“Mad Nice” [ft. Black Thought and Vinny Price]
In 2005, when Danger Mouse and MF Doom released their collaborative album as Danger Doom, The Mouse and the Mask, the two artists were on criss-crossing trajectories. Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) was on the precipice of superstardom: He’d soon win a Producer of the Year Grammy for his work on Gorillaz’s Demon Days. Doom, a prolific and enigmatic underground MC, was at his critical peak, just one year removed from dropping the canonical Madvillainy with Madlib. But after The Mouse and the Mask, their careers took different paths: Doom begun his slow descent, his output grinding to a crawl, while Burton made the jump to big-time pop producer for Adele and others. The Mouse and the Mask isn’t quite yet 12 years old, but in 2017, it feels like ancient history. A new reissue of the album offers two previously unreleased songs from those sessions, and they present a fading snapshot of what Doom and Burton once were able to do.
The first of these to be released is “Mad Nice,” a plaintive duet with the Roots MC Black Thought. The song is campy, with prominent sampling of Vincent Price’s horror-movie laughter, but it isn’t nearly as cartoonish as some of the other cuts on The Mouse and the Mask. Even though this is a decades-old verse, Doom’s understated confidence leaves a much more lasting impression that his more recent work. His internal in-line rhymes and vivid writing are on display (“Take it all back in a tall pack, dope stack, bozack/Hit him if you need some more crack, go pro-black”), though his storytelling is a bit scattered. Black Thought, for his part, slightly outshines him here, his verse blunt and prideful: “My birthdays came/Instead of selling me a promise/My mom, was dead honest/Like "Yo, we ain't got it.” It’s a dope outtake, and it takes you back to a bygone time when Danger Mouse and Doom, together, seemed like bona fide hip-hop wizards.