ALL CAPS: A Guide to DOOM
MF DOOM, King Geedorah, Viktor Vaughn, Zev Love X, Madvillian, DANGERDOOM, JJ DOOM, Nehruviandoom, DOOMSTARKS and Doom -"The best emcee with no chain you ever heard". Metal Face on the mic and Metal Fingers in the production lab, Daniel Dumile (pronounced 'DOOM - e - lay') is one of the 'underground's' most celebrated, championed, enigmatic, clever, spontaneous, controversial and avant-garde figures - some of DOOM's exploits include and are not limited to: sending impostors to perform (and joking that, he'll send a white dude to play the MF DOOM character next time), leaving finished works unpublished and needing at least 1 beer before work. Undoubtedly one of the greatest discography's and certainly one of the most challenging to navigate, Figaro endeavours to plot a course through the works of one of the best loved figures at FigHQ, if not the best loved. Fewer artists than DOOM generate greater fascination, fandom and internet discourse and as such there are a few things worth noting. For the purpose of a narrative we'll work through his work chronologically, but for first time listeners most fella's on the net would suggest starting with Danger Doom's 'The Mouse & the Mask' or Madvillian's 'Madvilliany'. These are two of DOOM's most accessible releases but Operation: Doomsday is definitely a good place to start, with '?' (Questions) a prerequisite for any DOOM virgins finding their way through the eccentric mind of the supervillain.
Why does DOOM perform under all these alias'? From the horses mouth:
I also must make an idle plea to beg of you not to skip the skits in the records. The skits are a huge part of DOOM's work and identity, furthermore they operate as background detail on DOOM's alias' and the story of the 'supervillian'. Again from the source himself:
Zev Love X, KMD, 'Mr. Hood' (1991) & 'Black Bastards' (2001)
A Long Island crew comprised of DOOM as his first stage name Zev Love X, his brother DJ Subroc and Onyx the Birthstone Kid who replaced Rodan before the group signed with Elektra Records. A politically motivated record, Mr. Hood is a commentary on many issues bedevilling the black community in America, oftentimes using 'Sambo' from Helen Bannerman's 'Little Black Sambo' as a device for discourse. In this album we see the use of cartoon samples which Zev Love X would come to use frequently for skits in his later work, notably on Mr. Hood, Sesame Street's 'Bert' is sampled on Who Me?. A classic 'old school' hip hop sound, KMD ('Kausing Much Damage', or, 'A positive Kause in a Much Damaged society') is akin to the style of the rap groups of the time in Tribe Called Quest and The Pharcyde.
The groups second album, 'Black Bastards' was brought to a halt after the death of DOOM's brother DJ Subroc, after he passed away after being hit by a car while crossing the Long Island Expressway. The album's anticipated release date of 1993 was delayed further after Elektra Records were reluctant to release the record due to the album artwork depicting 'Little Black Sambo' being hung in a game of hangman and the lyrical nature of the release. Elektra Records eventually dropped KMD and with them the project. This signals the beginning of DOOM's complicated relationship with the music industry and the rap genre. DOOM is often seen to be concerned with making music from the 'golden era' of hip-hop, 'masking' himself to escape from the industry's turn to championing artists who can sell records above their lyrical content. One of the reasons DOOM is regarded so highly in underground rap circles is because his music does not strive to sell records, to be anything it isn't, or to be anything at all for that matter the music is made out of a passion for hip-hop, with no regard for how it will be received. Black Bastards was eventually released on Sub Verse Records in 2001 and later re-released on DOOM's own label, 'Metal Face Records' in 2008.
