Madlib teams up with rap aristocrat MF Doom for a royal hip hop outing.
MF Doom has been so busy building a reputation its surprising to hear he’s also been building himself a life. The MC/producer is so prolific – since 2002 he has released solo albums as King Geedorah and Viktor Vaughn, as part of Monster Island Czars and two instrumental volumes of Special Herbs – you’d expect him to be dividing his whole time between comic books, where he gets much inspiration, and the studio, knocking out yet more LPs like the brand new Madvillainy and the forthcoming MM Food.
Instead, he left New York, home from the age of one until three years ago, for Atlanta, Georgia, re-married and become a father for the second time. “I grew up in New York, its always just gonna be real ill to me, he says. “But I wanted a quiet environment for my first son.” (Doom, or rather, Daniel Dumile as he was born, has custody of his 11-year-old firstborn.) “Besides, New York City was just too hectic,” he laughs. “Its kinda dark out there, even in the daytime.”
Having left hip hop’s most famous city, he spent a chunk of time in its historical rival, LA, last year recording at the home of his partner in Madvillain (and the only man in hip hop who can match his Stakhanovite workload), Madlib. The most intuitive sample-smith in hip hop-dom meets the lyrical brainscrambler par excellence: it sounds so good it can only go wrong, right? But Madvillainy is one of those rare occasions where a hypothetical dream ticket translates into something even better than the sum of its parts.
“There’s a chemistry working with Madlib that exists with nobody else I’ve worked with,” Doom enthuses. “As soon as I hear the beat I’d get an idea of what I want to write about. That spontaneity separates it from an album I produce myself. Then I plan it out, get real technical, I’m looking at something as a producer and an MC so that limits my MC side and I can’t fully focus. But working with Madlib, forget it! All his beats is raw anyway, I don’t have a problem selecting beats, he throws on them joints and I just sit back, be 100% MC.”
DOOM’S VARIOUS PERSONAE
DANIEL DUMILE: The man behind the masks.
ZEV LOVE X: Lead rapper with KMD (that’s a positive Kause in a Much Damaged society if you squint from the right angle), whose black power-meets-Daisy classic Mr Hood kaused… sorry caused… a fraction of the damage it deserved.
MF DOOM: Only the warm, softly-spoken voice (now descending into an alcoholic slur) remains as he re-emerges in 1997 as Metal Face Doom with a head full of comic books, wearing a mask over his face and bearing eccentric LPs for the Fondle ‘Em label. Ditching every last vestige of his KMD past, he abandons raw funk and skewed jazz for tinny beats at un-danceable tempos, while playful narratives give way to scatter- gun surrealism.
KING GEEDORAH: A 500-foot tall three-headed lizard inhabiting distant galaxies. Unable to visit earth for fear of the widespread panic that might ensue, he channels his philanthropic message through MF Doom. Quite why he chooses a mask-wearing loon as a conduit rather than a more credible witness like, say, respected news- reader Trevor McDonald or cosmologist Stephen Hawking, isn’t fully explained.
VIKTOR VAUGHN: Though also derived from Marvel Comics’ Vic Von Doom, VV is a very different MC from MF. Younger, more villainous, street-smart and battle-ready, last year’s brilliant Vaudeville Villain album is an unstoppable romp through street crime, open-mic nights and voyeuristic sex. More funny ha-ha than funny weird.
DOOM’S LIFE IN FIVE PARTS
… ONE OF OURS: Daniel Dumile was actually born in London, but he emigrated to New York before he could talk. Still, with only Slick Rick to compete with in the Anglo-American rap list, he should he claimed for the UK the minute he steps back onto British soil.
DEATH OF SUBROC: KMD’s debut album, Hr Hood, was evenly divided between angry 5 Percent diatribes (“Nitty Gritty”) and goofy Tribe-like novelties (“Peachfuzz”). Although both were released as singles, the group resented Elektra marketing them as fluffy Native Tongues, not men on a militant mission. With a darker second album in the can their mood wasn’t helped when Subroc, Dumile’s brother and KMD DJ, was killed in a car accident. A decade on the wound hasn’t healed and when Sleaze tried to discuss KMD’s tragic demise the interview was abruptly terminated.
BL_CK B_ST_RDS: Already uneasy with the gurgles of black separatism emanating from KMD’s second album, Elektra threw the baby out with the bathwater when they saw the sleeve. The black sambo character, which had been crossed out on the Mr Hood cover in a denunciation of racist stereotyping, was now being hanged n the manner of the kids’ word game. KMD and the label parted company. Zev Love/Dumile disappeared, rumoured to be suffering from depression, fuelled by spiralling drink and drug abuse.
Bootlegs aside, Bl_ck B_st_rds went unreleased for six years, when Ready Rock, swiftly followed by Subverse, put it out, sleeve and all.
REBIRTH AS MF DOOM: Oddly, he really found his voice when it deteriorated. Dooms early records are slurred, arryhythmic and blissfully unaware of such rules as scanning. But this gave him a peculiar freedom to make records no one else would even contemplate. Now that he’s re-developed something resembling a proper (if still unique) flow matched to lyrics so damn sharp you need a week to take them in, Doom is making the best records of his life.
DOOMS FINEST LYRICAL MOMENTS
Shoot the goose she’s loose / So wild you couldn’t chase it down with straight fruit juice / Frown like the first time you taste couscous.” (“Con Questo”, from MM Food)
“To all my brothers who is doing unsettling bids / You could’ve got away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.” (“Hey” from Operation Doomsday, better appreciated with its accompanying Scooby Doo sample)
“They pray four times a day, they pray five / Who weighs the strange when it’s time to survive / Some’ll go of they own free will to die / Others take them with you when they blow sky high / What’s the difference? All you get is lost children / While the bosses sit up behind the desk / It cost billions to blast humans in half / Into calves and arms, only one side is allowed to have bombs / That’s like making a soldier drop his weapon / Shootin’ him, and tellin’ him to get the steppin’ / Obviously, they came to portion up his fortune / Sounds to me, like that old robbery extortion (“Strange Ways” from Madvillainy)
“Giving y’all nuttin’ but the lick like two broads / Got more lyrics then the church got ooh lords” (“Accordion” from Madvillainy)