Feature – MF DOOM Discussion Week Eight: A Look at MF DOOM’s “MM.. Food”

I hope you’re hungary. It’s MM.. Food!

MM.. Food

That’s right. The masked, metal fingered villain, MF DOOM is back. Remember, all caps when you spell the name. It’s been five years since DOOM released an album under the MF DOOM moniker. The previous MF DOOM album, Operation: Doomsday, is an absolute DOOM classic. Time has passed though, and since releasing Operation: Doomsday in 1999, DOOM has released a King Geedorah album, two Viktor Vaughn albums, and Madvillainy with producer Madlib.

Separated by only three months from the release of Venomous Villain, MM.. Food is far from the women killing and murder of Viktor Vaughn’s tastes. Instead MM.. Food is DOOM back in the same character from Operation: Doomsday. Prior to MM.. Food, I’d written about how the character of MF DOOM is that of a misunderstood “villain”. In our mind, helped painted by the tone of the album as well as the mask, MF DOOM can come off as just that… a villain. Under closer examination, however, it is clear that MF DOOM is misunderstood. On Operation: Doomsday I made the case for DOOM’s modus operandi being the loss of his brother Subroc. DOOM revisits these same themes as before in MM.. Food.

On tracks like “Kon Karne”, DOOM depicts what life was like when his brother was around. DOOM even dedicates the track to his brother: “I dedicate this mix to Subroc the Hip Hop Hendrix”. The loss of Subroc in 1993 really damn near killed DOOM. The sudden loss of his brother, the problems with the release of KMD’s Black Bastards–life wasn’t easy for DOOM them. He found himself homeless and living on the streets. The creation of MF DOOM probably saved his life–we know what it did for his music career. Following the verses on “Deep Fried Frenz”, DOOM’s background and motivation is explored in typical DOOM fashion–with samples.

After a sample from the 1970 movie Watermelon Man, the line: “Negro humor always escaped me” is sampled. This can be seen again as the misunderstand people have with DOOM. They don’t get him. They don’t get his humor. The samples continue illustrating how feared DOOM is, how many foes he has, and how he’s the “most dangerous man in the world”. The samples continue to tell a story of a DOOM alone, “to peruse his forbidden experiments”, when an explosion leaves DOOM’s face disfigured. This can be takes literally as meaning for DOOM to wear his mask, or it can be looked at in relation to Subroc’s death. DJ Subroc was hit by a car when he was only 20–that is the explosion. DOOM became “bitter, angry, vengeful” and travel the world seeking a cure. This relates to that period of time between 1993 when Subroc died, to 1999 when Operation: Doomsday put DOOM back on the hip hop map. This idea continues throughout the album.

On “Fig Leaf Bi-Carbonate” the samples return, nothing that “as years passed he became more bitter and angry and burning with vengeance against the world”. With the help of his lyrics, his flow and some stylish armor MF DOOM returned and rose again, with aspirations to become the world’s greatest rapper. This is quite the interesting approach when it comes to discussing who MF DOOM really is. The samples in MM.. Food, help to reinforce the theory I preposed in previous DOOM discussion regarding the misunderstood nature of MF DOOM. He can be interpreted as someone dangerous and evil, when really he’s just trying to survive after the loss of his brother.

MM.. Food is easily one of MF DOOM’s most lyrical showings. DOOM raps of subject matter unorthodox in hip hop. DOOM raps about friendship on “Deep Fried Frenz”, his appeal to “freaks and pencil neck geeks” in “Kon Queso”, masturbation in “Kookies” and how rapping about crimes can be self-incrimination on “Rapp Snitch Knishes” with Mr. Fantastik. DOOM does all this while making the most impressive food metaphors. On “Fillet-O-Rapper” the food beats are used to reference the instrumentals DOOM spits over. “Kon Queso” or ‘with cheese’, as it translates in Spanish, is used to allude to money. Edible wrappers is used to describe emcees DOOM trounces with his lyrical skill. “Kookies” refers to the literal cookies as well as the HTTP variety in a track about masturbation and internet pornography. The metaphors are nearly endless. None seeming corny or our of place. This is pure brilliance of MM.. Food.

