This week is inspired by the all-rhyming MF DOOM, a.k.a Viktor Vaughn, Metal Face, The Villain, Metal Fingers, King Geedorah, and finally his real name Daniel Dumile. Born in London, England DOOM but bred Long Island, New York, DOOM began is inimitable musical career around the late 1980’s. At the time, his stage name was Zev Love X and he was a member of the hip-hop trio KMD. It wasn’t until the mid 90’s that he began shaping his MF DOOM persona. Inspired by Doctor Doom, DOOM’s symbol is the metal face mask; it’s the icon for his work and is illustrated on all his album covers. DOOM wears this mask while performing and is rarely photographed without it.
In 1999 Operation: Doomsday was released through Fondle Em’ records. This album marked the start of an era. At the time there was no one like DOOM doing what he did and how he did it. Hip-hop didn’t have the conceptual dimension that DOOM adopted, and many rappers weren’t creating alter-egos to compliment their music with the same level of depth. DOOM’s persona isn’t even just an alter-ego, it is the only part of himself that he is willing to share with the public. Whether he titled that side of him Zev Love X or Viktor Vaughn, DOOM always separated the rapper and the man. Pragmatically speaking, only MF DOOM has to deal with fame, press and other public relations whereas Daniel Dumile enjoys the relative anonymity of the secret identity. This was so clever on his part, and more so, it created layers to his music to which no other rapper has managed to be faithful. DOOM cataloged his characters and made music according to their personalities, which in itself demands a whole lot of imagination.
Eminem might be another person that comes to mind when you think alter-ego, and Slim Shady is an elaborate character but even then there is no mask or secret identity. Slim Shady is the mouthpiece for Eminem’s inner dark thoughts so that we get a glimpse into his mind. Eminem’s alter-ego is revelatory of who the artist is as a person. Conversely, I have no idea who MF DOOM is because I have no idea who Daniel Dumile really is as a person. Am I making sense? Point is, DOOM is a freaking genius who inspired thousands of rappers, producers and artists alike. His work has been fundamental to hip-hop’s evolution and it is my pleasure to show you how current artists have carried his legacy.
As usual, Action is first to be praised but I will skip my girly gushing over Mr. Bronson and get straight to the music. Knxlwedge produced this track, and it’s largely thanks to him that it’s the perfect example of DOOM’s influence in the realms of rap and beat-making alike. Action’s production choices are unlike many of his contemporaries, but similar to DOOM’s. Their flows are also alike; they both use these ‘accidental’ rhyme schemes which are often silly, satirical, and nonchalant.
This song comes after Action’s recent single White Bronco, the first he’s released as an independent artist. Prince Charming would be the second track dropped from his upcoming White Bronco LP set to release on November 1st.
Compare this track with MF DOOM song: Vomitspit
Any rapper as technical and opinionated as Tyler, the Creator (a.k.a. Tyler Gregory Okonma) would have worshipped DOOM at some point in his creative formation. DOOM is the rapper idol for all the loner, skater hip-hop geniuses out there, and they are many. Like DOOM, Tyler is a multifaceted artist and creator. He rose to fame as the co-founder of the alternative hip-hop collective Odd Future, and not only does he perform and produce nearly every Odd Future release, he also designs some of the collective’s merchandise and artwork.
This track is off of his album Cherry Bomb, which he released earlier in the year. In 2SEATER, Tyler’s greatest accomplishment is this world-building; through synth-heavy eclipses to the bright warmth of jazz chords, Tyler leads us into a theme park of sonic experiences. His approach to art and music is completely inclusive, and the uniqueness of his approach is a tribute to DOOM in itself.
Compare this track with MF DOOM song: Dead Bent
This song is my personal favorite on this week’s roundup. Ice Obsidian is on L’Orange and Jeremiah Jae’s collaborative album The Night Took Us In Like Family released in 2015 on Mello Music Group. Both based in L.A., L’Orange and Jae explore the boundaries of their musicianship in this collaboration. Namely, producer and Flying Lotus collaborator Jeremiah Jae relinquishes his own production expertise to focus on rapping, while his counterpart masters the murky sounds of this album.
