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DOOM - Born Like This.

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Artist: DOOM

Album: Born Like This.

Label: Lex

Review date: Mar. 24, 2009

Identity has always been an issue for Daniel Dumile. First appearing in KMD, his original incarnation was Zev Love X, a peachfuzz MC whose afrocentric lean split the difference between the Leaders of the New School and Brand Nubian. After his brother Subroc (KMD’s DJ) was killed crossing the Long Island Expressway, Dumile went on hiatus, questioned it all and finally returned a half decade later wearing a metal mask. Named after the comic book villain, MF DOOM was an entirely new entity. From the first track on Operation: Doomsday, it was clear that the underground was where he belonged. With a more clinical approach and a sharpened focus, his aliases multiplied. One pen name was King Geedorah, an alien who critiqued the human race. Another was Viktor Vaughn, a supervillain obsessed with sculpting beats. He made an LP with Danger Mouse. And Madvillainy with Madlib. On “Fancy Clown” from that record he took his alter egos to a new level – DOOM got down with Vik Vaughn’s girl.

His clandestine persona and obsession with hiding his dome actually dates back to his debut on 3rd Bass’ “The Gas Face,” where he turned an ugly grill at wack MCs. This disdain for inferior rappers has remained DOOM’s one constant. A line from Born Like This., delivered as if someone else was talking, seems to reveal the secret inspiration behind the operation: “He talk to himself when he needs someone to hate on.” The record’s title suggests that no matter how many faces he’s tried on, it’s only ever been about beats and rhymes. That he decided to shed the MF (standing for Metal Face) prefix is revealing; as DOOM, Dumile presents his most unified character.

An answering machine message from cameo king Freddie Foxxx clarifies: “There’s a lot of clowns out here with painted faces. And when they take the paint off … it’s just clowns with no paint on their face.” An MCs MC, DOOM takes the art of rhyming past words – he rhymes syllables. The titular “More Rhyming” is exhibit A. There are no choruses. His patterns are the hooks. On “That’s That,” he postulates: “Civil liberties / These little titties’ abilities riddle me / Middle Sea / Give an MC a rectal hysterectomy / Electron removal of the bowels / Foul technically / Don’t expect to see the recipe / Until we receive the check as well as the collection fee / More wreck than section Z / What you expect to get for free / Shit from me / History.” When read, it doesn’t mean much. But the way he spits it has meaning. Ironically, when he sings in a kneeslap drawl at the end of the song, it’s the rewind moment of the record.

Often overlooked as a beatsmith, DOOM’s Special Herbs series proves he’s got some of the dustiest fingers around. On two tracks here, he drops the mic to supply beats for The Chef (who declares he’s “hungry like a Somalian,”) and Empress Starrh (who reiterates Pete Nice: “sign away your publishing for Jordans and a loosie”). Most of his other associates (short of Bobbito) make appearances. Tony Starks saves a limpid verse by slipping into the character of a dubious Asian man. DOOM advances Dilla’s legacy by proving “Lightworks” works better as an instrumental. New ally Jake One shows everybody up, including Madlib, by snaking an ill organ loop around DOOM’s Mm .. Food-like appetite on “Microwave.”

The most unlikely appearance comes from apparent kindred spirit Charles Bukowski, whose poetry is sampled (coincidently summarizing The Road) on “Cellz.” On DOOM’s verse, he returns to his earlier role as sociological analyst, offering insight into the lack of health benefits for hustlers: “Crime pays no dental nor medical / Unless you catch retirement county, state or federal.” Unfortunately, he goes both ways; it’s hard to decode the mishmash of gay-themed snippets and metaphors on “Batty Boys” as anything but homophobic, misdirected anger.

In the end, it’s like Guru once said it’s “mostly the voice.” And DOOM’s sounds as bold and battered as ever. You can almost hear the accumulation of Dutch Masters on his larynx. It goes nice with his “one man’s dirt is another man’s soap” content. Even if Born Like This. represents an evolution more than nativism, it sure sounds like DOOM’s day has arrived.

By Jake O'Connell

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