Is it better than Operation: Doomsday? That’s hard to say. It’s a great addition to the MF DOOM moniker in more ways than one, that is for sure. This would be DOOM’s third and last album of 2004.

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Feature – MF DOOM Discussion Week Seven: A Look at Viktor Vaughn’s “Venomous Villain”

It’s the second time around for Viktor Vaughn. He’s back and he’s just as evil as ever.

Venomous Villain

Coming off of the critically acclaimed Madvilliany with Madlib on production, it was time to reprise the role of mad scientist and murderer Viktor Vaughn.

Venomous Villain debuted as the shortest DOOM album to date. At only 12 tracks, with two interludes and a remix, Venomous Villain was nearly 25 minutes shorter than it’s precursor Vaudeville Villain.

His second album of 2004, DOOM takes a backseat with production on Venomous Villain. The production is handled by various producers such as System D-128, Diplo, DiViVCi, Dub-L and others. This is both a pro and a con for DOOM in this case. With tracks like “Ode to Road Rage” produced by Dub-L, and “Dope Skill” produced by DJ I.N.C., DOOM sounds very strong on the track. However, with other tracks like “Pop Quiz (Extra Credit Remix)” DOOM’s spitting seems compromised by the beat.

What stood out to me the the most about Venomous Villain, was just how dark it can be. “Back End” the first track that follows the opening sample track, begins with a long dark and creepy intro. It also focuses around killing women. This ins’t the only references to killing women. They pop up in other tracks like “Ode to Road Rage” and the spectacular, and in my opinion, the best track on the album, “Bloody Chain [feat. Poison Pen]”. I don’t quite know how to feel about the violence towards women and the serial killing of women by Viktor Vaughn. Part of it could be DOOM stating his villain status with Viktor Vaughn. As I wrote before in a prior DOOM write up, Viktor Vaughn was the evilest of the villains, where as MF DOOM was misunderstood, King Geedorah was literally a three headed space monster, and Madvillain was a rather tame villain. I’m not sure if going to the level of murdering women was necessary in the case of Venomous Villain, but it’s an artistic choice.

There’s something about Venomous Villain that just simply, isn’t satisfying. Yes, there some great tracks on here, including “Dope Skill”, “Ode to Road Rage” and “Bloody Chain”. The storytelling in “Bloody Chain” is very well crafted, with a great feature from Poison Pen, who is probably Chino XL. However, overall, as a while, Venomous Villain falls flat. The prior DOOM albums has a real concept behind them, where as Venomous Villain sounds more like a compilation of leftovers rather than a conscious cohesive whole. In my opinion, this is the weakest DOOM album to date. I would say even K.M.D.’s Mr. Hood surpasses Venomous Villain.

Feature – MF DOOM Discussion Week Six: A Look at Madvillian’s “Madvilliany”

Ten years ago today Madvillainy was released.

Madvilliany

I’ll admit it, I’ve been putting off writing about Madvillainy for some while now. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to write about, the opposite actually, it’s just hard to approach a classic sometimes with something new and innovated. I tried to think about DOOM, and what makes Madvillainy a classic. Was DOOM doing anything really new and innovated? Well, not really.

Six months prior to Madvillainy DOOM had released Vaudeville Villain under the moniker Viktor Vaughn. On Vaudeville Villain, DOOM had transformed from King Geedorah, the three headed space monster here to destroy earth from the pervious record, to the time traveling Viktor Vaughn. In my previous DOOM Discussions I talked about how DOOM’s villainous persona wasn’t as “villainous” as one would assume a villain’s to be. With Vaudeville Villain, DOOM for the first time, was truly villainous. The Viktor Vaughn pseudonym is easily the most angry and vile of DOOM’s villainous alter-egos. So where would DOOM go from here?

DOOM

On Take Me To Your Leader, DOOM composed and produced every track on the album, under the name Metal Fingered Villain. Vaudeville Villain, on the other hand, features no production by DOOM. With the legendary Madlib, coming off the release of Champion Sound, a collaborative album with other legendary producer J Dilla, producing Madvillainy, wasn’t anything new, per se, for DOOM. Although the two had never worked together, DOOM wasn’t completely venturing into unknown territory with having producers outside Monsta Island Czars.

