Monday, October 12, 2015

The Mask, MF DOOM's Top 25 Tracks

No other figure in the history of Hip-Hop from its inception to the current day has had as large an aura surrounding him than MF DOOM, and all because of one thing; The Mask. It's that symbol, originally an attack on the consumerist nature of Hip-Hop and it's flaunting of wealth and status, that turned into a trademark itself. But what it did besides hiding that hideous face was create another world, one where Hip-Hop and comic book vigilante could come together and thrive under the guise of antique samples strewn together by simple beats. It also allowed one of the best lyricists of all-time to showcase his talents through a plethora of characters, all of them irreversibly bad, from time-traveling scientists to three-headed monsters. Contained below is his best work, comprised from a bevy of albums ranging through these characters. As per DOOM's usual abstract style of not always incorporating just him on his albums, only those songs that prominently feature the emcee are up for contention (Sorry Krazy World). Without further ado, here are MF DOOM's top 25 songs.
No Snakes Alive
Take Me To Your Leader

Possibly DOOM's most complex song sonically. There are more distant futuristic cartoon samples here than formal beat-making instruments, and yet not just DOOM, but Jet-Jaguar and Rodan kill the track lyrically. But what's more impressive than the words are their flows, ramping up to 11 as the sirens start singing. One of the rare moments where DOOM's quick tongue outruns his lyrics, stumbling and mumbling comically multiple times.

Winter Blues
Key To The Kuffs

It's rare that DOOM will partake in a romantic rendezvous in his songs but when he does it's always a metaphorically lavish affair. On 'Winter Blues' DOOM expresses his love towards a fine female who's dense with melanin. Jneiro Jarel's soothing production elevates towards the end as the villain begins expressing his softer side, with his always hilarious piss poor singer.

Change The Beat
Vaudeville Villain

As nonconformist as DOOM can be there's times when, even whilst maintaining his idiosyncratic nature, he can make things concrete. Rather than randomly spewing beat switches like on 'Fall Back' DOOM here contains everything, effortlessly parading through half a dozen beats in three minutes. The finale, a fantastical circus doo-wop, sends DOOM through a loop as he spazzes in a short burst of raw energy. 

Fancy Clown

DOOM's self-awareness could not be higher, his dense character dynamics culminating in 'Fancy Clown,' where Viktor Vaughn confronts his ex-girlfriend whose cheated on him…with DOOM. There is a chance this is the same girl in 'Let Me Watch,' making the meta approach to song-writing that much more interactive. Vaughn rambles through the phone about his soon-to-be run-in with DOOM, when he intends to "pound his tin crown face in."

Rhymes Like Dimes
Operation: Doomsday

In the Operation: Doomsday days there wasn't a song as technical proficient as 'Rhymes Like Dimes,' a metaphorical rant comparing DOOM's rhyming to selling weed, a dime bag at a time. Nothing here stands out as remarkable, it's just all satisfyingly good. The beat, using a bloated saxophone and Quincy Jones sample, keeps the vibes high before DJ Cucumber comes in to perform a nonsensical hype man rant.  

Gazzilion Ear
Born Like This

One of DOOM's most energetic pieces, sparking into 'Gazzilion Ear' with a blaze of fury. What makes the track memorable though, besides his lyrically dense verses, is the battle between beat's, one from DOOM the other from the legend, J Dilla. He transfers between them effortlessly, the first so abrupt and reckless that it's still remarkable DOOM wasn't stumbling over his "Dilla dilla dilla, mix mix mix" at the beginning.

Dead Bent
Operation: Doomsday

DOOM's love of old school soul samples was crystal clear on Operation: Doomsday, so much so at times that he even samples choruses, like on 'Dead Bent' with Atlantic Star's 'Always' from 1987, even 'helping' to sing it, despite failing horribly. The singing though creates the personal touch the track needs, as it details DOOM's attempts at attracting women. His finale of "stay to for more spine-tingling adventures" puts the cap on his run-ins with the opposite sex. 

