MF DOOM remains one of the most popular, yet extremely underground rappers out there. How’s that for a contradicting statement? After many records under many names, the Brit-turned-New-Yorker has finally garnered a legendary status. His work with Danger Mouse on The Mouse and the Mask is considered to be an indie classic. His Special Herbs beat tapes serve as a blueprint for that style of instrumental creation. He’s also worked with Madlib, Bishop Nehru, and Ghostface Killah to round out one of the more interesting hip hop profiles out there.
He also wears a mask. Do you know what MF DOOM looks like? Most people don’t, and that’s because MF DOOM isn’t a human being like us. He’s a mysterious, mask-wearing MC that has a big Buddha-belly and wittier lines than your favorite MC. Your favorite MC would probably attest to that too.
DOOM’s mystique puts his projects on a pedestal. Remember when Earl Sweatshirt wasn’t around? That absence put his work up higher than the other members of Odd Future, along with the fact that it was just plain dope. The trap producer UZ is another example of an anonymous music-maker who’s identity, or lack there of, becomes all part of the fun. With hip hop, an art form that is notoriously full of egomaniacs, invisibility is unprecedented.
The shock of DOOM is furthered because he’s really one of the illest masters of ceremony the game has ever seen. Getting right to it, on "One Beer," he plays into his affection for beer with dozens of clever spurts.
"Rappers screaming all in our ears like we're deaf," is a reminder that DOOM’s lazy flow reigns supreme, along with the line, "Eat up all they MC's and drink 'em under the table."
"He plots shows like robberies / In and out - one, two, three - no bodies please / Run the cash and you won't get a wet sweatshirt / The mic is the shottie / nobody move, nobody get hurt," plays on his ability to rock the crowd, and maybe also his tendency to ‘rob’ the crowd of their chance to see him at all.
With "Deep Fried Frenz," DOOM kicks one super long verse and lets the sample play part in the message. "(Friends) As you call 'em, they call you when they need something / Trees for the blunt, the g's for the front,” will relate for anyone who’s ever felt used by a comrade. "Send me a letter, or better, we could see each other in real life / Just so you could feel me like a steel knife," might ring truer today, in the true social media age, than it did when the recorded and released in 2004.
"Rap Snitch Knishes" pokes fun at the fact rappers are always confessing their own crimes on records. Like Migos, for example, countless ‘jail bait’ rhymes sound as if the artist is testifying against himself. The hook lays the foundation for DOOM and the even-more-anonymous Mr. Fantastik’s raps, "Rap snitches, telling all their business / Sit in the court and be their own star witness / Do you see the perpetrator? - Yeah, I'm right here / Fuck around, get the whole label sent up for years."
And then there’s the songs where DOOM doesn’t even spit, he just allows his beat-making and sampling techniques to do the talking. Tracks six through nine don’t even feature DOOM’s voice, instead allowing samples from the likes of "Sesame Street" and the 1973 movie "Hell Up In Harlem" to do the story-telling. "Gumbo" hilarious samples some sort of advertisement for edible wrappers, but in the context just sounds like a couple of white, British ladies talk about eating rappers, in the way Lil Wayne always does. It’s just another account of DOOM’s unmatchable wit.
He attacks his work with comic-like tendencies. It ranges from the album’s artwork to the general vibe he gets from playing the villain in his tracks. Sampling "Spider-Man," "Fantastic Four" and "Superman" adds to the vibe.
Mm..Food came out in 2004, amidst DOOM’s most prolific year as an MC. That year also saw the release of his alias' Viktor Vaughn's sophomore LP, the classic Madvillainy with Madlib, and a couple installations of his Special Herbs series. It's an understatement to say our subject was seriously busy around this time. The fifteen-track LP was almost entirely produced by DOOM himself, with Count Bass D, Madlib and PNS each handling one track each. The beats flirt around the same type of jazz-rap that A Tribe Called Quest produced on their early works, but DOOM’s style of instrumentals truly do stand on their own two feet. Like Madlib and J Dilla, he’s garnered a cult following based on his boom-bap music.
Samples were plentiful and as tasteful as possible, just as you’d expect from DOOM. The metal-masked villain used Madlib’s “No Games” instrumental on the track “One Beer.” The song flips Cortex’s “Huit Octobre 1971”, and you may recognize the same sample in tracks by Wiz Khalifa, Tyler the Creator, and Wale, of course all made later on. In fact, Cortex was sampled by pretty much everyone since the year 2010, including Rick Ross, Curren$y, Fat Joe and Tyga. The influence continues, as the beat from “Deep Fried Frenz” uses the same sample (or beat even?) as Wale’s “The Friends N Strangers.” The constant references to food are seen modern day, a la Action Bronson. DOOM’s still influencing up-and-comers like Bishop Nehru, who he collaborated with on the Nehruviandoom record.
DOOM is in a class of his own. While his global impact may not be the same as the top-ranking MCs, his influence on the diehard hip hop culture matches up. There’s only a small handful of rappers with his stature that fit under the indie hip hop umbrella. Along with Atmosphere, who’s label, Rhymesayers, released Mm..Food, DOOM brings technical skill and underground sensibility to another. Mixing those elements with an alluring mystique allows him to play primetime slots at music festivals from a TV screen. There’s not really anyone else who could, would, or should do that type of thing, proving that the brand DOOM created is one of the most unique and creative characters hip hop has ever seen.