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Danger Doom 

The Mouse & The Mask (Epitaph)

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Since 2003, the year hasn't been complete without a much-hyped underground hip-hop collaboration. The first was a disappointing duet between superproducers Jay Dee and Madlib, neither of whom brought his "A" game to the inappropriately named Champion Sound. But last year's Madvillian team-up between 'Lib and metal-masked MC Doom picked up the check for both albums with 45-odd minutes of brilliance. This brings us to Danger Doom, which marries Doom's bizarro rhymes to the production of Danger Mouse -- he of the conceptual coup The Grey Album, a cut-and-paste collision between Jay-Z and the Fab Four. The result is a disc that falls somewhere between its two predecessors.

Even after his work on the Gorillaz' latest and the Saturday-morning-cartoon-inspired beats he offers here, it remains hard to tell whether Mouse is really a major player or a guy still riding one great idea for all it's worth. Doom is easier to figure, if not to comprehend; "Vats of Urine" makes R. Kelly's proclivities seem almost normal, and his verses maintain their usual inspired weirdness without any deeper meaning. It's the frequent cameos from Aqua Teen Hunger Force and other Adult Swim characters that clinch Danger Doom's willful obscurity, however. All but late-night Cartoon Network watchers will probably pass.

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