When it comes to DOOM’s lyrics, again, Madvillainy isn’t anything new when it comes to the evolution of DOOM’s style and sound. With shorter tracks, DOOM often spits one verse per. Maybe one of DOOM’s more appealing qualities is his complex and abstract lyrics. Tracks like “Accordion”, “Figaro” and “Great Day Today” require multiple listens in order to fully grasp the completeness of DOOM’s message with all tracks being under two and a half minutes in length. This is why DOOM is so appealing. Like a good movie, with multiple screenings the viewer with pick up on things they missed on pervious viewings. Films like Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York; Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive truly embody this idea. These films, much like DOOM’s albums, especially Madvillainy require multiple revisitings.

So DOOM is good, great in fact, but it’s nothing too different from Viktor Vaughn’s album or Operation: Doomsday in terms of lyrical style and quality. So what makes Madvillainy a classic? Well that would be Madlib.

Madlib

The pairing of the two is immaculate. DOOM’s often monotone sounding rhymes, mixed with Madlib’s unique samples and production is the perfect match. Madlib brings out the complexity in DOOM with his beats and samples that don’t overpower or detract from DOOM’s lyrics. Tracks like “Curls” and “Money Folder” really illustrate this beautifully. Not to mention the three instrumental tracks on the album–all a showcase of truly how great Madlib is. In a way, the instrumental tracks remind the listener that this combination of producer and MC is mutualistic. It’s like on the TV show Community, when character Troy Barnes is introduced into a room that is the room temperature room, “I can’t tell where the air ends and my skin begins”. This is what it’s like listening to Madvillain.

Madvillainy has been on hundreds of best-of lists. It was the number one hip hop album of the decade on Rhapsody’s list and 25th on Pitchfork’s best albums of the 2000s list, but much like a religious experience, what makes Madvillainy so special is one’s own personal relationship with the album. It’s this connection with DOOM’s lyrics, Madlib’s “thick, woozy slabs of beatnik bass”, according to Spin, and fact that despite being a classic, it’s still an underground album that places it so close to our heats. Madvillainy will probably be known as the DOOM album, as well as the Madlib album. The two are just simply perfect together.

Madlib and DOOM

Feature – MF DOOM Discussion Week Five: A Look At Viktor Vaughn’s “Vaudeville Villain”

This week, we’re looking at DOOM’s third solo album, Vaudeville Villain, released under yet another pseudonym–Viktor Vaughn.

Vaudeville Villain

Right off the bat, we can gather from the title that DOOM is back on his villainous shit. Coming off of Take Me To Your Leader, released under the name King Geedorah, really showcased DOOM’s production. Vaudeville Villain, on the other hand, is produced entirely by Sound-Ink record cable members. The production is superb–DOOM or not. Tracks go from sound like the soundtrack to a comic book in the title track, to the spacey sounding of “Raedawn”. There isn’t a single beat on this album that I dislike.

When it comes to DOOM’s lyrical content, I feel like he truly steps his villain game up. Vaudeville Villain has some of the darkest lines and themes yet. Unlike Operation: Doomsday, which had the listener questioning whether or not DOOM was in fact villainous, or merely misunderstood, Vaudeville Villain clearly puts DOOM in the position of a villain. Of course the pseudonym Viktor Vaughn was the true name of the Marvel super villain Doctor Doom. Yet, despite this being the most animated of DOOM’s four prior pseudonyms (Zed Love X, MF DOOM, King Geedorah), the album doesn’t pull any punches with it’s villainy.

There are a couple tracks that really stand out to me. The first, although a stand out, isn’t a stand out for good reason. In “Let Me Watch”, DOOM trades verses with artist Apani B., discussing a relationship and it’s troubles between the two. Although I don’t find anything fundamentally wrong with the track, I just feel that it doesn’t in the theme of the album. I actually really love Apani B.’s voice and lyrical ability, I just don’t see it as a fitting track.