L’Orange has an incredible backstory; despite having had two major ear surgeries, which has slowly cost him his hearing, this North Carolina-born beatmaker handled the challenge and continued creating full-length albums like The Night Took Us In Like Family. When a rapper-producer duo is as successful as this, one can only pause at the sheer magic of their concord. On this track, I'm reminded of the Madvillain era of DOOM; the dark, gloomy, and mysterious allure of this album resonates with that whole Madvillain aesthetic.
Compare this track with MF DOOM song: Figaro
In the case of Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott, better known for his stage name Joey Badass (stylised as Bada$$), it was hard to choose which of his songs best tribute DOOM. 1999 is Joey’s debut mixtape, which was widely praised by the hip-hop community and garnered wide-spread attention amongst critics. On it are two tracks that sample DOOM’s work.
Killuminati, a track which samples WhºK∆res by Knxwledge, was an obvious choice for this roundup. Unlike many East Coast rappers, Joey is still among the few that maintains the 90’s hip-hop aesthetic in their music, even today. The scene of MF DOOM successors is niche and Joey is one of the few to have popularised it, if anything the DOOM aesthetic is infamous by nature. Like Action Bronson, Joey was raised on the legacy of MF DOOM, Mos Def, and other urban poets that refined the aesthetic of hip-hop. On this track, Joey’s flow is uninterrupted, cyclical and filled with syllabic rhymes, it reminds me of DOOM’s flow in Rhinestone Cowboy.
Everyone refers to Earl Sweatshirt (a.k.a Thebe Neruda Kgositsile) as MF DOOM’s true successor, and I believe that label is something Earl would appreciate. His wordplay, aesthetic and timbre match DOOM’s almost identically; Chum is Earl’s most streamed song on Spotify, and it is a perfect example of how Earl embodies the Metal Face spirit.
This track is the sixth on his debut album Doris, which he released in 2013. Since then, Earl dropped I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt, which released in 2015. This most recent release steered away from the old-school sound that I associate with MF DOOM. Nevertheless, both albums carry the same misanthropic spirit that DOOM and Tyler identify with, though Earl’s is a particularly pungent strain of grouchiness. On this album, he embodies the Madvillain era more so than Operation: Doomsday, specifically, this track reminds me of Curls. They both rely on multi-syllabic rhyme schemes, use detail-oriented imagery, and still sound like they’re anxiously venting their thoughts.
Shafiq Husayn is known for his contributions to the collective Sa-Ra and his collaboration with Robert Glasper on the Grammy-award winning album Black Radio. Johnson Barnes III, better known for his stage name Blu, is a West Coast rapper signed to Brainfeeder. Blu comes from a lineage of jazz, being the son of jazz composer and musician, Robert Irving III.
L.A L.A. is the sixth track on their collaborative album The Blueprint, which dropped earlier this year on New World Color. This album comes as a surprise; neither of these artists fit within the niche of hip-hop that Earl, Tyler, and Action belong to but this says otherwise. If anything, both Blu and Husayn would be among the urban jazz musicians I discussed last week. Nonetheless, the album is an exploration of Blu’s range as a rapper, while Shafiq is producing in a style I’ve seldom heard before. This track pulls directly from an MF DOOM aesthetic whether it was intended that way or not. Shafiq is employing the same laid-back beats that you’d hear in MM… FOOD or DOOM’s instrumental album Metal Fingers Presents; Special Herbs.
Compare this track with MF DOOM song: Deep Fried Frenz.
I remember when I first discovered Knxwledge on Bandcamp; he had so much music, so many EP’s... I just didn’t know where to start. I latched on when he released Hud Dreems in 2015 through Stones Throw Records. Glen Boothe, who records under the name Knxwledge, has been the common denominator of this week’s roundup (aside from DOOM of course). It’s easy to compare Knxwledge with hip-hop producers like 9th wonder, J-Dilla, or Madlib, the similarities are striking.
Knxwledge could have easily been the producer on Madvillain. Even today his instrumentals sound like something DOOM would use. I end the roundup with Knxwledge because I want to highlight how DOOM influenced beatmakers. Even though Madlib, J-Dilla and 9th Wonder are all contemporaries of DOOM, I believe DOOM’s work had a stronger impact on them, rather than the other way around (J-Dilla potentially being the exception that proves the rule). DOOM isn’t typically tied to his producer title, but he too has a prolific collection of beats, some of which are still being used today.
Compare this track with MF DOOM song: Calamus