscure rap music where abstract lyrics can have a deeper meaning, but throughout Machine Man the rhymes appear to be abstract for the sake of being abstract, giving off a somewhat superficial result. Despite it being cool to hear lines like "it's like the epic of Gilgamesh/and the Chamomile tea don't work, he feelin' stressed," on a rap album, the theme isn't really given a lot of lyrical depth. One instance, however, when Mobonix addresses theme head on, is on the title track, kicking the rhyme: "no one couldn't tell just by looking at his flesh tones the actual specs and materials are less known," which serves as a subtle declaration of himself as the "Machine Man." Unfortunately, moments like these are few and far between, and a majority of Mobonix's bars lack in the overall theme, limiting accessibility for the audience.
One could posit that Mobonix's obscure and abstract lyrics are presented as a metaphor for the Attention-Deficit-esque nature of television itself, but nothing can rightly justify this argument, without some more explicit (in detail) lyrics. That being said, a great deal of reinforcement of the theme falls upon the instrumentation, with the best example of this being the track "Tuff Skin," which showcases synths reminiscent of Frank Ocean's "Thinkin Bout You," another project dealing with the motif of television. Whether this similarity was on purpose or not, it still serves as a potentially clever nod to the theme. In short, Mobonix's Machine Man has flashes of greatness and is musically an intriguing listen, but often appears to be lacking lyrically.
RIYL: MF DOOM, Madlib, Mos Def, Talib Kweli
Tracks: Tuff Skin, Machine Man, Party Start, Mcdoogalls