Let Me Watch
Vaudeville Villain

What sets Vaudeville Villain apart from DOOM's previous efforts is its determination to detail the absurd stories of Viktor Vaughn's life, his run-in with an underage fling just icing on the cake. The back-and-forth conversation between DOOM and Apani B provides extra context to a potentially misleading tale, concluding with DOOM's rude gestures and grotesque peeping tom fantasies. Self-depreciation has always been a unique facet of DOOM's character.

Mince Meat
The Mouse & The Mask

What largely sets 'Mince Meat' apart from its Adult Swim engulfed companions is its simple, yet effective beat, provided by Danger Mouse. Centering around a hollow drum set that washes away the accompanying synths every 8th line, it's seductively provocative in its head-nodding abilities. DOOM's gnarled voice complements the all-encompassing bass, throwing fire on fire to enlarge the tremendous flames of the track.

Strange Ways

For the alternative kingpin DOOM is one wouldn't expect him to dabble in political conflict, but that's exactly what he does on 'Strange Ways,' providing palpable examples of the silliness of war and religion. What one cherishes another abolishes and vice versa, both willing to kill each other over such inane topics, all whilst powerhouse governments provide violent loopholes in the treaty's they created. DOOM never felt so poignant. 

Hoe Cakes
Mm.. Food?

The most notable Hip-Hop song featuring a human beatbox as the sonic backbone. DOOM takes this unwavering loop to spring off each note, the addition of a sassy sample whimpering "Supa!" completes each line on the chorus, with DOOM leading into the word shrewdly. References of DB Cooper, Mr.Hooper, Chiddy Chiddy Bang Bang, and King Koopa make this in essence DOOM's most cultural dense tracks. 

Fall Back
Venomous Villain

While Venomous Villain didn't pack the same punch as its predecessor it did provide a few tracks worthy of competition, 'Fall Back' being the standout. The song deserves acclaim simply for the fact that it constantly morphs its foundation, forcing DOOM to alter his flows as he goes, excelling masterfully. He also rhymed Adnan Khashoggi and Sho Kosugi, which, apart from the absurd references, just puts DOOM in another stratosphere. 

Operation: Doomsday

On first listen the constant ringing is a nuisance but as it grows so does the song and its cataclysmic beat, with a thudding bass and demonizing trumpet, along with subtle flirts with a vocal Scooby-Doo sample. The entire track has a mischievous vibe as DOOM plans out his dastardly plans, only to conclude with Scooby-Doo's send-off "I would have gotten away with it if not for you meddling kids."

Modern Day Mugging
Vaudeville Villain

Arguably DOOM's most comical song, a tale of careless, inattentive robbers whose plan backfires. The litany of one-liners speaks for itself; "all he said was c'mon don't shoot, so shook I think he shit his Sean John suit," "never let a handy fiend fix your broken window," and "he would've let her have it, if he had the ammo" are just a few examples. The song cleverly retorts a suggestion that seniors can bust guns too, a parallel to DOOM's ability on the mic despite his age.


'Curls' may be DOOM's best example of time management. In just a minute and a half he blazes through a multi-purposed track, unfolding his brazen attempts at getting money and women. Madlib's nonconformist beat, rapidly unraveling at the folds, only accentuates DOOM's eccentric nature. Also features one of Madvillainy's best lines, "where reckless naked girls get necklaces of pearls" that is rife with meaning.

Old School
The Mouse & The Mask

A nostalgic, laid back joint that reincarnates vivid images of the past, 'Old School' has everything in your classic feel-good Hip-Hop song. The 60's chipper sample helps the track bounce and thump as DOOM's guest Talib Kweli effortlessly glides over his verse, detailing his memories as a child enjoying the Saturday morning cartoons. He also takes the opportunity to express his gratitude towards DOOM for incorporating these sounds directly into his music, a nod to the alternative scene DOOM almost single-handedly began. When DOOM grabs the mic his vision of the past is altered by the current day, focusing on commercialization in Hip-Hop, a fad elusive in the early days. The entire track acts as a nod to a time with less problems, the groovy beat, including trumpets and old school drums, takes us back to a time where, at least to these two, things were better.