The other two tracks that stand out to me are two of my favorites on the entire album–“Open Mic Nite Pt. 1 & 2”. It’s interesting that DOOM, seemingly at first, breaks from the evil super villain theme of the album and into the setting of an open mic night at some bar/club. The promoter (Lord Sear), the verses by Brother Sambuca, Rodan, Louis Logic, AJ Ready Wright and Creature, granted yes, the verses may not be anything spectacular that stands out, meld together to create a really grate homage to old school hip hop. Each verse in “Open Mic Nite Pt. 1 & 2” is unique and different from the verse it precedes and follows.

In may ways it feels like DOOM’s lyrics are much more accessible in Vaudeville Villain than in any other album prior. In his KMD days, DOOM’s lyrics were very African-American centric and empowering, skirting with the term “conscious”. On Operation: Doomsday DOOM’s lyrics were often very abstract and took multiple listens to understand. This is, of course, on of the appealing things about DOOM’s entire discography. As King Geedorah, DOOM didn’t rap enough throughout the album to really go one way or another. On the tracks he did, DOOM seemed to move away from the abstract nature of his rhymes an in the direction of the more accessible that Vaudeville Villain displayed.

It may be the these more accessible lyrics that make the album one of DOOM’s greatest successes. So far, throughout DOOM’s discography, covering his two albums with KMD, Mr. Hood and Black Bastards, as well as Operation: Doomsday and Take Me To Your Leader, Vaudeville Villain has to be my favorite thus far. Tracks like “Vaudeville Villain”, the title track, and “Salvia”, exemplify DOOM’s skills and ability to create truly captivating, enthralling hip hop.

Feature – MF DOOM Discussion Week Four – A Look at King Geedorah’s “Take Me To Your Leader”

Let’s be honest, it’s not easy to follow up Operation: Doomsday.

Take Me To Your Leader

As I wrote about last week, I found it hard to see MF DOOM as a villain after listing to Operation: Doomsday. There wasn’t much, if any that made me see him in that light. Maybe DOOM knew this. With the last track of Operation: Doomsday, “Hero vs. Villain (feat. E. Mason)”, DOOM even explored this idea. This was the listener’s struggle. Villain or simply misunderstood?

Well it’s been four years since Operation: Doomsday and DOOM is back. This time he is announcing his villainess with authority. Not only is DOOM, now going under the moniker of King Geedorah, stating he is in fact a villain, but rather he’s *so much* of a villain that he’s personified himself as a three-headed gold space monster. The other featured on the album? They’re personified as other villains in the Godzilla cannon. Nothing like making a statement and doing so in the form of monsters. DOOM went from a super villain of the comic book variety and extrapolated it to, literally, a band of monsters.

King Geedorah

When it comes to the album as a whole, it is clearly a concept album. Take Me To Your Leader is much more of a concept album, in my opinion, than Operation: Doomsday was. This is easily the album’s biggest draw–that or the production. Much like on Operation: Doomsday, DOOM does all the production himself, again under a different pseudonym–Metal Fingered Villain. Metal Fingered Villain is, well, MF DOOM. I’m not talking about Daniel Dumile, I’m talking about MF DOOM. I love this meta idea that the music of the Metal Fingered Villain, Dumile’s album prior, is fueling the music of this ride of the monsters. It doesn’t matter if it’s a DOOM album, King Geedorah or Viktor Vaughn album, Dumile is always reminding us he’s a villain. I talked a little in my last post as to why I believed this to be so, so I won’t go into that here.

The track that best exemplifies the brilliance of Metal Fingered Villain’s production has to be the track “Monster Zero”. Composed entirely of samples, “Monster Zero” does so much for propelling the album’s storyline as well as showcasing the production. “Monster Zero” uses foreshadowing:

[Radio Reporter]
It is very likely that one or more of you know this individual
Someone who’s experienced working in a laboratory
With access to select biological agents

a possible reference to Viktor Vaughn, DOOM’s next moniker and next album. The track also uses allusion to equate Dumile with King Geedorah:

[Radio Reporter]
Someone who’s standoffish and works in isolation
A killer who may have used off hours in a laboratory to produce-
[Man]
Music, brother!

illustrating Dumile’s work ethic in the studio and equating it to a super villain in their respective laboratory. The track also, complying with hip hop basics, and going back to what Dumile himself called, “bragging rap” in an interview, says:

Pay heed to my warning, the entire Human race will perish from the Earth
When the monster, Geedorah passes, only flaming ruins are left

This is Dumile’s way of bragging and boasting about himself.

