Review Summary: When Grimm and Doom click, it sounds like perfection. When it's not so, it's still good, just a little bit jarring and uncomfortable.
To get a proper and reasonable memory of MF Grimm, remember his appearance on “Tick Tock” off of DOOM’s Operation: Doomsday
, creating arguably the albums best song. While that album was spiced up by DOOM’s sharp references and tongue twisting flows, that song was dominated by slowing and speeding violins and MF Grimm’s dark outlook, and it seemed more sensible in a song-sense than anything DOOM could write. That’s essentially the reason why former Dre ghostwriter and Madvillain smoothed out an effort together in Special Herbs and Spices Vol. 1
, and despite none of these tracks surpassing the ominous “Tick Tock”, it is quite good.
Grimm, unlike DOOM, sounds like he’s actually on the streets. Rather than complex rhyme structures and mumbling MCing, Grimm prefers a much more barebones, true to the old street rap type of rap. On “1000 Degrees”, Grimm is caught bragging about the sheer power of his own strength, bragging about standing up out of his chair, while “10 Years” takes use of Grimm’s simplest flow to tell a tale of being clutched by poverty. This bare approach to MCing helps Grimm, as his message isn’t too farfetched from what a lot of rap describes. However, Grimm’s style is gritty to the bone, and throughout the record his bolting throat of steel boasts these bragging and tales with cutting excellence.
Out of his different styles, when Grimm is embracing his outlook on things, he seems to be the most killer on the record, and DOOM seems to be the most equipped for. The fizzling guitars of “Rain Blood Pt. 2” back up Grimm’s aggressive tirade against fake rappers that sounds much more enthusiastic than any modern day KRS-One, while the poverty-stricken rebellious shouts of “No Snakes Alive Pt. 3” which, despite there already being “Tick Tock Pt.2” already being on the record, feels like the true successor to “Tick Tock”, speeding up consistently throughout the song, with the drums racing and the foggy samples cluttering along.
When MF Grimm strays into rap generic bragging and modern gangster-isms, it’s a mixed effort. While Grimm’s threats and punchlines are hilarious from point to point, but DOOM is not really sure how to back it up properly. “1000 Degrees” features a sprawling superhero sample and ringing drums, as MF Grimm spits some of his most hilarious threats and punchlines (“I’m choking niggas out like Darth Vader”, “Your style stinks, and I’m Febreze!”, and of course “Others throw salt in the game, let em roast like sunflowers”), but when MF Grimm gets on the futuristic funk/midget soul of “Bottle Rocket”, he doesn’t sound quite in his own element, and “Tick Tock Pt.2” space-age DOOM speed-shifting beat is the blandest on the album, and Grimm sounds his worst.
Which means it totally makes sense that a rapper known for his political out-look and story-telling would have done a much better job on these tracks. The sheer contrast between Grimm and MF Doom on some of these beats of his is a clear problem, as Grimm is much more fit for depraved, riveting, exciting beats than the usual bass-slapping, keyboard mood music that dominated Doom’s work at the time. Grimm, albeit a very soulful artist, is truly soulful in the darkest sense, requiring something of DOOM that he only brings a good half of the time. But that’s really where Special Herbs and Spices Vol. 1
shines. When Grimms cutting edge, incredibly simple flow hits the ground over menacing tracks that DOOM handles, he sounds completely on his game. The half of the album that actually fits together is truly classic, but the other half isn’t bad, just sounds a bit… odd. That doesn’t stop Special Herbs and Spices Vol.1
from being a great record, just stops it from being anything better than that.