Week two, here we go.
I found Black Bastards to be quite mediocre. None of the tracks really stand out to me. I found a couple of them to be good, but nothing that I would put on a regular playlist. Despite this, I did find a couple things that I found really fascinating and that I’m going to write about: the what-would-be and the old.
Let’s start off the old.
The track “Contact Blitz” is a prime example of my first point.
There are many references in this track that, without the help of RapGenius, which I don’t particularly care to use for things like this, a hip hop head might really struggle with. Let’s look at some lyrics:
See, it was Lord J, Sadat, Alamo
Busta and myself, in the back with the O.O.Z
Boogie Brown with the box, booming new tracks and
Quest wants a stogie, he told Sub to ask Dinco
He had one more, to bust ’em down, now
I’m peeping oynx asking Baby Chris about the back drop
Now, some of these names may be recognizable to some, but probably not to many. I first thought that “Quest” was referring to QuestLove of The Roots, but of course the times do not match as this was released in 1993 and The Roots didn’t really appear until 1995-6. According to a RapGenius citation, “Boogie Brown is Charlie Brown from Leaders of the New School” and “Quest was one of KMD’s dancers, they had two: J Quest & Deak. He asked Subroc to ask Dinco D.” Without RapGenius, these references would probably be unknown to most of the people listening to the album today. This makes me wonder who this album was targeted to. The album was too controversial to be widely released, yet the references, most notably those regarding people, are too narrow to be gotten, in many cases. Who was the target market for this, KMD’s second album? I mean, let’s admit it, if it weren’t for Zev Love X becoming DOOM, this album would probably be lost to obscurity…
This is what leads to my second point: the what-would-be.
There was a line in “What a Niggy Know?” that really struck me:
The chicken crossed the street cause he seen me with a mask
Knockin over trash cans and mail boxes on my block (KA-BLAOW!)
This is a little foreshadowing into who Zev Love X would become. According to another RapGenius citation, “In an interview DOOM says that he had the intentions with his brother to split up from KMD and make their own separate characters. In this line DOOM already seems to know what his character is going to look like — a villain with a mask”.
Now, DOOM didn’t start wearing his infamous mask until around 1997. According to a Noisey article entitled, The Evolution of MF Doom, “During the tail end of 1997 Dumile [DOOM] re-emerged performing at open mic nights in New York, like Nuyorican Poets Café, using a range of disguises. But it was an old metal prop mask that became synonymous with his first full length release, Operation: Doomsday…” Here is DOOM, nearly four years prior rapping about wearing a mask and doing, for the lack of a better term, bad things (i.e. knocking over garbage cans and mailboxes).
I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for DOOM around the time of Black Bastards release. According to the album description above and Wikipedia, “Shortly before Black Bastards scheduled release date Subroc was killed while attempting to cross a Long Island expressway. Elektra Records dropped KMD later the same week.” After this, DOOM dropped off the hip hop radar entirely. He was “damn near homeless, walking the streets of Manhattan, sleeping on benches” (Wikipedia).
Again, we have to be honest here, if it weren’t for who DOOM would become, we probably wouldn’t be discussing this album right now. This is what I find fascinating about this album. It wasn’t necessarily the musical or lyrical content of Black Bastards that led to Zev Love X becoming DOOM, but everything that happened surrounding the albums release that lead to the rise of DOOM. That is why we are listening to KMD’s Black Bastards today. Here we had this kid, only 22 at the time of the albums recording, full of potential, losing his younger brother. In turn, it seemed that DOOM had also lost his drive and his desire to rap. But there was something, something in DOOM that mad him get back on that mic and become the legend that he is today. Black Bastards reminds us that everything we love can be lost suddenly and be truly devastating.
Would DOOM had become the DOOM we know and love today without Black Bastards? It’s hard to say, but I firmly believe that had the album not been deemed too controversial, his brother not died and DOOM not dropped from the label, that DOOM wouldn’t exist today. The album may be mediocre, but when put in context, it may have been the most important album in Daniel Dumile’s evolution from Zev Love X to DOOM.