“Monster Zero” really is, in my opinion, the best track on the entire album. “One Smart Nigger” does this as well, but not with nearly the success of “Monster Zero”. This isn’t to say that there aren’t other great tracks on this album. Frankly, though, the majority of the features on this album are quite forgettable. This is with the exception of Biolante’s verse (rapper Kurious) on “Fastlane” and mystery rapper Mr. Fantastik’s back and fourth with DOOM on “Anti-Matter”. Other than that, none of the other features really stood out to me. All in all, they work as one though, being a concept album and listening to the album straight through, as I believe Dumile intended.

When it comes to Dumile’s rapping, it’s hard to top “The Fine Print” (though the back and fourth with Fantastik on “Anti-Matter” does come close. From the first line, “Render unto Geedorah what is Geedorah’s”, Geedorah straight up baffles with his rhymes, referencing everything from 70s cartoons about sharks to Three’s Company. This is the Dumile I love, no hooks, just straight bars. The end of the track also shows off Metal Fingered Villain’s sampling and production again.

I’m here to tell you that the future of your planet is at stake
I urge that you transmit that message to the nations of the urge
Now do you feel like telling me where your leader is?

Then the album just ends. This may be the most villainous act of King Geedorah–giving the listener no resolve. The verse that accompanies the track, that of Geedorah’s, of Dumile’s, and there he is, back to his “bragging rap”. Then it just ends. He’s making us want more. He starts this with his lack of verses on the album, and ends it with no resolution. We want more King Geedorah. He’s making himself an anti-hero. We’re rooting for King Geedorah.

I’m not sure what to make of this whole,

Are you a homo? (Like the others)
We help thousands of homos every month!

It’s in the old days right
The women knew who the women were
The women knew who the men were
The men knew who the women were
And the men knew who the men were

ending of the album. In many ways it sounds quite homophobic, and expresses a time when you didn’t have to wonder about a person’s gender. This however, really trips me up. Not sure what is trying to be said here.

All in all, Take Me To Your Leader is an alright album. I think the concept essence of it really works and shows Dumile’s ability to really compose a concept album with great success. I think the transitions between monster-esque and rappers from the city is somewhat shaky at times and may or may not mesh in the sense of the storyline and concept of the album, but it works enough to achieve what I believe Dumile was trying to achieve. Better than Black Bastards and Mr. Hood, not quite as good as Operation: Doomsday.

FEATURE – MF DOOM DISCUSSION: WEEK THREE – A LOOK AT “Operation: Doomsday”

Night and day. KMD’s Mr. Hood and Black Bastards are night and day from Operation: Doomsday. There’s new themes, new gimmicks, new and multiple characters. Hell, it’s like he’s…another person.

Operation: Doomsday

I couldn’t help but listen to Operation: Doomsday without thinking about the context of the album. A couple years prior to the album’s release, Zev Love X was homeless and living on the streets of NYC. Dude was straight up homeless. He left hip hop behind. I can only imagine how difficult this must have been for DOOM. I can’t help but seeing that this time in his life greatly effected the lyrics on Operation: Doomsday. There’s a few things that really admire about this album–DOOM being meta and his mind-blowing lyricism, the concept, and the listener’s struggle.

On the more analytical level, what stood out most to me had to be DOOM’s lyrical approach. Even from the first track (that isn’t a skit) DOOM flat out spit insanity. The first lines of “Doomsday”:

I used to cop a lot
But never copped no drop

is a baffling entendre. This line can be interpreted in half a dozen ways. This is clearly DOOM’s intentions, especially considering this is the opening line. Tracks like “Doomsday”, “Hey!”, and especially “Rhymes Like Dimes,” are full of wicked entendres. I think it’s fair to say that DOOM is an artist you could listen to for the rest of your life and pick up something new in his lyrics with every listen.