MF DOOM, 'Operation: Doomsday' (1999)
Operation: Doomsday signals the first solo project of Dumile under what has become his most recognisable alias - MF DOOM. An underground favourite, Operation: Doomsday is ground zero for a lot of the DOOM characters identity, and has achieved a mythic, fantasy level of reputation due to it's initial mystique and it's mass unavailability. The character MF DOOM, comes from the villain in Marvel's Fantastic Four comic series - Victor Von Doom, the genius, disfigured supervillain. In his 2011 Red Bull Music Academy lecture, Dumile defines the DOOM character as 'the old school, O.G., old timer villain. He's the typical villain you have in any story where a lot of people misunderstand him. He's always looked at as a bad guy but he's really got a heart of gold, he's for the children, he's a Robin Hood type of character. Loved by the people but the powers that be don't really get on with how he get down, y'know.' Outside of the MF DOOM identity on this album, Operation: Doomsday is home to some of DOOM's best loved tracks. Released on Bobbito Garcia's label Fondle 'Em Records in 1999 the title track, Doomsday is a cult favourite and a vintage DOOM sound, Rhymes Like Dimes (featuring Bobbito as 'DJ Cucumber Slice), Red & Gold, Hey! - which is produced entirely from Scooby Doo samples, Dead Bent, Gas Drawls and the prerequisite DOOM track, ?. The record on whole is one of DOOM's most quotable works and sums up some of the traits DOOM is known for - quirky, nerdy, goofy. A style made up of putting as many punchlines he can in a bar with a lexicon of cartoon, whimsical pop culture turns of phrase - DOOM talks shit like no other.
King Geedorah, 'Take Me To Your Leader' (2003)
This release sees DOOM leave planet Earth under the guise of the "straight up reptillian" King Geedorah, an all-powerful, three-headed, two-tailed, golden-scaled 'planet eating' dragon from the Godzilla universe, living in space "feeding information to DOOM" from afar. This is one of his most interesting personalities as DOOM himself has been quoted as saying that the DOOM character performs the bidding of King Geedorah, making Geedorah the mastermind of the supervillians. The release of 'Take Me To Your Leader' signals a return to Dumile's homeland of England with the record being released on Ninja Tune's 'Big Dada' label. Comparatively DOOM is heard to drop bars relatively few times on the album making it more of a Metal Finger's album, but is a credit to DOOM's ability to construct a narrative through cuts and production, just have a listen to Monster Zero, a masterpiece exercise in samples which documents King Geedorah's arrival on Earth. That's not to say Take Me To Your Leader is a beat tape with several featuring emcee's including regular DOOM collaborator Mr. Fantastik on Anti-Matter, with Fazers, I Wonder and The Fine Print being well-loved tracks from the release.
Viktor Vaughn, 'Vaudeville Villain' (2003) & 'Venomous Villain' (2004)
Continuing the villain theme DOOM comes back down to Earth under this moniker Viktor Vaughn, which comes from Viktor from Dr. Victor Von Doom in Fantastic 4 comics. The album is lyrically one of DOOM's most audacious, detailing a number of peculiar situations the young villain Vik finds himself in - e.g. the romantic prospect of his cousins friend gone tits up (Let Me Watch), messing around in school with Curis Strifer (played by M. Sayyid in Never Dead), a drug deal gone awry (Lactose & Lecithicin), open mic nights (in Open Mic Nite, parts 1&2) and the playful robbing of citizens, which also, naturally, takes a turn for the worst after Vik Vaughn is almost shot by an old lady (A Modern Day Mugging). Interestingly, Vaudeville Villain is a record where DOOM's 'Metal Fingers' never touch the lab, with the album being produced entirely by guest producers (Heat Sensor, King Honey & Max Bill) from the label the album was released on - Sound-Ink. In 2004 'VV:2 Venomous Villain' was released under the Viktor Vaughn denomination, to less acclaim than it's Vik Vaughn predecessor. Like in Vaudeville Villain, DOOM does not step into the lab for the production of the record, nor does he spend all too much time as an emcee on the project. Despite it's shortcomings, the record still is worth listening to, with several notable tracks in the form of Doper Skiller, and Bloody Chain both which feature guests Kool Keith and Poison Pen respectively. Generally, there is suspicion that DOOM didn't take VV2 very seriously, he certainly alludes to that in his tongue in cheek manner is it true or not? Make your own judgement on that one.
