If you go by the radio, rap and hip-hop are dead industries. You’re more likely to hear simple remixes of other people’s songs—cleverly dubbed “samples”—than original beats, while the art of flowing has devolved into the tiresome repetition of ineloquent phrases (“uh,” “yeah,” and “skeet, skeet” come to mind). But while the same artists are lauded by club deejays year after year, there are bitter rebels like MF Doom working to undermine the establishment with rhymes that are both smart and catchy.
MF Doom, whose aliases trail behind him for as long as his lyric sheets, is the iron-faced star of Madvilliany, released earlier this year. On this record, however, he’s undertaken the job of producer that Madlib served on Madvilliany, and the results are a mixed bag. At their best, the tracks are infectious beat-machines like “Beef Rap” that suck you in before you’re lost in Doom’s liquid verbiage; at their worst, they fall flat, like the cheesy soft-jazz of “Deep Fried Frenz.”
In between songs, Mm..food? is a cartoonish concept album about super-villain Doom plotting his global domination, told through samples of characters who sound like they’ve been recorded right off the television on Saturday morning. As far as “sampling” skits go, it’s a pretty entertaining narrative, though there are several throwaway tracks that are more tedious than clever. “Poo-putt Platter” verges on that border, but saves itself several times—particularly when a small child loses his arm to flying monkey men. The real humor is found in Doom’s lyrics, though, which flow so seamlessly you find yourself listening to make sure he’s actually taking a breath every few lines or so.
On tracks like “Hoe Cakes,” what would terminate in arrogant self-promotion on most hip-hop records is tempered with self-deprecating wit. After comparing himself to plane hijacker D.B. Cooper, Doom describes himself as looking “…like a black wookie when he let his beard grow / weirdo, brown skinned always kept his hair low / rumor has it it’s a S-curl accident.”
There are a few moments when typical rapper-banter emerges from Doom’s lyrics, and it’s hard to listen to the last track, “Kookies,” without some disapproval. On that, a sexually frustrated Doom compares women to snack foods, and while he does so creatively (“Catch sugar fits / every time I see a nice pair of chips-ahoy, double chocolate chunk / something with a bubble in the junk in the trunk“), each grin he raises is followed by an eyebrow. Despite that, the line “In the game he’s shameless / even uses a codename: Famous Amos,” always manages to get a laugh out of me.
Often it seems that, if their flows never mentioned their lyrical or sexual prowess, rappers wouldn’t have very much to sing about. Thankfully, MF Doom proves to be an exception to that rule most of the time—and when he does follow the rule, he always manages to surprise you with some brilliant quips.
Madvillian — Madvilliany
Kid Koala — Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Deltron 3030 — Deltron 3030