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Close followers of the rapper now known as MF DOOM, birth name Daniel Dumile, and those in the indie hip-hop know are well aware of the man’s beginnins in the rap game. Steppin’ onto the scene in 1988 with KMD under the moniker ‘Zev Love X,’ Dumile, a bespectacled, young upstart, recorded two minorly successful albums with the group over the course of six years. Despite Onyx’s departure from the group following Mr. Hood
, they were on their way to garnering a decent following, but then, sh*t hit the fan. Dumile’s brother, DJ Subroc, died in a tragic car accident. Depressed and embittered, Dumile went underground, so to speak. He attests that he was living “damn near homeless, walking the streets of Manhattan and sleeping on benches,” but we all know of the man’s penchant for stories and embellishments. Truth is, he rented out a 700-square foot apartment and went into hiding. Perpetually stoned and with nothing to do, he hit the books. Comic books, mostly. He gained a mastery of the Marvel Comics universe while reading through both an encyclopedia and a dictionary on the side. Throughout his studies he subsisted on a sparse diet of Cheetos, Lucky Charms, Oreo cookies and Ramen Noodles and his health, both mental and physical, began to deteriorate. Out of contact with the outside world, he started to develop schizophrenic tendencies. He became disillusioned, donned a mask and fancied himself a super villain. Through his own dementia he was no longer Daniel Dumile, but rather, the most loathed scoundrel of the cosmos, evil genius and polymath Dr. Victor von Doom, and in 1997, he began prepping a comeback. Roughly two years later, on the day of April 18th, 1999, his plan for world domination was initiated and the fateful day would go down in history. His blueprint was a great success, and the unstoppable force that was Doom ruled the galaxy, and Operation: Doomsday
went down quietly as one of the greatest indie hip-hop albums of all time.
Aesthetic motives taken out of the equation, the most conceivable reason Dumile adopted the super villain persona on this record – and for the duration of his career, for that matter – was to escape the loss of his brother. The psyche of the persona he created – or rather, stole, if you’re a DOOM detractor – is focused on world domination. Here, though, it’s an obvious analogy for the conquest of the hip-hop industry, a business which DOOM has strongly inferred hatred towards on multiple occasions, and much of the record is indeed reserved for searing sucka MCs.) But career nuances set aside, for whatever reason, DOOM constructs a place to escape, an intricate fantasy world. And perhaps for this reason his fans aren’t so much casual supporters as they are devout followers, despite his reputed tendency to send imposters in his place during shows. (Much like Victor von Doom sent Doombots, almost exact mechanic replicates of him, to combat the Fantastic Four in the comic series.) Although they’re imprisoned in an alternate universe, DOOM’s rhymes receive highly referential treatment. Pop culture references mitigate the at-times insane super hero world and instable psyche of DOOM from within complex rhyme schemes. Rarely are emcees justified in their self-aggrandizing arrogance, but DOOM hit the nail on the head when he rapped on “Hey!” that he “stayed the same with more rhymes than ways to skin cats.
While DOOM is a great rapper, he’s more than capable as a producer as well. Tasking himself with producing the entire album, DOOM crafts some really standout beats, despite maintaining consistency throughout. Operation: Doomsday
kicks off with “The Time We Faced Doom,” an oddly telling Fantastic Four cartoon sample – as all the skits are – that segues into “Doomsday,” a serene track that forsakes its menacing namesake. “Hey!” showcases his ingenuity as a beatsmith, sampling the theme song of Scooby-Doo and flipping it into an eerie hip-hop cut. But perhaps the most significant track, at least in a musical sense, is “The Finest.”The beat exemplifies the basic groundwork for the album’s production: basic, old school drums, a subtle, twanging bass guitar line, and sparse light chime and 70’s soul synth adornments. Operation: Doomsday
is marked by a lush, jazzy minimalism, and never is it complex or overly full. The bursting synth-horns and the alternation between a nimbly prancing piano loop and strong, rich piano notes of “Red and Gold” is about as grand and orchestral as it gets. Throughout the record, there’s a vintage, at-times-dusty feel to the album and it manifests itself in the nostalgic skits and the subtly scratchy engineering. “Who You Think I Am?” and “Gas Drawls” jointly illustrate the latter component perfectly, the first with its slinky woodwinds and the second sporting a mellow, lighthearted jazz piano riff. In a genre where so few artists are multitalented, it’s good to see a producer-rapper who’s equally great at both.
The pitfall to Operation: Doomsday
is DOOM’s lackluster delivery. Not that he was a frenzied flow-flipper to start, but the three-year hiatus didn’t improve the mushmouthed emcee’s skills in the booth. While there are some very awkward moments he still manages to hold his own. “Dead Bent” finds him throttling the beat in his distinctive gruff drawl, but there are too many moments where his flow is entirely ignorable, or even worse, awkward. Operation: Doomsday
is not DOOM’s most polished record, or even his most eccentric, but it is essential in the fact that it signified a new beginning for a great rapper, a great producer, and a great personality.
“ Walk the path of Jesus/Witness if Hell freezes/The mind teases/Reality, crack the pieces/Nothin' eases/Bein' chastised/With blood baptized/Guys revise/Acknowledge past lives/Statements will be made, acknowledge me/My mind is Heaven's gate so enter/My mind is the gate to Hell/So try to flee/Both gates look da same, which will it be?