Madvillain (DOOM & Madlib), 'Madvillainy' (2004)
Arguably DOOM's best known record, definitely one of his best loved and one of his most accessible starting points for those who are not DOOM academics. Madvillainy, like Operation Doomsday is rife with rumours, mystery and speculation. A collaboration between DOOM and producer Madlib, Madvillainy was aledgedly produced in the wake of the closure of Bobbito's Fondle 'Em Records when the manager of Madlib's label, Stones Throw Records sent beats to DOOM from Madlib. DOOM who at the time was not aware of Madlib enjoyed the tapes and agreed to work with Madlib on a project, the contract for the record was, according to internet conjecture, signed on a paper plate after the record had to pull together $1 500 which they could not afford after paying DOOM's plane ticket to Los Angeles. The release of the record was delayed significantly after initial copies were leaked, leaving both DOOM and Madlib frustrated and pursued alternative projects (DOOM with 'Vaudeville Villain' & 'Take Me To Your Leader' and Madlib with his J Dilla collaboration 'Champion Sound'). Eventually, the pair joined again to release the album, which they did to critical acclaim, leaving Madvillainy as one of the most acclaimed rap albums made. A mixture of both artists at the peak of their powers and a perfect marriage of styles, with Madlib's unconventional orchestrations, experimental beat production and DOOM's witty stoner humour it's little wonder Madvillainy has achieved 'infamy'.
With such a reputation Madvillainy naturally comes chock-a-block full of favourites - All Caps is quite possibly DOOM's most recognisable and quotable tracks, Accordian is a masterpiece in production and lyricism, America's Most Blunted has cult love in abundance, Rhinestone Cowboy is well loved and Fancy Clown (a young Vik Vaughn calls an ex-lover who cheated on him... with MF DOOM) and Figaro are never far from the playlist queue at FigHQ. More or less, you can shuffle any time on the record and be hit square in the face with a classic. Even after it's release, internet theory and hearsay is as abundant as ever with rumours of a sequel - 'Madvillainy 2' is the closest we've got, which is a Madlib produced remix of the original. This reached it's climax after the pair released a track Avalanche late last year, but as of yet, no album has been dropped, the general consensus being it's on DOOM's computer, along with a Flying Lotus collaboration.
MF DOOM, 'Mm Food' (2004)
Another cult classic comes in the form of the cuisine driven return to the MF moniker - Mm Food (an anagram for MF DOOM). Continuing on DOOM's intentional departure from the dominant 'gangster rap' trends of the early 00's 'Mm Food' is trivial, casual and inconsequential it often neglects order and logic for snappy punchlines, for DOOM the game is "about the beats, not about the streets and who food he about to eat". Released on Rhynesayers Mm Food is home to several grub related skits, a leftover from Madvillany - One Beer which is one of the few tracks which isn't produced by DOOM, along with One Beer, Potholderz, which is a MF vintage, Kon Queso are the two other tracks not produced by Metal Fingers. Mm Food also hosts two time, equally mysterious, villainous conspirator Mr. Fantastik again for Rapp Snitch Knishes, but aside from Mr. Fantastik features are kept to the minimum, with the only other collaborators being Angelica and 4ize who lay down the bars and hook for the female lead track Guinesses where MF takes a backseat and lays the beat. If the album lacks fluency, it more than makes up for it with droves of punchlines, some of DOOM's best work, is also some of his most incomprehensible. As one of DOOM's most quotable bodies of work, there's no shortage of essential listening to be had. Not including the aforementioned tracks, Hoe Cakes is a tale of DOOM's wisdom in the courtship of women with a beatbox beat, Deep Fried Frenz is some imparted knowledge on mateship, Kon Karne is a tribute to DJ Subroc. Vomitspit and Kookies are just worth listening to.
DANGERDOOM, 'The Mask & the Mouse' (2005) & 'Occult Hymn' (2006)
Given DOOM's personality and style a Cartoon Channel concept album seems all too logical. For Dumile's most toon-centric production he conspired with producer Danger Mouse, creating 'The Mask & the Mouse' for Cartoon Networks Adult Swim channel as DANGERDOOM. Danger Mouse was at the time known for remixing Jay Z a capella's over the Beatles' 'White Album' which conjured fame and notoriety which led to him producing the Gorrilaz second album, Demon Days, where he had first worked with DOOM on November Has Come and won a Grammy nomination for producer of the year in the process. Released in 2005 on Epitah and Lex Records the record is packed to the rafters with Adult Swim content, no less evident when Master Shake calls DANGERDOOM throughout the album trying to get a gig on the album to no avail, also included a tribute to 'Space Ghost Coast to Coast'. As mentioned earlier, 'The Mask & the Mouse' is some of DOOM's most accessible work and has some of his most recognisable work in Benzi Box, with the all too memorable hook from CeeLo Green - after the DANGERDOOM project Danger Mouse and CeeLo Green would go on to make Gnarls Barkley together.
