Is there some connection between the enjoyably overblown and absurd “concept” for this record and the bizarre way it sounds from time to time like late 60s acid rock at its most self-indulgent, with organ reminiscent of the Doors? Probably not, actually, but it’s an intriguing connection … the basis for this Mike Ladd-helmed collective effort is that there’s a battle for hip-hop between the Majesticons (allies being the Nostalgicons, “a crew in downtown Manhattan who thinks everything from the 70s and 80s was cool no matter how bad it sucked at the time” … hmmm, why do the initial J and the number 5 come to mind?, and the Jiggidons, “the record exec secret society”) and the Infesticons (allies including the “rejecticons”, “electicons” and so on). While these concepts are all good fun, I find the whole idea of music having to be “saved” or “battled for” inherently flawed, because it implies that music can be defined in timeless, changeless terms (the hideous idea of “quality control”, as somebody else might put it). Plus, the choice of betes noires can become outdated very quickly – the originator of the Jiggidons is one “Poof Na Na”, with Mr Combs now an impotent, meaningless target, and it’s an unpleasantly homophobic “pun” as well.

That said, much of this album is excellent, and it mercifully avoids the outmoded ideas of “soulfulness” that let down so much undie rap. “Precious Theme” is terrific, fizzing with brassy funk, “Cave Theme” is very good (even the cliched operatic vocal just about works) and “Hero Theme” has a power redolent of the best 80s hip-hop (the riff and chorus have that certain effortless, commercial memorability that most undie deliberately avoids). It begins to fall down in the second half of the album, though, and then you get that bizarre muso rockism utterly removed from the sound this album achieves at its best – Rob Smith’s “Chase Theme” and Liza Jessie Peterson’s “Figurine Theme” suffer from poor, indulgent emceeing over incongrous organs and electric guitars, and Saul Williams’s “Monkey Theme” doesn’t at all live up to the best of his 1998 work on Rawkus. The “Night Night Theme” is brilliant to start with (memorable computer game sounds, unnecessary but memorable reference to Vic Reeves) but then fades out and comes back as yet another sub-acid rock workout, for no reason at all.

The whole set of values on which this album is founded – a battle for the “soul” of hip-hop – are illusory, but if you can leave that aside there’s some pretty good music here.