In the world of hip hop, there are few artists who have had as much influence as MF DOOM. Originally a member of the early 1990s rap trio KMD, DOOM left the group after the tragic death of his younger brother and fellow KMD member, DJ Subroc. Disappearing for over three years, DOOM returned in 1997 under the villainous persona that fans of underground hip-hop recognize to this day.
Following his return, DOOM released what seemed like an endless list of classic records over the next decade, including “Operation: Doomsday,” “Madvillainy” and “MM…Food.” The frequency with which DOOM was able to release records is unmatched to this day, as he often dropped multiple albums per year from 2002-2006. However, DOOM has gone quiet in the past three years, with his last official release being a collaboration album with Bishop Nehru in 2014. The three-year drought since a new DOOM project has left fans wanting fresh music more than ever before.
On August 7, Adult Swim received a folder from DOOM himself, containing fifteen unreleased tracks. In his typical villainous fashion, DOOM revealed very little information about his reasoning for providing the songs, and Adult Swim has stated that they will release one song per week until all have been made public. Some of these tracks are rumored to be included on DOOM’s future albums, while he strictly features on others. The one confirmed bit of news, however, is that KMD will be dropping their first project in over twenty years before the end of 2017, and the second week of DOOM releases included a collaboration with Jay Electronica called “True Lightyears” that will appear on KMD’s forthcoming album.
Adult Swim has a history of pushing underground hip-hop to the forefront, as artists like Flying Lotus, Nujabes and Killer Mike all owe the platform for pushing their careers further. The demographic that watches Adult Swim appreciates underground artists more than others, because Adult Swim is essentially “underground television.” The experimental programs that run on Adult Swim lend themselves to the style of music that an artist like DOOM creates, and just having one of your songs play during the bumps between shows can put an artist on the map.
However, getting into DOOM’s music is not an easy thing to do without proper context. He is purposely anti-social, and while his rhymes are extremely impressive, some of them are nearly impossible to memorize and recite. You will never hear DOOM on the radio. Most of the people that find out about DOOM’s music do so through a program like Adult Swim, or through word of mouth. Allow me to act as your liaison into the world of MF DOOM, and provide you with four tracks that will introduce the artist at his best, and maybe turn you into a fan in the process.
The third song on DOOM’s debut solo record is possibly the most radio-friendly track in his discography. “Rhymes Like Dimes” puts DOOM’s talent on display, but does not subject the listener to the most complex lyrics that he has to offer. When combined with the upbeat production of the cut, the track acts as the perfect introduction to the man with the mask.
“Aye yo yo, y’all can’t stand right there,
In his right hand was your man’s worst nightmare.
Loud enough to burst his right eardrum, close range,
The game is not only dangerous but it’s most strange.”
On “Between Villains,” DOOM enters into another alter ego, Viktor Vaughn, and teams up with Captain Murphy and Earl Sweatshirt, who is recognized as the closest thing to a DOOM offspring in modern hip hop.
“Between Villains” sees all three artists in their darkest mindset, a polar opposite to “Rhymes Like Dimes.” For some, this is when DOOM is at his best, when he is in his most villainous persona and it seems like he is using his music to intimidate other rappers and listeners alike.
2. “Kon Karne”
DOOM’s calling card is his ability to rhyme multiple words in the same sentence, and “Kon Karne” is likely the best example of this skill in DOOM’s collection.
If I was asked to describe the track in one word, it would be clever. The beginning of each verse includes DOOM comparing himself to things around the world that represent power, and with each verse he increases the scale of the things to which he compares himself. As he increases his own power through his comparisons, his lyrics become more complex, and it seems like he is getting stronger each time.
Without explaining it outright, DOOM has found another way to represent himself as a supervillain, which makes “Kon Karne” an even more impressive track.
“Gazillion Ear” showcases DOOM’s aggressive delivery, as his tone is grittier than most tracks in which he is not entrenched in his Viktor Vaughn persona. With a non-stop assault of lyrics, DOOM further displays his versatility as an artist, as he effortlessly changes from a more comedic, lighthearted flow to a threatening tone. Every line in “Gazillion Ear” can be broken down beyond the surface of what DOOM is saying. For example, in the middle of the track, DOOM says:
“Once sold an inbred, Skinhead a nigga joke,
Plus a brand new chrome smoker with the trigger broke.”
These two lines alone carry multiple messages. DOOM insults racists by calling them inbred and saying they are dumb enough to give him money for a joke and a broken gun. He also subliminally displays how clever he is with his words, to the point that he could convince a racist to pay him for his knowledge, and trust him enough to buy a gun that doesn’t work just because it looks nice. Even further, DOOM expects the skinhead to attempt to use the joke and the gun against him, but since the joke is his, he can counter it, and the gun is useless because it is broken. Now, consider that every bar from “Gazillion Ear” can be broken down to this extent, and it puts DOOM’s genius into perspective.
While these four tracks are enough to display DOOM’s talent, they cannot even scrape the tip of the iceberg of what can be found in his entire catalogue. For hip-hop fans, and music fans in general, the return of the man with the metal face could not have come at a better time. Being able to expect a new DOOM track every week until November is like a safety net for the hip-hop world, and hopefully his triumphant return will inspire other artists to step up to the plate, as well.