Viktor Vaughn

While superheroes are abandoning their metropolises this summer for Tinseltown's big paydays and exclusive spa memberships, Metal Face Doom, the "world's most celebrated super villain," is having none of it. He's staying underground in a damp lair watching old Godzilla films with his wily crew of Monsta Island Czars and putting out hip-hop albums filled with goofy B-movie nostalgia and stark street lessons.

In the meantime it's time for informed allies and clueless citizens to welcome Doom's time-traveling alter ego Viktor Vaughn via Vaudeville Villain. Unlike 1999's cult classic Operation: Doomsday, and last month's self-produced release as King Geedorah, Take Me to Your Leader, the boards are being handled by Sound-Ink rookies King Honey, Max Bill, and the Heat Sensor duo. However, part of Doom's vast appeal derives from his sputtering gutter beats and cheese-fingered samples. Vaughn's producers use their own formulas, subtly incorporating electronica and glitch into hip-hop. What results is a spaced-out expansiveness that occasionally stuns, as on RJD2's lone track "Saliva," and rarely falters. But there are too many ambitious chefs in the kitchen. Heat Sensor's contributions are overtly influenced, and he comes off like a Prefuse 72.5 on "RaeDawn," then nicely imitates Anti-Pop Consortium on "Never Dead" with M. Sayyid.

These are small gripes since Vik Vaughn spits some of the cleverest lyrics and most humorous quips in the rap game. On "A Dead Mouse," he coolly proclaims, "Sparky, I had enough of your malarkey/For one, don't mark me and who you callin' darkie?" Sure, purists and long-time Doom fans might prefer him as King Geedorah, but few will sleep on Vaughn, and for good reason.

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Hunter Stephenson