Feature by BOGAR ALONSO for XXL. Note from Stones Throw: There's been a lot of talk recently about DOOM dropping the "MF". But if you look at 2004's Madvillain album, there's no MF there either. And yet, when one of us asked DOOM about a couple years ago, he said, "What? Nah, I never dropped that shit." Now on with the show…
His most recent release Key to the Kuffs, under the newly formed JJ DOOM moniker, carries on the usual DOOM torch (which might just burn green, for all we know). As a unit, JJ DOOM consists of producer/vocalist Jneiro Jarel and the masked villain, who now goes simply as DOOM, minus the “MF.” Since the group first unveiled “Banished” in February, the anticipation for Key to the Kuffs grew, and with its release last week, it certainly doesn’t disappoints. The album operates in a chrome sullenness that hasn’t come out of DOOM since his days as Viktor Vaughn. Although the MC didn’t set out to build off his criminally underrated Vaudeville Villain, he can see how the two projects could be fraternal twins as he considers Jneiro Jarel “one of his brothers.” Asked if he could picture his latest musical partner being part of a potential Vaudeville Villain 3, DOOM roared, “Oh, definitely,” DOOM told XXLMag.com. “Once you put it in the air, someone’s going to come up with a budget. All I need is a budget, and I get busy.” The man certainly has done so, working on the album for the past two years despite being forced to live away from his family. Although he was raised before the boom bap years of hip-hop in Long Island, New York, a recent passport mishap clipped his wings, and had him grounded in London.
If Born Like This consisted of DOOM’s nightmares, Key to the Kuffs is his plasma. Not blood plasma, because villains don’t bleed, but the kind of plasma stars are made of. While Dumile has been through worse, tracks like “Winter Blues” bring insight into his current state of seclusion. The space age reverbs provided by Jarel must do the bleeding for DOOM, who “only needs one warm hug to keep from turning off.” He laments, “I need a handful of melanin/ Feelin’ like the lambs wool beard on your tender skin/ Eat’er up like a Snack well/ We could live forever like Henrietta Lacks’ cells.” Who would have known that the mad villain’s kryptonite was love?
In terms of collaboration, MF goes about it in Wild West fashion. No Twitter, no “my person will call your person” merrymaking. He says, “It’s hard to get at me,” he says. “Especially back then, in the days of Doomsday, people would have to find me the hard way. You know, it’s like the streets. Just like the streets.” If Key to the Kuffs seems like the placenta leftover from Madvillainy’s birth, it might be because working with JJ turned out to be very much like fraternizing with Madlib. Although, working with Jneiro Jarel was a little less of a “telepathic” process than it was with the Beat Konducta, the two work off each other well. Their friendship also picked up steam when they ran into each other years ago in L.A, after collaborating on a Shapes of Broad Minds track. “I was working on the Madvillain record, and we got mutual friends out there, so we would all be kickin’ it, talking about beats and equipment and shit. So I had more of a chance to hear his style, to hear his music and get to know him. We became friends.”
Although another collaboration with Jneiro Jarel seems certain for the future, DOOM has too much on his plate at the moment. Once having said that he has 100 albums in him, it seems the former Zev Love X is getting overwhelmed, if at least a bit. “I have so many starting points, I have to be careful,” DOOM explains. I have to, like, put in an order, or else I’ll get lost in it. And one will ever get anything from me ever again; you’ll have the Super Villain going in circles.” He certainly seems to have no time to brush up on his contemporaries. When asked if he respected label mate Homeboy Sandman and the tour-de-force that is Action Bronson, for their humored hip-hop, he simply said, “Never heard of them. I don’t get a chance to listen to new stuff.” He did have nothing but praise for BDP’s Criminal Minded.
Since his mind seems always in the music, he quickly diverted back to talking about his slate of upcoming projects. “The second Madvillain album is almost done―it’s coming out ill,” he revealed. “That’ll be done this year.” Though the word “done” seems to be a relative term for the prolific MC. “Then it’ll be DOOMSTARKS―I know everybody’s been waiting for that on,” he offered. “I just kicked it with DOOMSTARKS in Australia for five days. We worked on a lot of little odds and ends, we’ll be wrapping up on that one soon too.” And in what might be a XXL exclusive, because “to this day it’s [his] favorite hip-hop magazine,” DOOM revealed murky details about another unannounced album.
Due to label constraints he could only say, “Let’s put it like this: I’m doing some work with a New York style producer, right. Someone who produced mad hits and shit,” he said. “Hardcore hits. Shit that―it’s totally unexpected but I’m not going to reveal it at this time.” After a little more prying, “Can I give a hint? Ugh, I would say―nah! I can’t even give a hint. New York hit-maker! ‘90s, and it’s not Primo. Try to figure it out.”