What really struck me on my recent listen to Operation: Doomsday was how meta DOOM is at times. The first of these lines that really caught my attention was from “Doomsday” where DOOM spits,

I wrote this one in B.C. D.C. O-section
If you don’t believe me, go get bagged and check then
Cell number 17, up under the top bunk

What makes this line meta is how DOOM is addressing writing the actual track he’s currently spitting. Supposedly written during a stint in B.C. D.C. (Baltimore County Detention Center), “Doomsday” lays a sturdy and deep foundation for everything that’s DOOM to come. Now, this is where the enigmatic side of DOOM comes out as well. First, to address the context behind this line, I can’t seem to find a definitive answer as to whether or not DOOM was actually incarcerated at some point in his life or not. Being homeless could have lead to an arrest or two, logically. DOOM, however, gives us the answer to whether or not he’s bullshitting for the sake of rhymes–DOOM says go get pinched and if you land yourself in cell number seventeen, check under that top bunk for “Doomsday” lyrics.

Other instances of DOOM being meta comes in the track, “The Finest”, a track shared with Megalon AKA Tommy Gunn.

Come on stay, I wrote this rhyme on my born-day
Remind me of the same style I flipped on “Hey!”

DOOM references not only the current track he’s spitting, but his flow on “Hey!”–a song eight tracks passed “The Finest”. These meta lines are some of my favorites. Those, in combination with those wicked entendres, DOOM’s lyricism on *Operation: Doomsday* is easily the album’s most enduring quality.

DOOM

When it comes to Operation: Doomsday, it’s hard to argue that it’s not a concept album. Although it may not tell a singular story throughout and, more times than not, tends to focus on a central theme–this misunderstood super villain. I can understand why a lot of people can’t get into DOOM because of the skits. Granted this is the gimmick behind the concept album, that it must be listened to completely though. In that case the the skits really aid to the progression of the album. This is especially seen on “?” and in “Hero vs. Villain (Epilogue)” where DOOM is stopped from world domination. In “?”, the beginning skit,

My servants began to forge what was to become
The most dreaded costume on the face of the earth
The last thing to fit was the mask
Will it conform to my twisted features in comfort

the creation of this super villain alter ego is explored, as well as the creation of the disguise–his mask of course. In “Hero vs. Villain (Epilogue)” the skit does much the same, in that it furthers the progression of the albums story.

I really enjoy a great concept album. I’ve always been to type of person to listen to albums straight through and when this is done with *Operation: Doomsday* it can be a really magical thing.

The last part I wanted to touch on was that of the listener’s struggle. This might not have been something you, fellow listener, experienced unless you’re aware of the albums context, DOOM’s backstory prior and were aware with KMD and Subroc’s death. Remember, before *Operation: Doomsday* was recorded, DOOM was homeless. Think about how people interact with the homeless. People can either be really humane to them, offering them food, money, shelter in some cases, while at the same time people can be very evil to them–think Bumfights and people verbally assaulting them. DOOM takes the good/evil struggle to another level in *Operation: Doomsday*; here we have this… person, this rapper, MF DOOM, and we can’t really put a finger on whether or not he’s a super villain or a superhero.

Think about Batman. Batman was often confused as a villain despite being the best thing that ever happened to Gotham City. DOOM and Batman have this same struggle. With Batman though, it’s quite evident that he’s, in fact, a superhero. With DOOM, however, it’s not as crystal. DOOM doesn’t really do much that makes us see him as a villain. The skits imply that he is in fact a villain, and do more to perpetuating this idea than DOOM’s lyrics do. In “?” when DOOM raps about his brother:

Like my twin brother, we did everything together
From hundred raka’at salats to copping butter leathers
Remember when you went and got the dark blue Ballys
I had all the different color Cazals and Gazelles
The “SUBROC” three-finger ring with the ruby in the “O”, ock
Truly the illest dynamic duo on the whole block
I keep a flick of you with the machete sword in your hand
Everything is going according to plan man

we can really see that DOOM isn’t really a villain. That last line,

Everything is going according to plan man

with the proper context, is quite powerful. We feel sadness and empathy for DOOM. At the same time, he’s a super villain, who we’re not supposed to root for. The final track, “Hero vs. Villain (Epilogue)”, examines this from an outside perspective, much like the listeners, since the track is spit by E. Mason and not DOOM.

