MF DOOM: A Totally Dublin Primer

Ian Maleney
Posted October 9, 2012 in Music Features

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Where do you even start with someone like MF Doom? With a discography that takes in multiple personae and stage names, across over a dozen albums, you’d be forgiven for being a little daunted. Usually the best advice is just to dive in, see where you land and follow your ears. However, ahead of his highly-anticipated appearance at the Button Factory this Thursday, we’ve decided to enlist a little help from our Doom-loving friends. We asked some noted Doom fans what their favourite tracks were and to tell us why they love them so much, and we’ve included a couple of selections of our own. So here, hopefully, is a personalised entry into the Doom universe, from some of the best ears in town.

Karl McDonald – ‘Doomsday’ (Operation: Doomsday)

With his first rap back after disappearing with KMD’s 1993 annus horribilis (including the death of his brother and his group being summarily dropped before their second record), Doom did a multitude of things. He provided a focal point for a certain type of rap fan, having blue-chip early 1990s credibility to bolster his nerdy forced rhymes and syllabic play. He revealed the complex villain character to the world: “Definition ‘supervillain’: a killer who loves children/One who is well-skilled in destruction as well as building”. He also dropped some serious food for thought in hook-form to weed smokers from 2000 onwards:

“On Doomsday/Ever since the womb till I’m back where my brother went

That’s what my tomb will say/Right above my government, Dumile/Doom’ll lay

Either engraved or unmarked, who’s to say.”

How better to introduce yourself than to imagine your own death? Heavy.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGbIpCJnmc0?rel=0]

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Lemonada – ‘ALL CAPS’ (Madvillainy)

‘ALL CAPS’ is like a sonic and lyrical summary of the entire Madvillainy LP. It has it all. The on-point madlib samples, the lazy and abtrasive Doom flow, the sleek 1930’s Bonnie and Clyde vibe. It’s pure bank job get-away soundtrack. That snarling, descending piano? Ooof!! Like any Doom verse, its strange. You could say a lot or very little. But I like it when a track is about making music. That’s what I get here; a pure practice of passion between the two innovators. “Just remember all caps when you spell the man’s name”; MF DOOM

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewc1hixzYPY?rel=0]

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Toby Kaar – ‘G.M.C.’ (Vaudeville Villain)

One of my favourites is definitely GMC. The beat is super simple and sparse, letting Doom’s flow stand out on its own. His rhymes in this track are as bizarre and playful as you’d expect from him, and his flow is that straight Doom rhythm he has in piles of tracks. It’s great.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Nmi0Vz2Wj8?rel=0]

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Nialler9 – ‘Vaudeville Villain’ (Vaudeville Villain)

There’s really no easy way to pick one single DOOM track but ‘Vaudeville Villain’ from the album of the same name best represents his appeal for me. The looming wormhole King Honey beat fits the album’s batshit “Viktor Vaughn time travels back to the early ’90s and gets stuck there” theme while DOOM’s urgent delivery heightens the sense of cartoon menace. Mainly though, the track has some of my favourite rap lines for how they sound – “Ay carumba/ now that’s my number/One dry summer, as far as I remember,” “For a buck/ they’d likely dance the Jig or do the Hucklebuck/To Vik it’s no big deal, they’re just a buncha knuckle-fucks.” The killer ending is rhyming two kinds of made-up Anime martial arts together – ..”or between Hoktuo Shinken and Nanto Koukakuken.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ex7QpLrhgvw?rel=0]

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Olan O’Brien (All City Records) – Raid feat. MED (Madvillainy)

One of the last indie hip hop tunes to really excite me. Pretty simple stuff, Madlib beat, DOOM rap and a guest Stones Throw rapper in the form of Med. Don’t know why I like it so much but I guess it was part of that brace of killer Stones Throw stuff of the early ’00s.

 [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weWTuvdL-LQ?rel=0]

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Daniel Gray – ‘ATHF’ (The Mouse and the Mask)

I have a list of Articles To Write Before I Die, top of which is a piece entitled “Cooking, Smoking, and Watching Cartoons with DOOM”. Where crackled samples of cartoon dialogue act as skits and bridges in his other works, the Danger Doom project offers a more immersive take – it’s the audio document of what might happen if somebody let the man in the mask actually make the animations himself, and for the time being, is about as close to being baked and watching Adult Swim with a hip hop legend as I’m going to get.

So much of the DOOM universe is built from a series of multi-layered references that one can hardly criticize a song like ATHF, essentially nothing more than a rolecall of Aqua Teen Hunger Force’s anthropomorphic cartoon foodstuffs, for being one big, weird in-joke. As with the very cartoon it pays homage to, ATHF is an exercise in disjointed surrealism where the closer you look, the less it makes sense – always a good rule of thumb when on a DOOM binge.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwc2Dwh-i8s?rel=0]

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SertOne – Fancy Clown ft. Viktor Vaughn (Madvillainy)

In my opinion this track encompasses all that is great about DOOM. Like many of his best tracks, this is short and very sweet, with an incredible beat choice. As many will already know Madvillain is the combination of DOOM and legendary west coast producer Madlib. The album is considered by many to be a classic and a follow up has been highly anticipated for a few years now. This beat showcases one of Madlibs many strengths, flipping samples while turning a soulful piece into a hard hitting beat with some delicious chops. Many of DOOM’s better projects (because lets face it, some have been stinkers!) thrive on the strength of the beats, whether its working with Madlib, Dangermouse or Jneiro Jarel.

Add in a slick, albeit schizophrenic, prose and you’ll begin to understand why this is my favourite DOOM track. The track is listed as featuring Viktor Vaughn, but to fully understand the dynamic of the track a little back reading or listening is paramount. Viktor is often referred to as DOOM’s cousin or brother, while at other times as DOOM’s alter ego. This could be confused to the uninitiated but one things is crystal clear: he is a much more street wise version of DOOM, almost pimp like with his affinity for women, drugs and booze (along with a taste for the finer things in life). The best showcase of his personality is seen on Mr Clean.

On ‘Fancy Clown’, Viktor exposes a side of his personality only seen when he becomes upset about his girlfriend having an affair with DOOM. The third verse is set up perfectly by the preceding ones, his initially vulnerable raps being quickly brushed away with admissions of also being unfaithful with a maid while on a romantic get away with his girlfriend, his girlfriend’s best friend and perhaps worst (or maybe best, in some opinions) of all his girlfriends mother. For all their differences on record DOOM and Viktor are both super villains, in name and in nature.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2V0mPD6FhXQ?rel=0]

BONUS: Check out SertOne’s remix of Gazzillion Ear: http://sertone.bandcamp.com/track/gazzillion-ear-sertone-remix

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