Pick 5: MF DOOM


Born Daniel Dumile on January 9th 1971, MF DOOM got his start on the New York hip hop scene in the early 90s, as one third of KMD. Although debut album Mr. Hood (1991) was a success, controversy surrounding the artwork for 1993’s follow-up Black Bastards combined with the death of Dumile’s brother DJ Subroc spelled the end for the group. Feeling scorned, Dumile retreated from the world of hip hop, returning in 1997 having adopted the supervillainous MF DOOM persona. Since then, he’s released three albums under the DOOM moniker, plus plenty more under a whole bunch of different aliases.

Aside from the metal mask, DOOM is known primarily for his esoteric and lyrically-dense verses, and his by no means inconsiderable production skills. Rather than being ‘my favourites’ or ‘the best’, the five tracks below are five I feel make a pretty solid introduction to this vast catalogue of material.

1. Doomsday Operation: Doomsday [1999]

The title track from 1999’s solo debut is a great example of the style that DOOM has continued to cultivate throughout his career. His signature flow – quick and wordy – is on full display here, and although his voice might not be the softest it’s certainly smooth enough to mesh with the reworked Sade sample playing underneath and the interpolated hook that fills in its blank spaces.

2. Figaro Madvillainy [2004]

In 2004 DOOM linked up with Madlib, dropping a project that saw the former’s lyrics paired with production from the latter to devastating effect. In this perfect microcosm of Madvillainy’s quality, Dumile flexes his lyrical muscles to a near-peak as he delivers some seriously complex bars:

Rap Genius Extract from 'Figaro' Lyrics (Madvillain)

It’s the kind of verbal density that could easily end up sounding mumbled if you weren’t up to the task, but DOOM spits with precision on this track from what is widely considered to be his best work.

3. Kon Queso Mm.. Food [2004]

As concept albums go, Mm.. Food is up there with the best of them: I mean, it’s hip hop meets food. What’s not to love? This one might not be my favourite track from the album (that honour belongs to the superb Rapp Snitch Knishes), but it’s  absolutely one of the most technically impressive. Seriously, the delivery on this is something else: no fucking about, he just jumps in and goes. And goes, and goes, and goes, keeping time with a pretty aggressive PNS beat while he’s at it.

4. Anti-Matter Take Me To Your Leader [2003]

One of the best things about MF DOOM is the depth of his back catalogue. A number of different aliases conceal a wealth of quality tracks, and nowhere is this more evident than on the King Geedorah album. The bassline underpinning this one is some of Dumile’s finest production work, but the scene is easily stolen by Mr Fantastik. A quick back and forth is followed by an impeccably-delivered guest verse, made all the more intriguing by the fact nobody has any idea who he is. Definitely my favourite ‘deep pull’.

5. Guv’nor Key To The Kuffs [2012]

Madvillainy is unquestionably the best-known DOOM collab project, but that doesn’t mean that the others are without their merits. Dumile might well be in his forties now but as this track demonstrates, there’s no danger of a drop in consistency any time soon. The fact that he manages to fit Eyjafjallajökull into the opening verse is enough on its own to make this one worth a listen; the fiendishly catchy beat from Janeiro Jarel is just the icing on the cake.

So there you go: five tracks that should hopefully give you a pretty clear idea of what MF DOOM is all about. I’m admittedly a little sceptical about just how much value there is in reducing such a vast discography down to just five songs, but nonetheless I feel like I came up with a pretty solid playlist. Or maybe I got it all wrong? That’s what the comment section is for, I guess.

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