The Fine Print
Take Me To Your Leader

Of all of DOOM's alter egos none take such a drastic step away from his character than the three-headed monster King Geedorah. His sole album, Take Me To Your Leader, was a look at humanity from the outside, from the eyes of an overseer who sees us all as ants. This gave DOOM free range to topical content, with 'The Fine Print' choosing to illicit humanities ability to kill itself, teleporting us to a time where Kings ruled, stoning occurred, and heads were fastened onto spikes. The beat, unorthodox despite it's repetitious nature, features a signaling trumpet reminiscent of a medieval leader approaching the peasants. This beat though allows DOOM to further show off his technical skills, providing some astounding one-liners. "Hear ye, hear ye! How dare ye go up against the king who do his thing tri-yearly" and "skull get smashed for weeks 'til vulture beaks eats the last meat off the cheeks" are just a few tongue-twisting examples.

Never Dead
Vaudeville Villain

The criminally underrated Vaudeville Villain had a handful of tricks up its sleeve, with unique content pouring at every seam. Nothing was more entrancing than 'Never Dead' and its comically dark tale of an adolescent Vaughn losing his Donkey Kong game. Everything here is engulfed in futuristic, space age gadgets and gizmos acting as the beat, with synths and darting lasers covering the walls. The back-and-forth of Vaughn and M.Sayyid as two teenagers seeking vengeance on those who wronged them escalates into heinous acts involving guns and black magic. DOOM here shows off his undervalued ability to portray sonically vivid storytelling that rings the listener in, as the swelling sounds compete with his growing rage. His manic holler midway through, "it's Vaughn against the 9th graders!" just shows the absurdity in his serious storytelling, what means the world to a teen is just a mere quibble as adults. 

Mm.. Food?

DOOM's absurdity reached climactic heights on 'Kookies,' a remarkable track that balances a double entendre throughout. While any other emcee would take the chance to make a statement, see the similar 'I Used To Love H.E.R.' by Common, DOOM instead decides to continue his food metaphors with cookies to coincide with the HTTP computer kind, you know, the one that allows you to masturbate, which is exactly what DOOM does in the story of the song. Throw on a devious sample from Sesame Street and you have an idea so ridiculous it can't help but be incredible. The opening line "it's horrible, one little evening alone home, end up with carpel tunnel syndrome" sets up the farcical stage DOOM has created for himself, throwing around Little Debbie comparisons left and right all the while a addictive bass guitar plays in the background. 'Kookies,' alone with the unnecessarily detailed run-in with his wife, further pushed DOOM's creative influence on the rap game, allowing for an 'everything goes' type approach, comically or not. 

Rhinestone Cowboy

The vinyl crackling, audience applause, alarming whistle, soft coo-ing, and constant beat drops set the literal stage for Madvillainy's celebratory finale. And yet the note-worthy sentiment of 'Rhinestone Cowboy' comes in DOOM's lyrical dexterity, pouring out a litany of rhyming junctions just before the album reaches its close. This track remains his best example for his internalized, multi-syllabic rhyming technique, nowhere better pulled off than in his final words; "It's made of fine chrome al-loy, find him on the grind he's the rhine-stone cow-boy." The track also features some of DOOM's best one-liners, "got more soul than a sock with a hole" and "but who knew the mask had a loose screw" are just a few examples. The vocal sample carrying the album closes things out, explaining the villains in societal detail, ending with the statement that they have "fueled nightmares for decades to come; the villains" before a thunderous applause. 