Despite being an essentially a "toon" conceptual album using the framework of cartoon's DANGERDOOM is a creation of some of his most sophisticated work, using samples from 'Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law' DOOM goes on trial for insanity, a feature from Talib Kweli on Old School Rules is a tight homage to old school hip hop, Sofa King has some of Dumile's best lyricism throughout his whole discography and he hosts a talkshow (Space Ghost Coast to Coast) on Space Ho's. Including Talib Kweli and CeeLo, Ghostface Killah features on The Mask, Money Mark on No Names and rounding out the list of features DOOM ironically lists himself under the MF DOOM guise as a featuring artist on Sofa King.
After 'The Mouse & the Mask' the duo released the 'Occult Hymn' E.P. in 2006 which features a Madlib remix of Space Ho's, remixes of El Chuba Nibre and a brilliant mix of Sofa King, 2 new tracks in Perfect Hair II and Korn Dogs and some skits for good measure. Earlier this year (2017) DOOM released a new 9 track edition of the Mask & the Mouse - the 'Metal Face Edition' which included 2 new songs: Mad Nice (featuring Black Thought & Vinny Price) and Spokesman.
DOOM, 'Gazillion Ear' (2008) & 'Born This Way' (2009)
After a very productive few years from DOOM, he went off the grid for a few years making his return in '08 with the 'Gazillion Ear' E.P. which was essentially the release of the flagship title single, 3 remixes and an instrumental, the following year the full album 'Born This Way' was released on Lex Records. Immediately a few things are clear from the offset. Firstly, DOOM has dropped the 'MF' adopting a more informal 'DOOM'. Secondly, Dumile's return is darker, his voice is raspier, sounds more strained, much and everything is heavier, more serious. This is best illustrated through the morbid poem ('Dinosauria, We', Charles Bukowski) which opens Cellz from which the albums title 'Born This Way' is taken. Despite being shadowy in it's nature, 'Born This Way' isn't without DOOM punchlines, only this time round they're more focused, they have a sharper edge, DOOM is always tongue in cheek, but in 'Born This Way' he cuts deeper. You won't find any skits in this record, in their place you'll find short instrumental cuts and quick fire bars, none more enjoyable than More Rhymin', perhaps DOOM loses some of his playful comic section as he grows more dissatisfied with the world he finds himself in, he certainly sounds a lot more British - we are entering the era of DOOM being refused entry to the United States, seeing him return to his birth nation, England and coming off the back of backlash from using impostors for live shows. Despite the change in flavour, 'Born Like This' is no less enjoyable, a record that definitely grows on you, with an established consensus amongst DOOM boffins and scholars that at least a couple listens are due before forming an opinion. For my money, 'Born This Way' is a chance to see the supervillain go harder than ever before to post apocalyptic background, perhaps his most slept on release.
JJ DOOM, 'Key to the Kuffs' (2012) & 'Bookhead' (2014)
Another 3 years down the track and DOOM in cahoots with producer Jnerio Jarel for the album 'Keys to the Kuffs'. If 'Born Like This' had DOOM starting to sound British, then 'Keys to the Kuffs' embraces the exiled identity entirely. After the aforementioned denied entry back to the United States after a European tour DOOM made England his home and produced 'Key to the Kuffs' with that in mind - "Villain got banished. Refused out the U.S., he ain't even Spanish." Similarly to 'Born Like This' the JJ DOOM releases have a much more straight delivery from DOOM, a huskier voice, darker production but 'Keys to the Kuffs' see's the return of skits to the album constitution. Again though, DOOM doesn't compromise lyrical cunning for a less playful delivery on Guv'nor he delivers perhaps one of his best lines for those who remember the Icelandic volcano that grounded European planes for a number of days:
Another one of DOOM's later works which hasn't received as much attention as other projects, is the 'Bookhead' E.P. which followed 'Keys to the Kuffs'. Featuring 4 originals and 5 remixes 'Bookhead' is a good mixture of new content and great remixes - the revisit of Guv'nor with BADBADNOTGOOD is another great BADBADNOTGOOD collaboration and the Beck remix of Banished slows the pace a little and with a less frantic beat the lyrical content can be appreciated better.
