Doom - Born Like This
Fri 24th Apr, 2009 Music Reviewsin
Hip hop has its fair share of artists with multiple personality disorder. From the RZA, to P.Diddy, to Madlib, it’s almost like they’re suffering from an identity crisis. Artists over the years have reinvented themselves time and time again, taking on personas different from the last. Among the most active among those Daniel Dumile. Probably best known for his alter ego, the masked MF Doom, he has also gone by the names Viktor Vaughn, Zev Love X, King Geedorah, Metal Fingers, and the Supervillain, not to mention his collaborative efforts; Madvillain (with Madlib) and DangerDoom (with Danger Mouse). Despite this, he is widely known for possessing one of the most complex, hard hitting, and referential flows in the game, something common amongst each and every one of his many characters. Dropping the MF from his name (which stood for Metal Face or Metal Fingers) for his first solo studio album in five years, Doom shows us that he was just Born Like This.
As is obvious from his previous releases, Doom is somewhat interested in comic books, his alter ego coming from the Marvel villain Doctor Doom. His tracks, album covers and videos are littered with references from popular culture, in particular, comics. Kicking off with Supervillain Intro, the listener knows they’re in for an adventure. Leading into Gazzillion Ear, the first of two J Dilla produced tracks, this is vintage Doom. A simple beat coupled with Doom’s recognisable drawl make this one of the best tracks of the album. And we’ve only just begun. But then the track changes beat, and seems to take a new direction, even sounding like a new track in the process. He spits “Dilla Dilla, mix mix mix, do a deal for kicks and get rich for quick”, seemingly commenting on his late friend and producer’s innate ability to come up with some crazy beats. Ballskin is up next, and with Jake One at the helm of this number, it’s another cracker. Featuring a beat that to me subtly resembles a rock opera, this one has Doom and his air-tight delivery taking centre stage, almost like he’s spouting off a conscious stream of thought. At ninety seconds, it’s short and sweet but leaves a lasting impact.
Yessir! features a sample from South Bronx funksters ESG, and has Wu Tang Clan alumni Raekwon showing off his sharp delivery. Absolutely is Madlib’s contribution to the album, production wise, as Doom reflects on corrupt governments. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely, now you have your orders, do your duty”. Raymond Scott’s Lightworks, previously sampled by Dilla on his instrumental album Donuts, is this time given the Doom treatment. On Batty Boyz, Doom tackles the issue of the metrosexual and fashion becoming quite feminine. With a suspenseful beat, he crows “…it’s a leotard fest, how it got started is a retard’s guess”. Another Wu Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah as Tony Starks (do we sense a theme here yet?) takes over mic duties on Angelz, which has a horn section that somewhat resembles the original Charlie’s Angels theme.
The album title, Born Like This, references Charles Bukowski’s dystopian poem Dinosauria, We, which is even read by Bukowski himself over a suspenseful score on the track Cellz. It’s a little bit different from the rest of the album, slowed down but retaining the same sensibility with its social commentary. Still Dope picks up the pace a little and shows off the vocal dexterity of Empress Starhh Tha Femcee, while Microwave Mayo and More Rhymin’ feature more of Jake One’s unique choice of instruments. That’s That is a track built around a sad string arrangement, where Doom himself appears to apologise for his “Can it be I stayed away too long? Did you miss these rhymes when I was gone? As you listen to these crazy tracks / Check them stats and you know where I’m at / and that’s that”.
Supervillainz takes on a darker beat, with a verse by Slug and guest vocals by Prince Paul as Filthy Pablo and Posdnous from De La Soul as P-Pain, the latter taking the piss out of the Auto Tune movement currently infiltrating the airwaves. Rounding out with Bumpy Knuckles (AKA Freddie Foxxx) features on what is like an answering machine rant praising Doom and commenting on wack MC’s, “There’s a lot of clowns out here with, you know, painted faces / And when they take the paint off… it’s just clowns with no paint on their face”, before Thank Yah closes the album out with the same hook from the opening track, a repetition of sung/screamed “thank you’s”.
So there you have it. DOOM is back with a (comic book) vengeance. After five years out of the game, his flow is still as fresh and distinctive as it was before he left. While it’s not his best work to date, it’s a solid effort, proving DOOM can still cut it with the best of them. Now we wait with bated breath for the next Madvillain album.