The rap equivalent of a Lord of the Ringscommemorative glass from Burger King, The Mouse and the Mask is the groundbreaking collaboration among rapper M.F. Doom, producer Danger Mouse, and ... a television channel, the Cartoon Network. Whether such ground should be broken is really the main issue here.
If any duo is equipped to pull this kind of album off, it's these two. Doom has long looted comic books and cartoons for rhyme material, and Danger Mouse, with his Grey Album and work with Gorillaz, has middlebrow concept-rap on lock. What they've produced, however, is 14 lazily constructed songs absolutely plagued by skits, which are funny only if you're prone to giggling at a British accent reciting Ice Cube or cartoon characters freestyling about "bitches." The beats are no more than competently carpentered; if some loops lack guts, others bed Doom's voice captivatingly. While the MC is, as ever, bottled charm on the mike, his tone plain-spoken and his patter witty and worldly, his verses here tend toward the overlong and unfocused. The guests are mostly bright spots: Ceelo haunts the hook on "Bizzy Box" and Ghostface lights up "The Mask," commiserating with Doom over the rigors of rapping through a disguise. In the end, though, The Mouse and the Mask is largely unsatisfying, occasionally tedious, and wholly unable to justify its weight as horizontally integrated advertising.
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