Nehruviandoom, 'NehruvianDOOM' (2014)
DOOM's affinity with the old school of thought in hip hop is well documented, so the NehruvianDOOM project makes sense, seeing DOOM take under his tutelage the young old styled prodigy - Bishop Nehru. Having released his first mixtape, 'Nehruvia', 13 tracks using beats from DOOM, DJ Premier, Madlib and other underground, old school producers Bishop Nehru was branded in the graduating class of old school youth with Joey Bada$$ and Capital STEEZ. In the wake of this mixtape Nehru caught the attention of Nas (who is acting as the executive producer of his awaited record) and DOOM, whose production he had rapped verses over. The NehruvianDOOM album was billed as an act of 'master and apprentice' and the first complete production job on a record from DOOM since King Geedorah 11 years earlier. Generally, the album left punters wanting. It was felt Nehru was perhaps underdeveloped as an artist and not yet matured enough to deliver a top quality record and DOOM who had taken a backseat for the album, rarely delivered lyrics and was less inspired in his production than he had been on previous projects. It wasn't all grim and gloom though, the single from the album, the spiritual track Om will stand up against the rest of the discography and there were glimpses of DOOM brilliance and what's to come in the future for Bishop Nehru.
Around this time in the timeline, it's worth noting a collaborative album between DOOM and Ghostface Killah was announced to be released in 2015 after a long-held suspicion the pair would produce together. The release date was then pushed back to early 2016. The album is still yet to be unveiled.
MF DOOM, 'The Missing Notebooks' (2017)
Present day. Again in collaboration with Adult Swim, 'The Missing Notebooks' album was announced to be released on slow drip - a song ever week for 15 weeks. 3 weeks in and we have 3 tracks. The 'Missing Notebooks' is directly related to DOOM's "missing notebooks" last seen in his Metal Face HQ in 2010, when he was denied re-entry into the United States, the notebooks where never found and DOOM is asking for anyone who has information on them or their whereabouts to contact his website - Gas Drawls.
Negus, a dirtier number with the production side sounding akin to the 'Born This Way' - 'Keys to the Kuffs' DOOM era. Importantly, it features the late Sean Price and is a track which will feature on Sean Price's posthumous album, 'Imperious Rex'. There is also a verse from Ike Eyez on the track, but is only available on the 'Imperious Rex' album, not the Adult Swim release. It's also worth noting, as is commonplace on a posthumous release, Sean Price's verse on Negus was recorded for a different project, in this case from Impossible Dream on a Ras Kass record.
The second release of the 'Missing Notebooks' is released under the name of the KMD group, although the only featuring member of the group in the track is DOOM. True Lightyears see's DOOM be joined by Jay Electronica the tune see's the pair partake in villainous activity, "I broke the deputy neck while Metal Face shot the sheriff. Soul rebel in the deadly bout with the devil". A collaboration with Jay Electronica has been long touted, with a poor quality recording of the pair recording a demo found its way on the net last year.
The third release so far on the 'Missing Notebooks' has no vocal features, but a production feature from revered DJ, 'Alchemist', who amongst other endeavours works closely with Action Bronson and produced the score to Grand Theft Auto V and is currently working on a long awaited collaborative album with Mobb Deep. The track itself, Doomsayer, has DOOM detailing his life to come as a villain - "Till the end of days he'll be the ill doomsayer."
For the benefit of you, the fantastic patrons of Finding Figaro, we've curated a playlist of our favourite DOOM tracks available on Spotify. 'DOOM Selections'. Unfortunately, in Australia almost all of Madvillainy is unavailable on Spotify, but you can upload local files to Spotify to fill the gaps. The DOOM Selections playlist is a compilation spanning from an unmasked, pre 'Mr. Hood' Zev Love X feature in a 3rd Bass track, The Gas Face, working its way through chronologically to present day, including some great DOOM features as an added bonus.
A final note, this is not a complete dissection of DOOM's discography - there is 10 full volumes of 'Special Herbs' beat tapes and dozens of DOOM features across other artists' works. An exhaustive list of DOOM's work for the inquisitive can be found here.