There is, of course, the other way people interact, or rather not interact, with the homeless–ignoring them all together. DOOM, however, will not be ignored. DOOM takes these basic human interactions towards the homeless and incorporates them into his lyrics and addresses them at other rappers. DOOM makes us decided for ourselves as to who the man behind the mask is. Is the mask a way of hiding himself from the cruelness of the world or rather a way to reinvent himself. Looks like DOOM left us with another entendre, something else to ponder.

FEATURE – MF DOOM DISCUSSION: WEEK TWO – A LOOK AT KMD’S “Black Bastards”

KMD – Black Bastards

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

and,

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”.

DOOM’s 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.

Feature – MF DOOM Discussion: Week One – A Look at KMD’s “Mr. Hood”

KMD – Mr. Hood

Zed Love X. Damn. This really is a great album. I do have some issues with it, but I enjoy it more than I dislike it by far. Doom (I guess that’s how I’ll refer to him throughout) really shines with his ability to articulate his lyrics and tell stories. That into track is a great example. The first line into “Mr. Hood at Piocalles Jewelry/Crackpot” really hit me, “This reminds me of the days of dwelling with those / Who killed off the weak for fancy clothes and hoes too”. The story that follows is brilliantly vivd.

“I first met Crackpot in like Head Starts
Since then I knew he wasn’t too head smart
As I scribbled in art he insisted on standing in the sandbox
To collect unknown amounts of pebbles and stones to throw rocks
“It’s in the wrists”, he said when telling me in early physics lessons
“Two atoms can’t occupy the same space at the same time”

Here he is telling the history of a kid who becomes a drug dealer and eventually gets locked up for it, “But a pocket full of pebbles what locked up Crackpot”. Such an innovative way to illustrate growing up in the drug game. It’s lyrics like this that really prove, to me, what an amazing emcee Doom is.

With “Who Me? (With an Answer From Dr. Bert)”, Doom shows he’s more than just a storytelling rapper, but a conscious rapper as well.

Holy smokes! I see it’s a joke
To make a mockery of the original folks
Okay, joke’s over, but still it cloaks over us
He is talking about Little Black Sambo. As well as the line:
Pigment, is this a defect in birth?
Or more an example of the richness on Earth?
Lips and eyes dominant traits of our race
Does not take up 95 percent of one’s face But still I see
In the back two or three
Ignorant punks pointing at me

I think the use of dialogue in this track, as well as the prior track, really aids to the tracks vibe.

Over all, my favorite track has got to be “Figure of Speech”. I feel it’s very throwback. Very common for hip hop of the time: “The motto goes: sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll / I prefer: love, hugs and hip hop soul”. It’s very meta in many ways, as he talks about making music when he says:

Place of rest is Doom’s room where we loot the tune
And add a sonic kick Boom
A dash of this then up next, last but not least
Is Zev Love X, this figure of speech..haha

Lyrically, it’s not the best track on the album, as I think that “Mr. Hood at Piocalles Jewelry/Crackpot” takes that title, but it’s catchy and I fuck with it. “808s Man” is also a great display of his lyrically ability. Equating the people in a fight to that of musical instruments and styles is really dope and he absolutely kills that track. Great metaphor in here.

Some of the problems I have with Mr. Hood come mostly with the repetition. After listening to the album in it’s entirety I feel like a lot of it sounds the same. They use dialogue in a majority of their tracks. The beats all sound relatively similar. Granted this was 1991 when this shit dropped, there were still hip hop albums that had come out prior that showed off better production like De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising, It Takes a Million to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy and a personal favorite Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys. I find this kind of ironic, since Doom eventually became a rapper that is often associated with amazing production, like on The Mouse and the Mask, Madvilliany andOperation Doomsday.

All in all this is a great first album. It shows Doom’s abilities and that he had them from such a young age, being around 19 and 20 when this was recorded. It is a solid freshman, for sure.

-Sky