Operation: Doomsday

Every celebrated artist has that pinnacle track that defines their career, this is DOOM's, his mission statement, his declaration on the rap game. With a foot in the past latching onto the braggadocios elements and one on the future, masking it in comic book vigelante, DOOM aimed at making clever lyrics to elevate his game past those with hollow jabs. After shrouding his life in mystery following his brothers death DOOM returned with the mask and the sound, old, buttery smooth 70's samples dominated the soundscape on much of Operation: Doomsday. Here though much of his lyrics are unforgettable, one such example "that's what my tomb will say, right above my government, Dumile" works as a remarkable double meaning, taking his last name apart to annunciate 'DOOM'll lay' in regards to his gravesite. Even the initial line "I used to cop a lot, but never copped no drop" acts as a triple entendre, a proper beginning for his prosperous career. 

Bell Of DOOM
Unexpected Guests

DOOM's most under appreciated song, found hidden within his compilation album Unexpected Guests, withstanding placement on any of his major albums. What largely sets 'Bell Of DOOM' apart is its grimy beat, comprised of hi-hats mashed together with alarming bell chimes and a disgruntled, rumbling low end not typically found on DOOM records. Found within this piece though, nestled twice in ten second increments, are one of my favorite beats of all-time, first heard at 0:14. It's rampant, violent, and menacing, all whilst female vocal samples tell of the coming bombs. DOOM's bars here reciprocate the sounds, as he snarls over the mask and why those that fear him do so, culminating in his send-off "beware of the DOOMsta!" His flow here never wavers, maintaining that grizzled, yet smooth pattern he promotes, with lines like "a fiend for the mic and can't kick it like a sick habit" sticking out based on its sensational ability to pigeonhold itself in the beat.

Beef Rapp
Mm.. Food?

The elongated collage of samples that kick off Mm.. Food strike the characteristically comedic side of DOOM along with the sinister one, whilst also previewing the overindulgence of food said to be had off the album. The intro though, 'Beef Rapp,' remains the greatest example of his effort, providing a complex metaphor spanning the track critiquing lame rap beefs with copious food comparisons. His opener bars, "beef rap, could lead to gettin' teeth capped, or even a wreath for ma dukes on some grief crap" explicitly spell out the consequences whilst continuing his internalized rhyming skills. The beat, as per DOOM's typical stance, involves a handful of samples ripped from decades old superhero cartoons, with a simple trumpet and drum loop allowing DOOM to work his magic, with the intersecting "food…we need food" separating dominating verses.

Vaudeville Villain

Sometimes it's the simplest songs that achieve the longest impact. Few doubt the perfect pairing of DOOM and Madlib but, had given an outlet as expansive as their collaboration, 'Saliva's' producer, famed underground beatsmith RJD2, could have made a case to work masterfully with the tenacious rapper. His haunting background, featuring his signature blaring trumpets and hazy drum sets, compliment Viktor Vaughn's eery, time-traveling character. It's this airy sound that allows DOOM to prosper, entertaining his lazy flow across a dense foundation, stumbling over a catalogue of phrases sporting the braggadocios side of Viktor Vaughn, his foul-mouthed, slang-drawled, ego-filled side character. As per usual, DOOM's lines play like a most-memorable assortment with "crews like to act like a violent mob, they really need to just shut the fuck up like Silent Bob" taking the cake.

All Caps

There is no other song in Hip-Hop period that better encapsulates a 50's-inspired comic book than 'All Caps.' What may be whittled down to a very specific accomplishment is something DOOM had been trying to attain his entire career, culminating in this very song. Much of the credit goes to Madlib for curating such a fantastical beat, helmed by that unforgettable rickety piano collapsing in on itself, along with the piper that drastically morphs into a call-to-arms trumpet. It relives a time before even the roots of Hip-Hop had begun to spread, relying on DOOM's technical mastery to cover something previously unconquered. Amongst a litany of classic DOOM one-liners stands his career-defining declaration, "just remember ALL CAPS when you spell the man's name," the moment where DOOM went from enigmatic weirdo to Hip-Hop legend.

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